Actor Billy Porter: No, America isn’t ‘better than this’ — but there’s still room for ‘collective healing’

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Laura Clawson

A phrase that critics of President Donald Trump often use is, "America is better than this." But actor Billy Porter, in a biting yet hopeful op-ed published in the Daily Beast on October 26, explains why he "hates" hearing that phrase — and why he believes that the United States can improve if it votes Trump out of office.

The 51-year-old Porter argues, in essence, that the problem with the phrase "America is better than this" is that it implies that racism, inequality and oppression started with the Trump era — which, as a gay African-American man, he finds ridiculous.

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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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