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.

MS Rep. Karl Oliver issues statement on “lynching” post he made on Facebook

By Waverly McCarthy and Courtney Ann Jackson, MS News Now

Rep. Karl Oliver of Mississippi

With one click to post to Facebook, Representative Karl Oliver ignited a firestorm of controversy. The post noted that those in Louisiana taking down the monuments should be LYNCHED, in all capital letters.

The post said: “The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

A couple of his colleagues went ahead and hit “Like” on the post. It came to a head Monday morning, though, with leadership stepping in.

“I called him immediately and said this is not acceptable,” said Speaker Philip Gunn. “This is inappropriate. And you need to apologize for this.”

“I think his comment was inappropriate and I think it’s foolish,” added Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

“The first two words out of my mouth and my statement or, I condemn his statements,” noted Gunn. “That’s the strongest word I could come up with is condemnation. If there’s a stronger word, I’ll keep searching for it.”

Oliver’s original Facebook posted, now taken down.

Don’t bother going to Facebook to look for that original post. It’s since been deleted. But by mid-afternoon Monday, Oliver seems to have deleted all his Facebook content or at least changed his privacy settings. Now, all you can see is his profile picture, cover photo and the apology.

His apology reads: 

I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians. In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word “lynched” was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness. Karl Oliver

His post, which had been shared over 240 times and received over 450 comments, spread quickly, finding it’s way to hundreds of people who have called him out as being a racist.

To see the original story and video report and read comments posted to MS News Now, click here.

For more Breaking News, click here.

Racist Jokes About This Photo Got People Fired and Sparked the Hashtag #HisNameIsCayden

By Dian Ozemebhoya Eromosele, The Root

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There is a man who goes by the name of Geris Hilton on Facebook (reportedly not his real name) who used to have a job.

“Hilton” used to work at Polaris Marketing Group, according to AtlantaBlackStar, but his employment status changed after he posted a photo on Facebook Sept. 16.

In the photo, Hilton was taking a selfie at work, alongside a little cute black boy who is the son of one of his now-former co-workers—a dandy woman by the name of Sydney.

All was seemingly fine, until Hilton and his friends started making racist jokes about the photo in the comments section on Facebook, insinuating that the little boy, whose name is Cayden, was a slave, and Hilton the slave master.

The photo has made its way around the Internet. As you guessed it, pink slips are flying and heads are rolling because of the racist shenanigans afoot in the photo’s comments section.

“I didn’t know you were a slave owner,” a poster by the name of Emily Irene Red reportedly said. According to the tweet below, she has since been fired. Casualty No. 1…

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The president of Polaris Marketing Group posted a note on Facebook announcing that an employee—the man behind the Hilton Facebook profile, according to AtlantaBlackStar—had been terminated and denouncing the disgusting comments he and his friends made about the little boy…

Sydney Jade, Cayden’s mother, got on social media to thank all of the people who spread the news about the inappropriate photo. She created the hashtag #HisNameIsCayden to make the statement that her little boy is a person and shouldn’t be objectified or trivialized as the butt of a racist joke…

This’ll teach people to keep their lack of home training to themselves and not bring it out into the public sphere.

 

 

 

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Flowchart to ID Racism

By Meredith Clark, MSNBC.com

If a post on the Iowa Republican Party’s Facebook page is any indication, the right’s efforts to appeal to non-white voters still have a ways to go.1554524_418216541644863_514688006_n

On Friday night, the Iowa GOP surfaced a less-than-helpful flowchart to identify racism. The “Is someone a racist?” graphic was posted to the official Iowa Republican Party Facebook page and then quickly pulled down – but not beforeThe Daily Beast captured it.

The chart started by asking if the person is white. Non-white people were automatically “not racist,” and the only factor in determining whether a white person is racist or not was the question, “do you like them?”

After the post was removed, Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker apologized in a Facebook post on the state party’s page. “Earlier tonight, a contractor of the Iowa GOP made a post referencing a discussion on race that the GOP believes was in bad taste and inappropriate. We apologize to those whom were offended, have removed the post and are ensuring it does not happen again,” he wrote.rpi_logo

The chart was not the first questionable social media post the Republican Party has made recently. On Dec. 1, the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience on a Montgomery, Ala. bus, the Republican National Committee posted a tweet thanking Parks for her “bold stand and her role in ending racism.” (. . .)

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