Cory Booker Had the Perfect Response to Ferguson More Than 20 Years Ago

Cory Booker Had the Perfect Response to Ferguson More Than 20 Years Ago
Source: AP
Source: AP

The August death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is far from the first flashpoint over race and law enforcement.  

Twenty-two years ago, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), then a 22-year-old master's degree student at Stanford University, wrote a column in response to the ruling in the case of Rodney King, a black construction worker who was beaten by police during a traffic stop following a high-speed chase. Just like Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, the officers who beat King back then were exonerated. The same mayhem that erupted Monday night in Ferguson also erupted in April 1992.

On Wednesday, Booker tweeted his old column, which — sadly — is still relevant to America's race relations in that have faced scrutiny in aftermath after a grand jury declined Monday to indict Wilson.

Booker voiced many of the same sentiments as the black community today. He felt many of the same emotions. Moreover, his woes about deep-seated racism still ring true today.

"I'm a black man. I am 6 feet 3 inches tall and 230 pounds, just like King. Do I scare you? Am I a threat? Does your fear justify your actions? Twelve people believed it did."

"Black male: Guilty until proven innocent.
Reactions to my kind are justified. Scrutiny is justified. Surveillance is justified. Search is justified. Fifty-six blows ... Justified."


He bemoaned the inequalities faced by the black community:

"Poverty, alienation, estrangement, continuously aggravated by racism, overt and institutional. Can you leave your neighborhood without being stopped? Can you get a loan from your bank? Can you be trusted at your local store?

Can you get an ambulance dispatched to your neighborhood? Can you get the police to come to your house?
Can you get an education in your school? Can you get a job? Can you stay alive past 25? Can you get respect?

Can you be heard?"

Booker lamented that his Stanford degree and his efforts to be "articulate, loquacious, positive, constructive," some people will only see the color of his skin when they look at him.

"... late one night, as I walked the streets of Palo Alto, as the police car slowed down while passing me, as his steely glare met me, I realized that to him and to so many others I am and always may be a N*****: guilty till proven innocent."

Twenty years later and still, we can all feel Booker's sentiment that rings through his column like a refrain: 

"Not Guilty ... Not Shocked."

For many around the country, the reaction "not shocked" is exactly right. It's been 20 years, but not much has changed.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Becca Stanek

Becca is a Mic Editorial Fellow writing for the news section. A recent graduate of DePauw University, she has previously written for TIME and The Oregonian.

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