Subtle Tech Racism
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jan 6, 2010
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.