Cory Booker: Why He Is Not the Next Black Leader

Cory Booker (Michael Bocchien/Getty Images)
Cory Booker (Michael Bocchien/Getty Images)

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, the state's freshly minted Democratic Senate candidate, is not in line to become the new black leader, argues John McWhorter at Time. His interests are too disparate and too tied to the status quo.

The main criticism of Booker seems to be his open embrace of the Powers That Be even while he says he speaks for the poor brother on the street. Booker hit the ground collaborating with, for example, the free-market conservative Manhattan Institute (which I used to work for) and has welcomed overtures from Silicon Valley moguls (including ones setting him up with a startup, as we have learned lately). For all of his commitment to Newark, Booker has never hinted at seeking a radically new order – his idea has been to bring Newark in line with the way the rest of America is making money.

In that, Booker disappoints those hoping he would be a "black" leader in the traditional sense. He's good at saying his name with a pop on the B that subtly communicates black identity – listen to him say "I'm Cory Bbooker" – but he isn't the type that excites the black nationalist or the white fellow traveller. They see someone whose main niche seems to be sitting in suits talking to The Man.

Of course, all indications are that this is precisely the kind of black leader that will have any real influence in American life as we move on. Booker is to be commended for knowing it and acting accordingly. However, there isn't much drama in being that kind of black leader, however you pronounce your B's. On that, another problem of Booker's begins with B – Barack. 


Read John McWhorter's entire piece at Time.

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John McWhorter is a contributing editor at The Root. He is an associate professor at Columbia University and the author of several books, including Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.