The Language of Race...

When I read J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s front-page piece about how Bill Bennett’s comments were dumb, but not racist, my first thought was: ‘well that’s no way to run a Vast Left-wing Conspiracy.’

I’ll believe Alternet’s space should be used to defend rightwing, culture-war jackasses like Bennett from charges of racism when the National Review starts putting nuanced arguments out there in defense of Michael Moore.

Of course, that’s a bad analogy because Bennett is obviously a dirty, racist, hypocritical bastard and Moore doesn’t really hate America.

Anyway, If you’re interested in digging deeper into Allen-Taylor’s thesis about the language of race, I highly recommend Lawrence Blum’s “I’m Not a Racist But..”: The Moral Quandary of Race (Cornell University Press, 2001).

Like Allen-Taylor, Blum – a professor of Philosophy at U-Mass – argues that the language that exists to discuss racial issues is in itself a barrier to true and open discourse between different groups. Blum questions the idea of trying to abolish our concepts of race altogether, arguing that they represent important historic and group-identity values. He argues for a new vocabulary with which racial dialogues can occur in the personal, public and media spheres.

Blum argues that the very word “racist” is being so overused as to lose its shameful meaning. He discusses how this and other words have been co-opted and diluted, and that the effect is to detract from open and honest discourse. Blum calls for a more varied vocabulary that allows us to distinguish between--and place different moral rankings on--malicious racism and less harmful attitudes that differentiate according to race.

It’s academic, but well worth a read. Maybe I’ll send a copy to Bill Bennett.

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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