Cory Booker On Blackface: ‘Put Yourself In A White Person’s Position’

Written by Dana Sanchez
Cory Booker
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, accompanied by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, to unveil their Medicare for All legislation to reform health care. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is running on a platform of uniting a divided country and promising to talk about “civic grace” in his campaign, but is he striking the right chord or raising questions about his own authenticity?

After Booker announced his presidential run on Feb. 1, he refused to say publicly that President Trump is a racist, criticizing Trump instead for “bigoted language.”

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A week later, the New Jersey Senator spoke about empathy and race at a campaign event in Des Moines, and it didn’t go well.

“I’ve had conversations with friends of mine this week who had the safety to come and ask me, I don’t understand this blackface thing. Can you explain it to me?” Booker said in a video shot for the Washington Post. “Imagine in this climate now saying that publicly. Put yourself in a white person’s position who might have questions.”

Booker went on to explain how, as a younger man, he had asked stupid questions about the LGBTQ community and been treated “with grace”.

“I grew up in high school in the ’80s and it was a homophobic environment. I got to college and I started working as a volunteer. I eventually ran … a crisis hotline … People were struggling with coming out. I started hearing the stories of pain and anguish. I still remember a gay and lesbian counselor sat down with me one night and gave me a safe space to ask him questions. What grace he extended to me to ask stupid questions — a guy that was not woke about LGBTQ issues. Because of that honest conversation, I saw my ignorances and I grew. That guy gave me a pathway to redemption. We’ve got to tell the truth but we — all of us, Black, white, gay, straight — we’ve got to start extending grace to each other so we can have honest conversations.”

Not everyone is buying the idea that ignorance is an excuse.

“Pretending not to see blackface as a form of racism is akin to non-Black people using the ‘N’ word —in all of its various forms— and claiming not to understand why it’s a problem,” Tanya Christian wrote in Ebony. “In 2019 there is certainly room to ‘extend grace,’ but there is also room to Google, to do a little research, and to make a concerted effort to truly understand the dark and troubled past of this nation.”

Some Twitter users felt that Booker’s appeal for Black people to “extend grace” put an unfair responsibility on the Black community.

“It is no more the responsibility of minorities to end racism than it is for women to end sexual discrimination and violence,” @Garyatty tweeted. “We do not need to ‘Extend Grace’ to ignorant and bigoted Whites or put ourselves in their position.”