Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator who is now a Democratic presidential candidate, recently said that America needs to “have to have a better conversation than we’re having right now” about racism, sexism and other prejudices.
READ: Blackface Or KKK: Virginia Governor Admits To Appearing In Racist Yearbook Photo
During a campaign event in Marshalltown, IA, Booker was asked by someone in attendance about race in the country. The senator’s response touched on race and gender inequity, from black people being more likely to be arrested than white people, as well as women being paid less than men for doing the same job.
“You cannot, cannot deal with these issues unless you tell the truth about them,” Booker said.
From there, Booker then talked about the importance of not getting defensive when talking to people about things they fear or “what they don’t understand.” He used himself as an example, saying that he’s had conversations with his white friends recently about blackface.
“I’ve had conversations with white friends of mine this week who just had the safety to come to me and ask me, ‘I don’t understand this blackface thing, can you explain it to me?'” Booker said. “Imagine in this climate now saying that publicly. Wanna have more courageous empathy, put yourself in a white person’s position who might have questions.”
Blackface has been headlines the past week after an image from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam‘s yearbook surfaced online. The photo shows one person in blackface and the other in a Klu Klux Klan robe. Initially, Northam said that he was in the photo (he didn’t reveal which person he was though) but then denied it shortly after.
He then offered another personal story where he recounted leading a crisis hotline at Stanford and receiving phone calls from people struggling to come out.
“I’m a young kid and I didn’t know these issues,” Booker said before talking about a person named Daniel, who was a gay and lesbian counselor at the college.
“…he sat with me one night and just gave me a safe space to ask him questions. What grace he extended to me to ask stupid questions, of a guy that was not woke about LGBT issues,” Booker said. “But because of that honest conversation I saw my ignorance and I grew.”
Booker then concluded his response with the following: “We gotta tell the truth, but we, all of us, black white gay stright, we’ve got to start extending grace to one another so we can have honest conversations and leave room for growth.”
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