Tech’s Whiteness Is the Problem. Are We the Solution?

By Amy L. Alexander, The Root

Last week, Twitter said it was “pausing” to reconsider the process by which it bestows the blue checkmark denoting accounts that had been “verified,” and on Wednesday the company announced it was yanking the designation from some users who occupy the neo-Nazi or nationalist bucket of grassroots white activism. The announcements came after many users, including The Root’s Monique Judge, raised hell when Twitter gavea blue checkmark to Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who helped plan the pro-Confederacy march last August in Charlottesville, Va.

While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his workers ruminated on the company’s account verification policies, I decided it was a good time for us to pause and think about our relationship with Twitter and other social media and technology companies. We voluntarily “contribute” our creative insights, dollars and labor to the success of these companies by buying devices and apps, uploading memes, ideas and language that trends widely. Yet in terms of the vast wealth these companies hold, disburse to employees and generate for shareholders, we get little in return.

Think of the recent moment where top lawyers for Google and its parent company, Alphabet, along with Twitter and Facebook, were summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before Senate and House committees looking into the company’s role in disseminating toxic content and ads during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

(L-R) Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee, October 31, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anti-black messaging was the secret-sauce of many of the pro-Trump, nationalist memes and messages that flooded through the popular social media channels during the 2016 election cycle. Yet somehow, the gatekeepers at Facebook and Twitter didn’t seem to notice the methodical manipulation of racial animus that already exists in America, specifically, some white Americans’ negative opinions of blacks.

The leaders and staffs of Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media platforms missed the Russian’s exploitation of the black-white divide, an obliviousness that has precedent: black women users had long alerted Twitter officials to abusive conduct of other users, up to and including death threats. The hashtag #YourSlipIsShowing catalogs such experiences from black women dating back several years, and is readily available…at least to those interested in learning about and addressing these kind of user experiences.

But clearly, the tech company leaders were not inclined to pay attention to this area of user complaints, a strong indication that they also probably weren’t interested in the views of the few blacks and Latinx workers at their companies, either. Just look at what happened to Leslie Miley, a black former engineer at Twitter. Miley revealed in a recent interview that he had flagged tons of dubious accounts in 2015, telling his bosses that he believed they were from Ukraine or Russia, and that they appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign.

Miley was told by his bosses at Twitter to “stay in his lane,” a response that Miley says he took as a sign that the company leadership preferred to err on the side “growth numbers,” rather than on any potential harm to audiences that the bots might pose.

Meanwhile, black users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google products infuse them with a deep coolness factor that resonates around the world. Our intellectual property and creativity is the lifeboat that floats these companies to revenue solvency, yet few of us share in the enormous economic wealth generated by these companies, not even after dozens of news stories, industry conferences, and activist’s complaints forced the companies to pledge to improve hiring and retention.

Black Americans know when something smells rotten, including the kinds of scams and shady BS that can unfold at one’s job. And, as usual, blacks and other marginalized communities have solutions. We have the brain-power, problem-solving acumen, and moral fortitude to right the ship of state.

The question is whether our concerns and advice will be heeded, and whether we can achieve full access to the genuine levers of power in the United States, including access to quality education, healthcare, voting and, most importantly in the context of the innovation ecosystem, investment capital.

Read the full article here.

It’s not just the Tech industry, either. Read how one company is beginning to acknowledge its racist past here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Why Music Education is Essential for Underserved Schools

By Taryn Finley, HuffPost Black Voices

Sway Calloway knows firsthand the life lessons kids receive while learning to play instruments.

Mastering the song flute, clarinet and alto saxophone fostered a love for music that he eventually turned into a career as one of the most well-known hip-hop journalists today.

“What I learned from music is a lot about melody and that’s how I communicate,” the Oakland native told HuffPost, citing his interview strategy. “I learned a lot about rhythm and as I got older, I learned how to make that translate into social skills, how to communicate with people, how to talk to folks, when you talk to folks, when you jump out, when you interject.”

He may not professionally play an instrument today, but music education opened up doors for Calloway ― whose family was on public assistance when he was younger ― that he may not have found otherwise. Music programs in schools have been proven to keep students engaged in the classroom; improve early cognitive development, math and reading skills; develop critical thinking skills; and foster confidence among students, according to the National Association of Music Merchants.

Sway Calloway speaks on stage at VH1 Save the Music 20th Anniversary Gala in NYC. (Jason Kempin via Getty Images)

But despite the lasting impact music education has on students, many children in low-income communities still don’t have access to it. That’s why Calloway and the board members and team behind VH1 Save The Music Foundation have been working to bring music programs to underserved schools.

Since the nonprofit was founded in 1997, VH1 Save The Music Foundation has allotted grants to more than 2,000 public schools in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. These grants have benefited more than 2 million kids. Recently, students in Newark, New Jersey, and Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia received $45,000 worth of musical equipment from the program.

Chiho Feindler, senior director of programs and policy, said the foundation has not only benefitted students and their communities by bringing marching bands and orchestras to their cities, but also by improving graduation rates and reducing absenteeism.

″[Rewards vary from] a student telling us that in his home life, it’s just such a chaos that being able to play flute on his stoop for his young siblings just brings a peace into his home to better graduation rates to the student who’s now interning to go to college studying music education,” Feindler said. “Stuff like that and just … giving them the reasons to thrive.”

Learn more about VH1 Save The Music Foundation by visiting its website.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Racism is behind outlandish theories about Africa’s ancient architecture

By: Julien Benoit- theconversation.com

Some of the most impressive buildings and cities ever made by humans can be found in Africa: the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwein South Africa, Kenya’s Gedi Ruins and Meroe in Sudan. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring of these are the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza, in Egypt….

The pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt.
Credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Africa has an extensive archaeological record, extending as far back as 3.3 million years ago when the first-ever stone tool was made in what is today Kenya. The continent’s cultural complexity and diversity is well established; it is home to the world’s oldest-known pieces of art. And, of course, it is the birth place of modern humans’ ancient ancestors, Homo sapiens.

Despite all this evidence, some people still refuse to believe that anyone from Africa…could possibly have created and constructed the Giza pyramids or other ancient masterpieces. Instead, they credit ancient astronauts, extraterrestrials or time travellers as the real builders….

Actually, there is great harm: firstly, these people try to prove their theories by travelling the world and desecrating ancient artefacts. Secondly, they perpetuate and give air to the racist notion that only Europeans – white people – ever were and ever will be capable of such architectural feats.

A threat to world heritage

In 2014 two German pseudo-scientists set out to “prove” that academics were concealing the Giza pyramids’ “real” origin. To do so, they chiselled off a piece of one of the pyramids – of course, without authorisation, so they could “analyse” it.

And earlier in 2017 scientists from the World Congress on Mummy Studies in South America published a communique on their Facebook page to draw attention to the raiding of Nazca graves for a pseudo-scientific research programme called the Alien project. It insists that aliens rather than ancient Peruvians were responsible for the famous geoglyphs called the Nazca Lines, despite all the evidence to the contrary….

Racism and colonial attitudes

A series of stone circles in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province provides an excellent example of the other problem with pseudo-archaeologists. Some people genuinely believe that these structures were designed by aliens. They scoff at scientific research that proves the stone circles were made by the Koni people using ropes, sticks and wood. They will not even entertain the notion that ancient African tribes could be responsible.

But the same people have no problem believing that medieval Europeans built the continent’s magnificent cathedrals using only ropes, sticks and wood. They dismiss scientific research that overwhelmingly provesancient Africans’ prowess,…

Why is it so hard for some to acknowledge that ancient non-European civilisations like the Aztecs, people from Easter Island, ancient Egyptians or Bantu-speakers from southern Africa could create intricate structures?

The answer is unfortunately as simple as it seems: it boils down to profound racism and a feeling of white superiority that emanates from the rotting corpse of colonialism…

The ancient city of Meroe.
Credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

They try to make others believe that scientists are hiding “the truth” about ancient monuments…. There is a risk that they will drown out quality knowledge and science with their colourful, outlandish theories.

At the same time, these theories can prevent awareness about Africa’s rich heritage from developing. The heirs of the real builders may never learn about their ancestors’ remarkable achievements.

Scientists have a crucial role to play in turning the tide on such harmful theories. Those of us who are doing ongoing research around the continent’s architectural and fossil record should be sharing our findings in a way that engages ordinary people.

We must show them just how awe-inspiring structures like Great Zimbabwe, Meroe and the Giza Pyramids are – not because they were created by some alien race, but because they are living proof of ancient societies’ ingenuity.

 

Read full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

A Tale of 2 Mich. Water Crises

By K. Araújo, The Root

On Oct. 23, 12 Oakland County, Mich., communities spent roughly nine days without water after a major water main break. Almost 305,000 people were affected by the break.

Oakland County and the Great Lakes Water Authority worked nearly around the clock to ensure that the residents in those communities had safe, potable water. Water stations in various communities were set up. Businesses and residences alike were given access to the scarce commodity.

It directly affected my mother, and as a native Detroiter and former resident of Oakland County, I should’ve been ecstatic to hear how well this situation was handled. So what’s the issue, you ask?

Residents in the Genesee County city of Flint, Mich., have been without potable, usable water since 2014. Government officials—locally and statewide—blatantly lied about the water supply being safe for human consumption. Fertilizers, pesticides, built-up bacteria and lead have contaminated the Flint River (the city’s primary source) for decades. Their half-assed attempt to “clean up the water” never ensured that the city’s folks would remain healthy.

Flint, MI – February 19, 2016. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

It’s been three whole years, and citizens still can’t drink the water. Water stations were set up (some years later), and as of this past summer, many of the stations were closed following Flint’s lead levels being under the federal limit. Why is there such a disparity between Oakland County and Genesee County in their response to each crisis?

Race and class.

Oakland County is one of the wealthiest counties in Michigan. It used to be the wealthiest, but some argue that Livingston may have snatched the “coveted” honor. The median income in Oakland County is roughly $70,000. The county’s population is a whopping 72.8 percent white, which is a glaring contrast to Flint’s 60 percent black population. The median income in Genesee County is about $44,000, but the surprise is that the 72 percent white population of Genesee is typically lower-class and poor.

The water crisis in Flint was not just a “black problem.” It was a class problem. Poor whites have been brainwashed to think that they receive the same consideration as well-to-do whites, and that’s simply not true. Because there are more poor whites, they give the advantage of numbers for rich whites with agendas to use them time and time again. And because skin color matters, they never see they are being consistently shit on.

Businesses and civilians from various counties throughout Michigan sent batches of water to the good folks of Flint. However, their assistance wasn’t enough to mitigate the long-term damage. Fetal deaths spiked, pregnancy rates lowered, 12 people died from Legionnaires’ disease and lead poisoning debilitated many more people in the city. Given the already high infant mortality and morbidity rates in the city, Flint residents never had a chance.

Apparently, money will always talk, and black lives will always be expendable.

Read the full article here.

Read about what the Black Holocaust is here.

Read more Breaking News here.