Bonum Certa Men Certa

Racism in Technology (and Who Typically Lectures Us About the Subject)

Don't allow corporations and their front groups hijack the voices (and causes) of real victims

Star trek Enterprise: We've consulted our council about people of colour; You don't speak for people of colour

Summary: Racism is a real problem; some approaches to tackling racism, however, can also be problematic and those who take the lead 'on behalf' of victims tend to be opportunistic and privileged few (piggybacking others' grievances to further advance their financial agenda)

Racism in technology is real. It's real universally. Racism is everywhere. Not just in technology and not just in Free software (contrary to libelous myths spread by opponents of software freedom). Racism is typically defined as viewing or categorising people based on race (or appearances associated with a race) rather than objective merit. Appearances are blinding due to survival/tribal instincts, leading one to trusting those who look alike (like oneself). In nature it sometimes means sticking around one's own species, based on perceived kinship; cannibalism or murder of one's own kind, after all, isn't good for a species' long-term survival. Cooperation rewards a species better.

"It's often said that recognising that a problem exists is the first step."When talking about races, however, we don't speak of speciation. We're all the same, except some superficialities such as skin pigmentation, keratin levels and so on. Those things typically depend on climatic trend, as they vary depending on where one settled and how long for (how many generations). Different conditions lead to different adaptations, both physical and mental.

Denial that racism still exists seems irrational if not overly optimistic/idealistic. Racism doesn't need to be expressed and shown openly/publicly. Some is closeted, which means it's "coming out" behind closed doors. We've probably all witnessed some folks who without the presence of those whom they mock diverge into derogatory impersonations and politically-incorrect views. Those things are also commonplace in social control media (typically anonymous accounts) and rampant in YouTube channels -- more of which Google has been cracking down on lately.

Technology is somewhat unique in the sense that it can exacerbate or conversely help tackle racism (even if by censorship -- the way Google does; Facebook is under intense pressure to do the same).

"Consider, for instance, how the Linux Foundation exploited "BLM" while hiring not a single African-American person (in a country where 13.4% identify as African-American)."Revolving issues pertaining to racism would require more than recruiting "for diversity" (based on quotas) and removing words that supposedly alienate developers and users. Twitter is apparently cracking down even on the term "dummy value" as if the word dummy in its own right should become impermissible in some contexts.

It's often said that recognising that a problem exists is the first step. Then it's necessary to understand its true nature, then how to address it. At the moment it feels like we're well past the denial stage, i.e. people generally accept that institutional racism exists. What sometimes follows, however, is misguided albeit well-meaning at best.

Consider, for instance, how the Linux Foundation exploited "BLM" while hiring not a single African-American person (in a country where 13.4% identify as African-American). Later on those 'masters' of the Foundation lecture us on institutional racism. Look at the bloody mirror!

To be clear, hiring people just because of their race or gender might not help, either. In fact, hiring people who perform poorly (as women or as an ethnic minority) can contribute to stigma associated with women or those ethnic minorities. And it helps neither equality nor opportunity. It becomes like a cautionary tale, leading to reluctance to repeat.

I don't claim to have answers to these problems; in fact, there are no easy ('slam dunk') answers. To claim otherwise is probably to be arrogant and dishonest. Right now, based on my experience, one key problem is that consultation is done by and among the privileged; it's like nobody bothers asking actually repressed groups what they think. Look how Intel, which attacks Africans, is quick to exploit "BLM". And it's shallow enough for anyone out there to see...


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