Mike Bloomberg recently said of Corey Booker that he was “well-spoken”. On the surface, this appears to be a compliment – until you take into consideration that Mr. Booker is an African-American. Pointing out that he is well-spoken brings up the question, well, why wouldn’t he be? He grew up in a nice suburban town in New Jersey with good schools and middle class roots, coincidentally the same town Mr. Helix was born and raised in. Even a New York City person like Mr. Bloomberg would have known the area, by reputation if not indeed by visiting in person, and would know that it was and is a desirable bedroom community of New York City.
So his comments about being well-spoken could not have been a misunderstanding of the neighborhood regionalisms that his speech may have contained from living in certain rougher neighborhoods in and around the city. It is an unfortunate slip, showing his inner belief that African American people would inherently be less educated, and therefore less well-spoken, than their Caucasian counterparts. It was a back-handed compliment based on old, well-worn stereotypes of African Americans.
There are so many stereotypes floating around about different minority groups or classes of people, and it’s painful to be on the receiving end of any of these assumptions. In this day and age, an educated person such as Corey Booker shouldn’t have to hear such lame comments about himself. Michael Bloomberg is Jewish, another group of people who have historically had to endure all kinds of negative stereotypes and criticism. What if Booker had slipped one of those old chestnuts into a comment about him? I’m sure he wouldn’t like it very much, and no matter how innocent it seemed, he would be able to read into the meaning of the slur immediately. People are aware of the slurs used against their race, community or religion, and hear those comments much more keenly than someone outside of the group might.