Cory Booker Blasts 'Racially Biased' Justice System: 'We Have More African Americans Under Criminal Supervision Today Than All the Slaves in 1850'

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker outlined his plans to tackle the systemic racial problems in the U.S. which he said needs to go much further than merely calling President Donald Trump a racist.

Speaking during the democratic debate hosted by ABC and Univision at the Texas Southern University in Houston, the New Jersey Senator said the country needs to address the issues of racism across all sections of society while promising to deal with the "problem of white supremacy and hate crimes" if elected president in 2020.

"We know Donald Trump's a racist, but there's no red badge of courage for calling him that," Booker said.

"Racism exists. The question isn't who isn't a racist, it's who is and isn't doing something about racism. And this is not just an issue that started yesterday, it's not just an issue that we hear a president that can't condemn white supremacy. We have systemic racism that's eroding our nation from health care to the criminal justice system."

Cory Booker
Democratic presidential hopeful New Jersey Senator Cory Booker speaks during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. Robyn BECK / AFP/Getty

Booker also said there is no need to discuss systematic racism in terms of the past as the current criminal justice system is proof that it exists.

"It's nice to go all the back to slavery, but dear God we have a criminal justice system that is so racially biased, we have more African-Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850," he said. "We have to come at this issue attacking systemic racism, having the courage to call it out and having a plan to do something about it."

As well as promising to tackle white supremacy and hate crimes if he gets into the White House, Booker said he will ensure that that systemic racism is "dealt with in substantive plans from criminal justice reform, to the disparities in health care, to even one that we don't talk about enough which is the racism that we see in environmental injustice in communities of color all around this country."

"We know Donald Trump is a racist, but there is no red badge of courage for calling him that, "Sen. Cory Booker says.

"Racism exists. The question isn't who isn't a racist, it's who is and isn't doing something about racism." #DemDebate

— ABC News (@ABC) September 13, 2019

According to The Washington Post's Fact Checker, there are several issues with Booker's claim that there are more black people currently under criminal supervision than there ever were slaves in the 1850s.

The Post states that according to the 1850 census, there were 3.6 million slaves in the U.S., compared to figures from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which says African Americans constitute 2.3 million, or 34 percent, of the total 6.8 million correctional population in 2014.

A spokesperson for Booker said a 2014 Politifact fact check stated there were around 1.68 million African American men under state and federal criminal justice supervision in 2013, 807,076 more than the number of black slaves in 1850.

"But that's not what Booker said," The Post's Fact Checker states.

"Moreover, even if the black men comparison is correct in terms of raw numbers, it's still misleading because the U.S. population has soared since 1850.

"The census that year found that roughly nine in 10 of the nation's 3.6 million blacks were enslaved. By contrast, one in 11 blacks is under correctional supervision today, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts."