Shael Polakow-Suransky, the Education Department’s chief academic officer, is a white man who was born in South Africa. And, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out at a press conference this afternoon touting city schools’ test scores, you can make a joke about him being African American.
After a reporter asked if Mr. Bloomberg could specifically explain how state tests are becoming increasingly difficult from year-to-year, he responded, “I certainly can’t, but maybe our African American here can, because — tell us,” while gesturing to Mr. Polakow-Suransky.
“Somebody broke that out,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott mused at the situation.
“I like that,” Mr. Bloomberg added. He proceeded to quickly explain that Mr. Polakow-Suransky “pointed out that he is a real African American” in a discussion two years ago.
“Where were you born?” the mayor then asked him.
“I was born in South Africa,” he quietly answered.
The reporters in attendance sat there awkwardly until Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, chimed in.
“That was the joke,” Mr. Loeser bluntly said, causing laughter all around.
Mr. Polakow-Suransky went on to answer the reporter’s original question.