Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) legacy as the seventh out of nine African-Americans to be elected to the U.S. Senate was enough to impress about 100 Howard University students enough to attend his scheduled hour-long conversation on economic empowerment on Feb. 25.
After arriving an hour late, Scott, speaking in the School of Business Auditorium, used the first seven minutes discussing his life as a young Black man who grew up in a single-parent household and nearly flunked out of high school.
Things began to go south, however, when students began to ask questions.
When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) visited the D.C.-based HBCU last year, his event quickly turned into crossfire between students and the senator. Scott used a less aggressive approach in responding to questions. He even prefaced the Q&A portion of the program by jokingly informing the audience that Jerome Smith, a member of his team and a Howard University graduate, would answer any questions that he didn’t like.
When Allyson Carpenter, a freshman Political Science major from Cleveland, asked the senator why he voted down the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, she prefaced with the hardships that African-Americans have faced with job equality. The act would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers. Scott compared the struggle of African-American and sexual orientation as “apples to oranges” when it comes to job equality.
Carpenter admitted that she was impressed an event she attended earlier in the day where Scott was honored with other Blacks who had served in the Senate. But she was less enthusiastic about his talk at Howard.
“His response was that they’re not the same thing, they’re separate entities,” Carpenter, 17, said. “But I’m reminded by Martin Luther King’s quote that says ‘an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
Jasmine Morris, 19, a freshman Accounting major from Bloomfield, N.J. asked Scott how he plans on using his influence in Congress to keep HBCU’s relevant.
“What I’m hoping to do as an advocate for HBCU’s is to create a formula where we have more funding and more opportunities going to those schools that are excelling,” Scott responded
Morris said she was disappointed in his answer.
“I think that he tried to answer the questions, but I think that he was beating around the issues,” Morris said.
Although none of the students interviewed by the AFRO said they were impressed with Scott’s presentation, some said they considered the event a learning experience.
“It’s always inspirational to see African Americans in the House, in the Senate, for whatever it’s worth, doing the best that they can with the position they’re given,” said undergraduate trustee candidate Kali Stewart, 21, from Orange County, Calif.
Carpenter said she didn’t get the answers she was looking for, but thinks that attending the event was important to let politicians know that students are holding them accountable, just like other voters.
“We need to hold them accountable by asking tough questions and not being afraid to approach them because they’re…elected officials,” she said. “We need to have the courage to ask the questions that matter because at the end of the day, these are the people that are in charge of our future.”