How the right-wing panic about 'critical race theory' is twisting reality at this public school

man in gray t-shirt holding black and white welcome to the beach signage
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

It's a pain in the ass, but if you dig down deep enough and for long enough, you'll probably find at the root of any mainstream debate over "culture war" issues some kind of misrepresentation, distortion, falsehood or lie. As I told you in yesterday's Editorial Board, so much of what counts as "debate" begins and ends with what liberalism's enemies say liberals say. Today, I want to talk about consequences.

There are many, but my chief concern is the near-total detachment from history, so that everything looks as good or bad as everything else, and maybe nothing really matters except whose side you're on and whether your side is winning or losing. A society whose participants are indifferent to history is one willing to do anything. What "anything" means is hard to say, but let's be serious, it's not that hard. By the time the covid pandemic is over, we will have witnessed one million American deaths as a consequence of nearly half the nation insisting history isn't real enough to respect.

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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:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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