Ending the Oppression Olympics

Rebecca Traister really gets at what I’ve been trying to articulate, about why it is that the open acceptance of sexist language over racist language is by no means an indication that sexism is a greater problem, and in fact might show why sexism might be an easier problem to overcome:
I think also that, in the United States, race (especially when combined with class) remains a more formidable barrier to professional, political and economic success than gender. Hillary Clinton may have a harder time getting elected than Obama because, frankly, Obama can be comfortably looked at as an exceptional black man, not as a harbinger of what’s to come, whereas Hillary will stand in for all those pushy broads coming to take your jobs, college admissions letters, and your seats in Congress. If Hillary’s success is less exceptional, does she deserve my vote as much as Barack?
That gets to the heart of it. Sexism is perversely the only real tool to enforce sexism, but racism has classism as the back-up plan. Strangely, the figure of the exceptional black person can be used to excuse racist oppression of everyone else. It provides a way for the racist to say, “Look, it’s not society that oppresses black people, since Figure X is permitted access. All those black people living in poverty have every opportunity are just inferior/only have themselves to blame.” Obama has already been used in service of this kind of argument, when William Saletan used his success to argue that other black people who don’t share it are just born stupid.
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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