Letters to the Editor: Is ‘street-smart’ a racially insensitive compliment? These readers say no

Cormac J. Carney
U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am an artist who leans politically center-left. I am also a Jew who endured anti-Semitic taunts in school in 1950s Arizona.

I understand the need to bring down statues, demonstrate and demand respect. But when U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney is essentially forced to step down from his position as chief judge of the Central District of California because he described Kiry Gray, the first Black woman appointed the district’s executive and clerk of court, as “street-smart,” things are going too far.

“Street-smart” is a term that well predates me; my father would use it to describe anyone who knew how to get things done in this hardscrabble world. It is not derogatory.

Maybe there’s more to this than what’s been reported, but this level of political correctness is just going to backfire and give fodder to racists and bigots.

Benita Wallraff, Sunland



To the editor: Shortly after World War II, my mother and I became briefly homeless in a big northeastern city. It was then that I became aware of street smarts. We survived and moved on in our lives, but that quality has never left me.

I am an elderly white man, and I value my street smarts. For Carney to resign his position as chief district judge because he praised a Black woman as being street-smart is absurd.

I wish all our public servants were street-smart. Maybe we’d have a better handle on what was going on in the world.

Andy Robinson, Los Angeles