Why Many Rockettes Are Refusing to Perform at Trump's Inauguration

Editor’s Note: When it was announced that the Rockettes’ management company had agreed to have them perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration, there was much public outrage because it appeared that the dancers didn’t have a choice not to participate, decked out in their iconic but short-skirted costumes in front of a president-elect who had bragged about sexually assaulting women. As one current Rockette under the pseudonym Mary (the dancers reportedly are avoiding speaking out for fear of losing their jobs) described it in an interview with MarieClaire.com, some of her colleagues were brought to tears over the announcement, which came during their stressful Christmas period. Even though as Marie Claire reports “producers agreed to make participation elective” even for the full-time dancers, both they and seasonal contract dancers fear that if they don’t perform for the inauguration, it’ll be their last opportunity with the Rockettes. In addition to the “trauma” Mary describes of performing for a president who has dishonored women countless times, Marie Claire points out that there are other reasons certain Rockettes may feel strongly that dancing at the inauguration would go against their deep personal values: for the LGBT staff of the Rockettes’ show, and for “the few African-American women in the troupe who fear for their rights and their safety under an administration with reported white supremacists in its ranks” (and if they decline to perform, Mary says, the homogeneous whiteness of the dancers would probably be “embarrassing,” while the rest of the women would be “branded in history as one of those women… how’s it going to look?”). While at this time, producers publicly state that there is an opportunity for individual Rockettes to turn down the inauguration performance, there are still remaining fears of repercussions if the dancers do use this opportunity to resist Donald Trump.

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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.

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