Booker calls for 'honest conversations' on blackface controversies

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (D-N.J.) on Saturday called on others to extend "grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations" about issues including racism.

Booker's comments were made during a campaign stop in Iowa as he addressed the blackface scandals surrounding Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), according to Complex. Both Northam and Herring recently admitted to wearing blackface decades ago.

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Booker, who is running for president, on Saturday recalled growing up in a "homophobic environment." When he worked in college as a crisis manager, Booker said he asked a gay and lesbian counselor "stupid questions" that he had about LGBTQ issues.

"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 ... about LGBTQ issues. But because of that honest conversation, I saw my ignorances and I grew," Booker said.

"Thank god he gave me a pathway to redemption. ... We — all of us, black, white, gay, straight — we've got to start extending grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations with one another and leave room for growth," he continued.

Earlier in his dialogue, Booker said people sometimes fear "talking about something they don’t understand."

"I've had conversations with white friends of mine this week who just 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 now, saying that publicly. If you want to have more courageous empathy, put yourself in a white person's position who might have questions," he added.

Northam and Herring, the Virginia officials, have both faced calls to resign from their positions following revelations that they previously wore blackface.

Earlier this month, a photo from Northam's medical school yearbook page surfaced that shows one person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface. Northam has denied being either of the people in the photo but has said he wore blackface another time in medical school.

Herring later said he wore blackface while he was an undergraduate in college.