Booker tells National Association of Black Journalists: 'We need your voices'

Racism and white supremacy are weaved throughout U.S. history up to the present day, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (N.J.) told a room of black journalists at a Thursday convention. 

“If not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it. And racist violence has always been part of that American story — never more so than in times of transition and rapid social change,” Booker said at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Miami.

“Which is why at this moral moment in America, now more than ever, we need your voices, those in the media willing to tell the truth and to capture the truths too often excluded, too often ignored.”ADVERTISEMENT

In his speech, the New Jersey senator touched on gun control and criminal justice reform, but mostly used his remarks to hail the First Amendment and the crucial role of a diverse press in painting an accurate picture of the nation’s past and present. 

Booker’s remarks follow a shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday that killed 22 people; the accused shooter allegedly wrote a manifesto claiming his attack was a response to the “Hispanic invasion.” Authorities are treating the attack as a case of domestic terrorism and will pursue federal hate crime charges. 

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Booker is one of many Democrats to liken President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s rhetoric to the words of the alleged shooter, and the New Jersey senator went so far as to say Trump is “particularly responsible.” 

In his Thursday remarks, Booker, without naming Trump, again said the president has sowed seeds of hatred, pointing to Trump’s past controversial remarks against Baltimore and “shithole” countries, as well as the time he drew “equivalence between Neo-Nazis and those who protest them.”

“As black journalists, you understand that the press has an obligation — to not just call out the obvious hatred and bigotry we see come out of the Oval Office, but to go deeper, to reveal more. The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger,” Booker said. 

“It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel 10 hours to kill as many human beings as he could. It was planted in fertile soil, because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of who we are.”

Trump earlier this week told reporters his comments on immigration did not inspire the shooting, saying his “rhetoric brings people together.” 

To move forward, Booker said the question to ask isn’t “who is or isn’t racist” but rather “who is and isn’t doing something about it.”

“As storytellers, you know that there is another story we can tell about our country. A better story. Not one that ignores our mistakes or accommodates our failures,” he said. 

“But one that asks the hard questions, one that genuinely seek answers; and the kind of questions that prick the consciousness of our nation and challenge our moral imagination.”

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