Hochul's comment dishonored the Bronx


During an interview at a recent California business conference, Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “We have young Black kids growing up in the Bronx who don’t even know what the word ‘computer’ is.”

This particular conference, by the way, was dedicated to expanding economic opportunities in artificial intelligence for low-income communities. No one will remember that now.

According to the AP, Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo — who represents Mott Haven, Concourse and part of Highbridge — called Hochul’s comment “harmful, deeply misinformed, and genuinely appalling.”

Hard to argue.

The implied racism behind the governor’s remark — that there are only Black kids in the Bronx; or, if there are other kids, it’s only the Black ones who don’t know what a computer is — was the subject of a day’s worth of deserved derision in the media and the political punditry before Hochul told the New York Post she misspoke.

Fair enough, perhaps. But what the governor said reflects another insidious ignorance: that the Bronx is a monolithic wasteland of socioeconomic degradation filled, in this case, with Black children and basic technology they can’t hope to identify. Easily, conveniently summarized and dismissed, that’s been the Bronx’s lot for decades.

Even the governor thinks so.

But the Bronx is not one thing, one people, or universally downtrodden. Poverty and lack of access exist everywhere, including in the Bronx. But it’s capricious and foolish for the governor — or anyone else — to use the Bronx as a fallback example of what’s bad about America.

The Bronx is Van Cortlandt Park — which is the city’s third largest, with a history dating back to Colonial times, and will soon host the return of the New York Philharmonic to its lawns.

The Bronx is the New York Yankees — who have played here since 1923, have their own stop on the 4 train, and have won 27 world championships.

The Bronx is the Shalom Aleichem Houses — built in 1926, independent of government subsidies and dedicated to the preservation of secular Yiddish culture. The buildings are still there today.

The Bronx is Co-op City — which, built on the land once occupied by an amusement park, is the largest co-operative housing development in the world. It has its own power plant, and is governed by the more than 40,000 people living there.

The Bronx is the zoo and the botanical garden — beautiful, engaging places where nature is nestled in New York City’s northernmost borough.

The Bronx is the Bronx High School of Science — where 99 percent of the students graduate in four years, 60 percent of the students are immigrants or children of immigrants, and math and reading proficiency scores in the top 1 percent.

Bet they have computers over there, too.

The Bronx is Stan Lee and Edgar Allan Poe. It’s Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B. It’s Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stanley Kubrick. It’s Sonia Sotomayor and Darcel Clark.

And the Bronx is this newspaper — founded and run for so much of its history by two generations of the Stein family, who knew and cared about what the totality of this place is, and what it means.

No one likes to be discounted or dismissed. It’s bad enough when outsiders do it, but it’s worse when it comes from inside the house — particularly when that dismissal is done with the tossed-off shorthand of biased stereotypes.

It’s particularly galling, though, for the latest false summation of the Bronx to come from its own governor, who, by definition of duty, should know and embrace every area of her constituency.

Failing to do that — with words so carelessly chosen — is painful to the undeserving Bronx, and an embarrassment to the governor, who surely should think — and speak — better.

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