Sen. Cory Booker was recently hit with the “well spoken” trope, this time from latecomer presidential runner Michael Bloomberg. In response, Booker, who’s also a candidate in the Democratic presidential race, is speaking up about how harmful the description of “well spoken” can be to Black people.
In a CBS interview, Gayle King spoke with Bloomberg about Booker’s recent comments about how there will possibly be no people of color in the upcoming Democratic debates. Instead, a billionaire like Tom Steyer will make it to the stage. Bloomberg, a billionaire himself, responded to these comments by telling King:
“Cory Booker endorsed me a number of times. And I endorsed Cory Booker a number of times. He’s very well-spoken. He’s got some good ideas. It would be better the more diverse any group is.”
Bloomberg received immediate backlash from folks who were tired of white people noting that a Black person is “well spoken.”
“Ask yourself how many times you hear a POC say the same of a white person,” reporter Alexi McCammond tweeted.
In an interview with Zerlina Maxwell and Jess Mcintosh on the Sirius XM show “Signal Boost,” Booker responded to the “well spoken” comment by first saying that he was “taken aback.” Then, he outlined how much “regard” he has for Bloomberg.
“Mike and I have known each other for a long time. When I was first becoming the mayor of the city of Newark, he gave me a tremendous amount of practical support, so I just have a great deal of regard for him as somebody who, you know, helped me help the city of Newark.”
He continued, “But I agree with you that it’s sort of stunning at times that we are still revisiting these sort of tired tropes or the language we have out there that folks I don’t think understand, the fact that they don’t understand, that it’s problematic.”
Booker then went on to say that he hopes Bloomberg understands why his statements were an issue, especially when Black people “continue to deal with issues, whether it was the blackface controversies from earlier this year to the challenges that I don’t think folks understand with Kamala [Harris] dropping out of that race. Why so many people, friends of mine, family members who weren’t even supporting her but found it insulting that she would not be in this race with her qualifications, with her experiences, with her talent, with her gifts. And other people are, who frankly, very bluntly do not have her same record.”
This is not the first time a well-known white politician has called a Black politician “well spoken” or something similar. Even presidential runner and former vice president to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, called Obama “articulate” and “clean” back in 2007 as if it was some shock that a Black man could be all these things.
The clichés continue in 2019.