Let the elephants fall to earth!

I've been wondering how to explain July 4th to my 2 1/2 year old daughter. She seems a little young for the whole there's-a-fine-line-between-patriotism-nationalism-and-fascism discussion. She doesn't yet know we live in California, much less the United States. She has a vague sense that we live in Oakland and that out the window, far away, is San Francisco. But, really, she's quite provincial. "I love my house," she tells me.

I was talking to someone about how to explain it all, when my daughter chimed in."Fourth of July?" she repeated, excited. "That's Miss Mary Mack!" It's true, I realized, she already knew all about the Fourth. According to the song, after bargaining with her mother and getting fifty cents to watch the elephant jump over the fence, on July 4th Miss Mack sees the elephant return to earth with a great big thud.

Well, it's hard not to take that as a political prophecy. After all, many children's songs are connected to real political events. Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague. London Bridges Falling Down is about the queen locked in the Tower of London. A brief attempt to research the origins of Miss Mary Mack led me only to the obscure knowledge that on the 1st of November 1866, one Mr. Brown wedded one Miss Mary J. Mack, who was born in Preble County, Ohio. And Mr. Brown is identified as a life-long prominent Democrat.

These might be slim pickings, but revolutions have started with less. Why not take Miss Mary Mack at its word? Perhaps this will be the year when, on the Fourth of July, people reaffirm the Bill of Rights, reclaim the truth from politicians who use patriotism as an excuse for occupation, and let the elephants come raining down.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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