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A View from Third Base? Historian Karen Ferguson on Cory Booker and the Legacy of Racial Liberalism

November 12, 2013
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SFU History Professor Karen Ferguson writes about New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and the legacy of racial liberalism in an op-ed published on the Penn Press Log.

  • Last week, Cory Booker was sworn in as the first black Senator from New Jersey and the first black Senator to be elected since Barack Obama won his Illinois seat in 2004. These historic firsts can be cast as signs of national progress toward racial justice and growing meritocracy. Yet, as Booker conceded during the last summer’s ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he was “born on third base.”

    With this baseball analogy, the Stanford-, Oxford-, and Yale-educated Booker–who grew up in an overwhelmingly white New Jersey suburb, who is friends with billionaires Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg, and who was himself co-founder of a high-tech start-up–admitted that being a child of privilege has its privileges. This crucial factor has both raised his national profile and dogged him throughout his tenure as Mayor of Newark, one of the poorest and most troubled black-majority cities in the United States. To be sure, the social and economic gap between Booker and the majority of Newark’s electorate is nothing unique in American politics, which is marked by growing inequality. But Booker’s story also points more specifically to the flawed assumptions underlying an enduring trickle-down theory of racial equality that has resulted in the elevation and celebration of individual black elites as race redeemers in vain hope that they can compensate for the failings of a “system” that continues to perpetuate racial inequality.

    Read the full article on the Penn Press Log
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