New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is opening up about the ongoing injustices black men face in America. The 51-year-old politician, who recently ran in the primary presidential election, gave a passionate interview on Thursday's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
Colbert spoke with Booker about the use of military on protesters in Washington, D.C.
"What it is is sad, what it is is hurtful, what it is is scary," Booker said. "I'm a United States senator and I left here late last night, and I literally thought twice about putting on my shorts and a T-shirt to walk home because the painful thing and the conversation I've had with many other black men this week is to have this fear. You've had it all your life."
Booker noted that his loved ones first started talking to him about how he might be perceived as a black man at the age of 12 or 13, when he was already around six feet tall.
"Men in my family felt this need to begin to educate me that I would make people feel scared or uncomfortable," he explained. "It was a time when I was feeling strong and playing football. To try to help me understand that when I was getting my license that this is not a joke, you need to listen to us, because any misunderstanding or interaction could be your death."
The politician also opened up about his own personal interactions with the police throughout his life.
"And then to have experiences in my late teens and early 20s with police officers, weapons drawn on me, with my car surrounded, accused of stealing my car, being followed in malls for years and years, being confronted by security guards," he shared. "And the feeling of a United States Senator, Tim Scott, a republican from South Carolina, has talked on the floor of the Senate about how many times he was stopped on the way into the Senate in ways that his colleague, Lindsey Graham, said 'never happens to me.'"
Booker began to get emotional talking about some of the painful conversations he's had with friends over a week of unrest in the country.
"I think the thing that's made a lot of my friends break down in tears this week is 30 years ago Rodney King, when we were marching in Stanford [University], we thought we could change this and we wouldn't have to have these same conversations with our kids, my nephews," Booker said of the 1992 beating of Rodney King at the hands of LAPD police officers who were not convicted, leading to protests and race riots. "Decades have passed, and we haven't put this nation to the point where we have kids now on our streets again, like I was in my 20s, who are really questioning this nation."
Booker also described himself as "emotionally raw," revealing that he had just come from "yelling with respect" at his colleague, republican senator Rand Paul, who "stopped 99 senators who were ready to vote for an anti-lynching bill."
Despite this frustration and anger, Booker added that he's seen lots of good.
"This is one of those times where it's good to see, it's so good to see, Americans of black and white, the whole rainbow, it's so good to see their anger," he admitted.
It has been a week of frustration, anger, and hope in America following the death of George Floyd on May 25. Floyd was a 46-year-old black man who died after a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. His death and the deaths of many other black Americans have inspired people across the country and around the world to speak out in protest.