On Saturday, Feb. 9, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker addressed the blackface controversy during a campaign stop in Des Moines, IA.
"So how do we get to a point where we can start having the conversation without people falling into a defensive crouch?" the senator asked the crowd. "I've had conversations with white friends of mine this week who out 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 saying that publicly? If you want to have more creation and empathy, put yourself in a white person's position."
He then explained how being a crisis manager in college helped him dismantle stereotypes he had about homosexuality and how talking to a co-worker made him a more empathetic person.
"I remember this guy—I remember his name. His name was Daniel—and he was the gay and lesbian counselor there, and he sat down with me one night and just gave me a safe space to ask him questions. What grace he extended to me to ask stupid questions and I grew," Booker explained. "We—all of us, black, white, gay, straight—have to start extending grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations with one another and leave room for growth."
These comments follow the trend of explaining the racism behind blackface. From Drake to Megyn Kelly, this dialogue has crept into almost every sphere of media and now has seeped into politics. Beginning with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, several high-ranking officials have had photos resurfaced of them using this racist imagery as a tool of humor and mockery. Because of Blackface's lengthy history as a known tool of racism, many are not looking to embody Booker's empathy as they feel these politicians knew what they were doing.