Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s December announcement that he would "consider" a Senate bid in 2014 — a decision that will raise his national profile outside files of the media establishment and party insiders — will bring new scrutiny to the Mayor’s record and past. And while Booker’s carefully crafted and public image is well known, Booker has yet to come under the microscope most politicians know.
At Stanford, Booker was a football star and Rhodes Scholar. He also maintained a column in the school newspaper, The Stanford Daily. In a 1990 op-ed titled “Pointing the finger at gays,” the Mayor and prospective Senate candidate reflected over his past hatred of gays and how he came to accept them.
“I was in my tolerance stage or the ‘I don’t give a damn if someone is gay, just as long as they don’t bother me’ stage. I was well trained in my tolerance,” Booker began. “I stopped telling gay jokes. Fags, flamers, and dykes became homosexuals and people of differing sexual orientation and, of course, I had a gay friend.”
“I couldn’t betray my true feelings,” Booker lamented. “I was disgusted by gays. The thought of two men kissing each other was about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy.”
“Allow me to be more direct, escaping the euphemisms of my past – I hated gays,” Booker continued. “The disgust and latent hostility I felt toward gays were subcategories of hatred, plain and simple.”
Booker wrote that he attempted to hide his feelings, but while in the presence of gays or lesbians, the thought couldn’t escape him.
“While hate is a four-letter word I never would have admitted to, the sentiment clandestinely pervaded my every interaction with homosexuals,” he said. “I sheepishly shook hands with gays or completely shielded away from physical contact. I still remember how my brow would often unconsciously furrow when I was with gays, as thoughts would flash in my mind, ‘What sinners I am amongst’ or ‘How unnatural these people are.’”
“It took too much energy to hate.”
Booker went on to write that he first confronted his feelings toward gays when he had discussions with a gay counselor his freshman year.
“I still remember our first real conversation about homosexuality. I had no intention of listening to him; I only sought to argue and debate,” Booker wrote. “However, he quickly disarmed me with his personal testimony.”
“He told me of the years of denial and the pain of always feeling different.”
Booker continued, adding how the personal testimony had moved him:
“He told me of the violence – violence from strangers and family, horrible images of beatings, destruction of property, and the daily verbal condemnations."
The testimony reminded Booker of stories he'd heard from his grandparents about the trials of growing up black in America.
“It was chilling,” wrote Booker. “So much of the testimony was almost identical to stories my grandparents told me about growing up Black. People found it revolting to share a meal with them and often felt it to be their duty to beat them, so they would learn proper living.”
The similarities made Booker confront the origin of his hatred.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that the root of my hatred did not lie with gays but with myself. It was my problem. A problem I dealt with by ceasing to tolerate gays and instead seeking to embrace them.”
“The gay people with whom I am close are some of the strongest, most passionate, and caring people I know and their demands for justice are no less imperative than those of any other community.”
“I have never sought to preach self-righteous psychobabble, but the temptation here is almost overwhelming. I have seen many of my male friends – no matter whether they’re on the football field or inside a church – bash gays and then revel in their machismo or piety.”
Booker concluded that he would continue to work on increasing his tolerance.
“I will never point a finger when the finger is best pointed at me. Also, occasionally I still find myself acting defensively if someone thinks I am gay or sometimes I remain silent when others slam or slander. These realizations hurt me deeply. I must continue to struggle for personal justice. This is my most important endeavor.”
Stanford Daily republished the column Wednesday, soon after BuzzFeed obtained a copy from the student paper.
This article has been corrected to reflect the day Stanford's newspaper republished Booker's column.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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