Know Your Rights: Skipping School to Protest

It is a dark day in the history of America when an eighth-grader commits suicide after participating in a student walkout, protesting anti-immigrant legislature. On March 30, Anthony Soltero -- an organizer of his school's walkout -- shot himself in the head after the administration of De Anza Middle School in Ontario, Calif., threatened Soltero with a three-year prison term, forbid his involvement in the graduation ceremonies and threatened his mother with a fine.

Rallies across the country began in response to the proposed federal bill H.R. 4437, which would penalize 11 million illegal immigrants as felons. Anthony, a 14-year-old student, helped organize a student walkout in the week following the 1 million-strong March 25 demonstration in Los Angeles opposing the legislation. In Los Angeles County alone, over 8,500 students walked out to protest, and many now confront harsh disciplinary consequences.

The abuse of students skipping school to engage in political activism and exercising their constitutional right to free speech needs to stop. Democratic principles are rarely protected by young people sitting behind their desks. From the Civil Rights movement to the environmental movement, youth have been at the forefront of fighting for social justice.

The months of March and April found city streets crowded with young people, from Detroit to Los Angeles, doing exactly what our civic duties call us to do -- if we don't like laws being passed in our name, we speak up.

Nativo Lopez, the organizer of the March 25 demonstration in Los Angeles and president of the Mexican American Political Association, spoke out in support of Soltero and his family on Counterpunch.org:

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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.

What you can do:
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