As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. Cory Booker made it a point to prove that adage was decidedly true on Saturday when he came to the defense of the only other high-profile Black person running for president.*
The New Jersey senator took up for his fellow presidential candidate Kamala Harris after her amazingly strong debate performance last week prompted one of the president’s sons to promote a racist tweet about her racial background. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted an incorrect and hateful post from a right-wing influencer before deleting it after he was called out for the same type of birtherism his father has perpetuated with President Barack Obama.
“Kamala Harris is implying she is descended from American Black Slaves,” Ali Alexander tweeted during the second Democratic debate Thursday night. “She’s not. She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners. That’s fine. She’s not an American Black. Period.”
Trump Jr.’s retweet was accompanied by the loaded words, “Is this true? Wow.”
When the New York Times on Saturday tweeted its story about the controversy, Booker’s Twitter fingers got busy and typed out six quick words that left nothing open to interpretation.
While Booker and Harris debated on separate nights, the two appeared united in sentiment. When a subsequent Twitter user wondered if Booker actually authored that tweet, he readily doubled down.
Booker’s sentiments were echoed by other prominent Democrats, who called Alexander’s tweet and Trump Jr.’s involvement “racist.” Alexander’s Twitter bio describes himself as a “Black American activist” who “exposed Kamala Harris.”
The issue first arose when Harris confronted former Vice President Joe Biden about both his older and recent history “on the issue of race,” as she said on the debate stage in Miami. Harris specifically questioned Biden about his work with pro-segregation senators as it related to her own personal history.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said directly Biden. But, she said, Biden’s fond words recalling the “civility” of the late Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland, a Democrat who made no secret that he was in favor of segregation, and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, while they opposed busing students to integrate schools, were “hurtful.” She said that she was a student who was bused when she was a little girl.
That’s when Alexander posted his tweet and Trump Jr. retweeted it soon afterward.
Harris has been very open about her racial heritage, consistently referring to herself as “Black.” She told the popular “Breakfast Club” radio show during an interview earlier this year that the topic of her race as it pertained to her was intended to divide and conquer Democrats. “I’m Black, and I’m proud of being Black,” she said in no uncertain terms in February. “I was born Black. I will die Black, and I’m not going to make excuses for anybody because they don’t understand.”
Harris’ mother is from India, her father is from Jamaica and she was born in Oakland, California.
Booker has been especially vocal since Harris faced off against Biden one day after the New Jersey senator took part in the first Democratic debate. He saw Biden’s apology tour promptly begin with an address to the Rev. Jesse Jackson‘s Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Friday when the former vice president seemed to suggest that a “kid wearing a hoodie” was tantamount to being “a gangbanger.” The language was particularly egregious considering Biden’s audience was predominately Black.
Booker fired off a tweet late Friday afternoon in response to those words, hinting that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Biden’s front-runner status as the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.
“This isn’t about a hoodie,” Booker tweeted. “It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way.”
Throughout it all, Biden has maintained a strong level of endorsements from the Black political elite. “Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus leaped to former Vice President Joe Biden’s defense,” Politico reported last week, with House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, being the most vocal.
*Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida, is the other Black candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president. But because of his low polling and donor numbers, he did not qualify to participate in this week’s debates.