NY Gov. Hochul slammed after saying Black kids don’t know what ‘computer’ means

“It's racist and ignorant,” Michael Blake, a former New York assemblyman from the Bronx, told theGrio.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2024/04/24: Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during announcement on inclusion of money for Mental Health and Public Safety Budget for fiscal year 2025 at Midtown Community Justice Center. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A controversial remark about Black children in New York has put New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in the hot seat. 

While discussing the need to bring AI technology jobs to Black and brown communities at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, Hochul said, “Right now, we have young Black kids growing up in the Bronx who don’t even know what the word ‘computer’ is.”

The governor’s comment was quickly condemned by New York lawmakers, including Assembly members Karines Reyes and John Zaccaro, who represent the Bronx in the state legislature.  

“It’s racist and ignorant,” Michael Blake, a former New York assemblyman from the Bronx, told theGrio. “It’s incredibly disheartening that when at a conference talking about the potential of AI and how it can empower lives, the example that came up was saying that Black kids in the Bronx don’t know what a computer is.”

TheGrio sought a reaction from the Biden administration to Hochul’s comment during Tuesday’s White House press briefing; however, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she had not seen the remarks and declined to specifically address it. 

“I don’t want to comment and be really mindful of speaking on behalf of this president,” Jean-Pierre told theGrio.

When asked if the administration thinks it’s OK to insinuate Black children don’t know what the word “computer” means, the Biden spokesperson said, “I don’t think that is the right way to speak about … about young people in any way in any form.”

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 07: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. Jean-Pierre handled questions about the ongoing trial of former President Donald Trump, Americans held captive in Russia and other topics. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

She added, “But I do want to be mindful and to be fair here … and go back and hear exactly what she said.”

Markus Batchelor, national political director for the progressive advocacy group People For the American Way, called Gov. Hochul’s remark “unhelpful and thoughtless rhetoric” that affirmed “the belief in voters’ minds that our leaders are too removed from the experiences of those they represent — especially if they’re Black and poor.” 

He told theGrio, “It’s a careless hyperbole and speaks to the most harmful stereotypes about the urban Black experience.”

Blake, who is a former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that if Hochul, as governor “thinks you don’t know what a computer is in 2024,” then “you have to wonder what does she think about you as a human being?”

The founder and CEO of the KAIROS Democracy Project said as a Democratic leader, Hochul also demonstrated that “racism and ignorance and privilege are not limited to just one party.” 

“We have clearly the better policies, but we still fall victim to our leaders holding on to problematic beliefs,” he explained. “So there’s definitely more work to do.” However, he clarified that when compared to the alternative Republican Party, “I would rather be our side than theirs.”

Rather than making controversial comments about inner city Black children, Blake said leaders should instead celebrate organizations like The Knowledge House, a Bronx-based entity that seeks to close education gaps in low-income neighborhoods; and the National GEM Consortium, which focuses on improving the number of STEM degrees among Black and other underrepresented groups.

“We should be talking about them,” said Blake, “and when we have comments like this, we are being hurt and distracted rather than empowered and elevated.”

Hochul, who was attempting to highlight New York’s statewide $400 million Empire AI initiative, eventually apologized for her statement, telling the New York Post that she “misspoke.”

“Of course Black children in the Bronx know what computers are,” said the New York governor. “The problem is that they too often lack access to the technology needed to get on track to high-paying jobs in emerging industries like AI. That’s why I’ve been focused on increasing economic opportunity since day one of my administration.”

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