GOP Sen. Gordon Smith Defends Trent Lott's Segregationist Comments

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-OR, offered a passionate defense of the pro-segregationist comments made by his colleague and friend, Sen. Trent Lott, more then three years ago.

"I was half way around the world when an event befell Trent Lott that shook me deeply," Smith said, referencing Lott's 2002 remarks in praise of Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond's 1948 run for the White House. "I was celebrating my re-election and on vacation. I watched over international news as his words were misconstrued, words which we had heard him utter many times in his big warm-heartedness trying to make one of our colleagues, Strom Thurmond, feel good at 100 years old. We knew what he meant. But the wolfpack of the press circled around him, sensed blood in the water, and the exigencies of politics caused a great injustice..."

Smith's comments were made in a session noting Lott's impending retirement from the Senate.

In 2002, Lott lost his Senate Republican Leader post after he was quoted praising the staunch segregationist Strom Thurmond during Thurmond's 100th birthday party. "I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him," Lott boasted. "We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Lott apologized repeatedly for his remarks, calling them "insensitive," "repugnant" and "inexcusable" during an appearance on a black-oriented cable channel.

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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