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Subtle Tech Racism

Posted by on Jan 6, 2010
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I was reading a post by Adria Richards of But You’re A Girl on a topic called Is Google Voice Racist, and knew I had to comment on it. However, since she uses Disqus, and you know how I feel about Disque and blogs that use that kind of commenting system (I found another one called Intense Debate that’s like it that I don’t like either”, and I mentioned that I was clearing away iritations in 2010, I don’t want to comment there, so my comment will be here. By the way, you need to read some of the comments on her post also; quite telling, I might add.

Her gripe is that a girlfriend sent her a message and said “Hey Girlfriend”, but Google interpreted that as “Hey Negro.” Okay, what the heck is that about? She then posted a video that I’ve seen before, and commented on the post where I saw it, where HP has this new face recognition software that will have the camera follow you around, but, at least for many, it doesn’t work on black people. I mean, just because we’re tired of being followed around in stores doesn’t mean we don’t want software to work like it’s supposed to.

There’s always been things like this that pop up from time to time online and in software. Those of us who are offended find it either racist or bigoted. Those who aren’t say they don’t see it and wonder why we always say it’s racist or bigoted. Those who aren’t offended are never minority, by the way; that seems to figure when it comes to trying to identify racism or bigotry.

First off, I don’t see race everywhere, though some of my friends think I do. But I call things out whenever I need to. For instance, through this blog and my business blog I’ve called out people for many things. Back before the last presidential election I called people out for overt racism against Barack Obama and Muslims in a post called What, A Muslim Can’t Be President? I called out racism by the New York Post after they posted a cartoon equating President Obama to a monkey. I actually talked about the topic of what a racist is, because so many people throw the word around way too often. And I had to join Rachel Maddow in her smackdown of Pat Buchanan when he made a bunch of racist statements on her show earlier this year. I’ve even addressed it here, with my strangely named President Obama Calls Limbaugh A Racist post.

But these types of things just keep coming up over and over. There was one Microsoft software program where, if you typed in a certain thing asking about black people, a picture of a monkey came up. There was also a specific search term for Michelle Obama kept bringing up a picture of her with a monkey face. Even now there’s another Microsoft program running in Poland and another photography program. Sorry folks, but that’s racism no matter how you slice it.

Here’s my issue. There’s always going to be racism; I understand that. I don’t like it, but as long as there are people who look and act different and everything else isn’t equal. What I’d like is a little bit more accountability for when these things happen, then a little bit more support from people who may not be directly affected by it, but know something bad when they see it. Adria didn’t deserve to have the one guy say she was wrong and that’s just how software works; that was probably one of the more moronic things I’ve seen in a long time. It can’t always be minorities looking at something and saying it’s racist or bigoted or whatever; someone else has to step forward, in higher numbers than what happens now, and call those perpetrating this mess out on it.

And, by the way, not only racism. Add sexism, homophobia, and other intolerances to the list as well.

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19 Comments »

‘Her gripe is that a girlfriend sent her a message and said “Hey Girlfriend”, but Google interpreted that as “Hey Negro.”’

That is outrageous! Racism in the ‘real world’ is horrible but its just as bad when it happens online. Personally, I am white, but am so glad that America elected a black presisdent, racism should end now.
.-= Jane @ Mobile Phones with Free TV´s last blog ..Mobile Phone Free Laptop =-.

Mitch Reply:

Thanks Jane. It’s sometimes shocking when I hear of things like this, but I get over the shock pretty quickly because it just keeps happening.

January 6th, 2010 | 11:50 AM
I:

I just visited your blog and it’s fantastic. A voice like yours is a voice that needs to be heard. Continue being brave and bold. Your grandchildren will thank you for that. BTW thank you for your comments on our blog.

Mitch Reply:

Thanks. I enjoyed my visit to your blog as well.

January 6th, 2010 | 10:35 PM

Software works the way it was programmed to, and if it does something racist it’s because the moron who wrote it thought it was funny. Man, stuff like this just sucks.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Why I Will Never Be A ProBlogger =-.

Mitch Reply:

That’s my thought, Sire. People just don’t think all the time before they do things, and it messes it up for someone, usually any particular minority group you want to mention.

Sire Reply:

You know Mitch I used to tell jokes that involved minority groups, but thanks to meeting you I am learning the error of my ways.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Google Finishes Off 2009 By Waving The PR Wand =-.

Mitch Reply:

You know Sire, it’s funny that I’ve never told any of those jokes, not even the very popular Polish jokes that almost everyone was telling back in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m not sure why I never went along with any of those although, to be truthful, I probably had no idea what that was (don’t want to say the word) until I was in my mid 20’s anyway. It’s probably because my dad wasn’t that type and my mother wasn’t that type and, well, I was kind of a little militant since I was 12 years old so I might have had a different sensibility about the entire thing.

Sire Reply:

Although I’ve told a lot of Irish jokes and the like I’ve never done it when someone of that particular race was around, just in case they found it offensive.

I must admit that I’ve been around when people have said Italian jokes, and I have been able to see the funny side of it. Comedians seem to get away with a lot.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Beware Scraped Comments And Fake Trackbacks =-.

Mitch Reply:

Some comedians get away with it, at least. It’s easy for comedians to pick fun at themselves or their culture rather than someone else’s culture, but some comedians know how to pick on everyone, and if they do it right, then they can get away with it. I guess that’s the skill part of being a comedian.

Sire Reply:

Which is probably why I’m a lowly blogger :D
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Beware Scraped Comments And Fake Trackbacks =-.

January 7th, 2010 | 2:34 AM

I’m rather bemused by the fact in some spell-check programs, when you type in “underserved” it asks if you mean “undeserved”. But at least they share most of the same letters.
.-= Roger Green´s last blog ..MOVIE REVIEW: Fly Me To the Moon =-.

Mitch Reply:

Yeah, there are some words that spell-check programs want to change you from, but luckily most of them allow you to add words, which I do if it’s a word I know I’m probably going to use again.

January 7th, 2010 | 2:57 PM

Racism is a sad fact of life. It is our nature to discriminate because it has been genetically encoded to us by nature. However, being humans we should be aware of our higher being instead of being a slave of our instincts. I hope one day, discrimination will be erased in the mind of man, after all, we are of the same kind. We are just foolish to think we are superior than others. :-)

Mitch Reply:

Actually Walter, I’m going to dispute that. Studies have shown that when children of mixed races are raised together without any mention of race or ethnicity, they live very well together and don’t notice the differences in that manner. So, it seems that racism and hatred are actually taught, not hereditary. Now, that also assumes that all things remain equal; once there are inequalities, instead of looking for the real reasons, people come up with things, and then that’s when differences are looked at.

I’m with you, though, in hoping that one day discrimination goes away. I know it won’t be in my lifetime, however.

Sire Reply:

I’m afraid you’re right in that Mitch, kids tend to acquire racist ideas from their parents. Luckily some are able to shake off those parentally acquired ideas, but not nearly fast enough.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Dragons Creatures Of Mystery =-.

Mitch Reply:

I’m with you on that one Sire. As my wife says all the time, “parents can ruin them some children.” lol

January 8th, 2010 | 12:20 AM

Hey Mitch, I’ve been called a male lesbian and I have to agree with that. I also have Google voice and can’t trust the messages until I actually go listen for myself. It screws up pretty easy.
.-= Steve Sherron´s last blog ..Using Vehicle Advertising Decals =-.

Mitch Reply:

I have to admit, Steve, that I have no real clue what Google Voice is. But if it messes up like that, there’s certainly not a good endorsement to try it.

January 8th, 2010 | 11:08 PM