Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory A. Booker on Wednesday said President Trump “sowed the seeds” of hatred that produced the weekend’s mass shooting in Texas, and he called on Americans to confront the white supremacist belief ingrained in their country.
“White supremacy has always been a problem in our American story — if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
He urged Americans to embrace a “courageous love” to confront the evils of racism and bigotry that he said flourished in the U.S. under Mr. Trump.
The remarks, which his campaign described as a major speech, were delivered from the pulpit at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The church was the site of a 2015 mass shooting in which a 21-year-old white supremacist killed nine people at a Bible study meeting.
The setting amplified Mr. Booker’s anti-racism message in response to the shooting Saturday that killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. An online white supremacist screed has been linked to suspected gunman Patrick Wood Crusius, 21.
“Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny. These tactics aren’t a new perversion of our politics, they’ve been ingrained in our politics since our founding,” Mr. Booker said. “Generations of politicians have used fear of the other for political gain, and that is certainly the case today.”
He blamed Mr. Trump’s vow to “build a wall” and warnings of a migrant “invasion” as fueling white supremacist hatred. He also blamed the country’s legacy of racism that he said was ingrained laws and culture.
Mr. Trump condemned racism and white supremacy in a speech Monday.
To stem the violence, Mr. Booker proposed tough gun laws, including a ban of military-style rifles and national licensing of gun owners.
He called for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to conduct assessments of the domestic terrorism threats posed by white supremacists and report annually to Congress and the public.
And he demanded the FBI overhaul its reporting of hate crimes and work with local law enforcement to establish policies and training for officers on how to identify, investigate and report hate crimes.
“We must change our laws, but we must also confront our past,” the senator said.
Mr. Booker did not name Mr. Trump but said racist violence was “sowed by a president who spews hateful rhetoric and endangers the lives of people of color and immigrants in this country.”
Calling out the president’s shortcoming was not enough, he said, because every American must take responsibility for their role in perpetuating the hatred.
“It is harder — but it is necessary — to recognize the decisions we collectively make every day that perpetuate this dangerous reality,” said Mr. Booker, who is black. “Each person, each generation has a decision to make: Do you want to contribute to our collective advancement or — through inaction or worse — to our collective retrenchment.”