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Home Politics Cory Booker on Newark Pride, Black Lives Matter and ‘This Distraught Present’

Cory Booker on Newark Pride, Black Lives Matter and ‘This Distraught Present’

Often. Often. I mean, look, I’m still very conscious when I’m not dressed like a senator, and even when I am, that I still could be one misunderstanding away from a very bad incident. But I also realize that I’m in a position of power to do something about these issues.

And, you know, my Newark experiences have profoundly shaped my perspective on these issues. We came in as reformers, and we really believed in good faith, with a majority black City Council and black mayor, that we were doing a real good job when it came to changing our police practices.

But we were confronted by a Department of Justice investigation. And it dredged up the data that we were not moving fast enough. And it is a testimony to these issues — they can’t be gotten rid of with good intentions. So, this has been a life’s work for me from the time I was in college writing about policing issues to the time I was a reformer as a mayor to the time I’ve been a United States senator.

And I almost feel, and it’s not the best word, but I almost feel a sense of shame that here I am, 30 years of adulthood since Rodney King, and the lessons that I got in my teenage years from African-American adults who wanted to make me afraid of police for my own safety, who wanted to teach me coping mechanisms, I feel just a sense of profound regret that I’m having to have those conversations with young black men in my life, my mentees or my nephews. And that is really hurtful to me that we’ve had three decades since that horrific beating of a black man who was so demonized, so stripped of his humanity, like so many black Americans have been in policing practices.

The history of policing in this country, and its treatment of African-Americans, is thoroughly documented for every generation of being so far short of the highest ideals of this country. It’s been an affront to the very dignity of the nation as a whole. You can’t be comfortable with this. And it’s our comfort with it that has allowed it to fester.

On the campaign trail you told people to come see your city of Newark. Its peaceful protests have made national news. Why do you think the city has responded this way?

Protest traditions in Newark are in our genes. We elevate our protesters to elected office. I’m proud of [Mayor] Ras Baraka. His father was Amiri Baraka. His father was beaten by police on the streets of Newark during the dark periods of the [1967] riots. He’s a leader that people trust, people know.

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