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New York Governor Apologizes for Saying Black Kids ‘Don’t Know What a Computer Is’


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Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP (Getty Images)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul managed to put her foot in her mouth this week when, amidst a business conference in California, she claimed that there are children in the Bronx who “don’t know what a computer is.”

What Hochul actually said was this: “Right now, we have young Black kids growing up in the Bronx who don’t even know what the word computer is. They don’t know, they don’t know these things.” Hochul said this amid a broader rhetorical assault that included a push to expand “economic opportunities in artificial intelligence for low-income communities,” as the Associated Press has put it. Here’s the full clip:

As you might expect, Hochul was ridiculed pretty hard for this take. After some local outcry on Monday, Hochul predictably put her tail between her legs and issued a statement, claiming: “I misspoke and I regret it. Of course, Black children in the Bronx know what computers are.”

To say that Hochul’s previous interpretation of urban digital literacy strains credibility is to put it mildly. Let’s be honest: There are computers everywhere. If, for some reason, you and everybody you know have never owned a computer (doubtful), or have never seen one on TV (again, seemingly impossible), or, somehow, have never stepped inside a public school where there are at least a few computers, you’d have to assume, you’d have at least heard about computers from a teacher or another kid, there are still droves of people walking around the city holding small computers in their hands, all the time. Maybe Hochul was thinking of babies? Or dogs? I’m pretty sure there are still some babies and dogs that don’t know about computers.

Look, I actually think it’d be great if fewer children knew what computers were. If popular social scientists like Jonathan Haidt are to be believed, most kids these days are growing up with an iPhone glued to their face and it’s causing many of them to become mentally ill. Indeed, today’s youth seem to be having their childhoods ruined by perpetual digital connection. Thus, if Hochul really cares about New York’s children, she should try to expand access to non-digital services that would provide greater socialization. Hochul should try to ensure that, just like those fictional Bronx kids she was talking about, every NYC child can afford to go through their early years with little understanding of our digital landscape. Save our kids now, Kathy!

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