“We — all of us, black, white, gay, straight —got to start extending grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations with one another and leave room for growth,” Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Corey Booker said at an event recently.
He was talking about the controversy over two Virginia Democrats admitting to wearing blackface in the past.
“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?’ Imagine in this climate now saying that publicly. If you want to have more creation and empathy, put yourself in a white person’s position who might have questions,” Booker added.
I agree with these sentiments entirely, though I can’t help but see them as a bit self-serving.
Would Booker and other Democrats be looking for more grace, and less outrage, if the politicians in hot water were Republicans?
Whatever Booker’s motivations are for expressing these sentiments, I hope they’re honest, because we’re going to need more of this sort of patience in the future. Modern politicians are being held to account for things dug up in yearbooks from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Can you imagine, in a decade or so, another generation of politician facing scrutiny for the things they said on social media when they were teenagers?
Trust me, those things are going to be easier to dig up than decades-old school publications.
It reminds me of an old headline from The Onion: “Report: Every Potential 2040 President Already Unelectable Due To Facebook”
But if we’re going to do this, it has to cut both ways. It can’t just be black people explaining to white people why blackface is offensive.
For instance, it’s pretty common to hear a white person told they’re “privileged” in today’s political debates. But is it fair to make that sort of a judgment of an individual based on their skin color? Do you think a white man, born in an economic depressed rural community amid the ravages of the opiate crisis, feels all that privilege?
Granted, his struggles aren’t the same as a woman’s. Or a racial minority. And yet, he struggles, and to be told that he doesn’t because of the color of his skin is offensive just as other sorts of racial stereotypes are.
We need to stop treating people as members of demographic groups – black or white, gay or straight, male or female, etc. – and start treating them as individuals.
And we’ve got to stop playing gotcha. We’ve got to leave some room for change and redemption.
I want to believe in what Senator Booker is saying. Sadly, I suspect the next time it’s a Republican in the hot seat, he’ll abandon these principles and join the outrage mob.