Cory Booker takes aim at Joe Biden's 'hoodie' language about race

Booker reacted to Biden's remark that more people need to see that a kid in a hoodie may be the "the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger."
Image: Cory Booker
Cory Booker during the first Democratic primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, on June 26, 2019.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

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By Marianna Sotomayor and Phil McCausland

Joe Biden, the current frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, once again came under criticism from a another candidate from his party over the topic of race.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey took issue with language Biden used when speaking at a Rainbow PUSH luncheon on Friday about ways in which he would help to uplift African American communities.

While discussing the need for criminal justice reform, Biden said people must continue to work toward recognizing blacks as equals so that African American mothers, like the mother of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida in 2012, no longer have to fear that their sons will be shot whenever they are away from home.

"We've got to recognize that the kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger," Biden said.

The use of the word "gangbanger" drew criticism on social media, including from Booker, who suggested that Biden lacks a qualification for the Democratic nominee of being able to talk about race constructively.

"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."

The Biden campaign released a statement Saturday.

"Vice President Biden, like many leaders over the years, was calling direct attention to the daily experiences faced by many African American men around the country and the perceived so-called 'threat' from people like Trayvon Martin who were racially profiled and deemed 'criminal' while wearing a hoodie," said Jamal Brown, national press secretary for the campaign.

"As the context of his remarks noted, we need to 'Make sure black mothers feel confident when they send their child, their son, out on the streets that they're going to feel safe.'"

This comes as Biden has faced mounting criticism for some of his past positions on racial issues as well as his close relationships with noted segregationists, Sens. James Eastland, D-Miss., and Herman Talmadge, D-Ga.

Earlier this month, Biden and Booker went back and forth over Biden's lauding the “civility” of the 1970s and ‘80s in the Senate when he was able to work with those two segregationist senators.

Booker said Biden should apologize; Biden said Booker should apologize to him for his criticism.

Biden again seemed to stumble on the issue of race at Thursday’s Democratic debate when Sen. Kamala Harris of California directly attacked his past opposition to federally mandated school busing to integrate schools.

On Friday before a largely African American crowd, Biden laid out his vision for universal pre-K and for improving teaching quality for all children. He also said he would repeal President Donald Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy in an effort to direct more money toward helping middle-class and low-income Americans.