Sen. Cory Booker got personal and passionate Wednesday as he told the Senate the nationwide protests over police treatment of black suspects "is a reflection of a deeper anguish, an unfinished American business that has lasted for decades."
Booker, D-N.J., one of two blacks in the Senate, recalled how in 1969 his parents had to get a white couple to pose as them to buy the house he grew up in.
He understood the relationship between law enforcement and the black community.
"I saw it with my own parents who with agony and pain talked to me about not having a margin of error when it comes to dealing with police officers," he said. "Who would coach me on how I should speak and talk, what I should do with my hands because of the fears they had of the treatment" that he might get.
He described how "we have had over the last decades of my lifetime an explosion in incarceration that belies the truth of who we are."
Booker’s 20-minute speech was a rare Senate look at race relations. He talked about how difficult it can be to escape poverty. "These issues are American issues, not simply race issues."
And yet, Booker argued, blacks are treated differently. They are more likely to be arrested on drug charges, and for all crimes, "when you start breaking the actual data down, you see patterns of discriminatory impact that are unacceptable in a nation this great."
Booker recalled his stint as Newark’s Mayor, and how he dealt with these issues. "These teenagers are afraid, scared, knowing that they broke the law," he said, "but other folks, like the last three presidents, have gotten away with it."
Do something, he urged. "If we have an injustice in our midst," Booker said, "with a legal system that is so far away from the justice system to which we should aspire, we have to do better."