Q: You’ve dedicated a great amount of personal and legislative effort to support and uplift ailing America’s communities of color. Why do you think supporting such communities is so rarely seen as a “Republican” issue?
A: The Republican Party has always cared about supporting under-served communities and over the past few years we have been able to introduce and pass legislation that helps the most vulnerable Americans. Unfortunately, our party does not receive the spotlight we deserve for these initiatives as much as my colleagues on the other side. If we were able to talk about some of the legislation that we have accomplished in this arena — Opportunity Zones, permanent funding for HBCUs and more — then America would know that Republicans have been working on these issues for years and that we support communities of color through our legislation.
Q: Your efforts to pass a police reform bill earlier this year illustrated some of the nastiest political “sausage-making” that Congress can produce. How do we restore confidence in the political process for all people when, it seems, controlling the optics of a situation is more important than crafting good policy?
Who you choose to vote for is very important. I always choose the candidate who is concerned about the lives of every American. Unfortunately, a couple of months ago politics was more important than addressing the issues faced by the everyday people. However, I’m still optimistic that Congress can work on police reform.
Q: What do you wish the average white Republican knew about being black in America?
There is not one way to be black in America. In fact, every American has a different perspective based on his or her experiences in this country. I think all Americans can benefit from learning from each other and it starts with engaging, talking and developing relationships. It’s those unlikely friendships that teach us so much and challenge us as people. I always talk about how my friendship with Trey Gowdy has had a remarkable impact on me and I encourage everyone to find friends who are different from you. Learning from others means you grow as a person, but that does not necessarily mean that you have to change who you are and what you believe.
Q: Pundits say that Democrats in Congress are attacking the very foundations on which America was built. Are they lying about their true beliefs and playing to their voters? Or do they genuinely believe America is irredeemably bad?
Based on what I heard during their convention and well before that, I would say that folks are trying to paint the picture that America is doomed and has been for the past few years. I heard comments like “America is cloaked in darkness” and “We’re in the season of darkness.” We’ve seen so much growth over the past couple of years, so I can’t agree with that characterization. In fact, we’ve seen historic lows and highs from job numbers to the market.
Q: How much of our current level of urban unrest stems from legitimate grievances between inner city populations and law enforcement?
I think that we have two groups of people. You have the peaceful non-violent protesters who are upset with recent incidents that have occurred in our nation and you have a group of folks who are taking this opportunity to intentionally destroy communities. Unfortunately, the looting and rioting is drowning out the peaceful protests and, in some cases, being mistaken as its own protest.
Q: As a statesman and an intelligent observer of our nation, what would you say is America’s largest current weakness and what is our greatest asset?
I’ll start with our greatest asset. We are a country of many different people and backgrounds — a melting pot — and that is what makes us stronger. But our current weakness is revealed in the moments when we allow our differences to prevent us from uniting. The truth is this: There are more things that unite us in this nation than divide us and when we are open-minded enough to hear from folks who think differently than us, we can achieve more.