Developer of VL Innovators Challenge Sees Technology's Effect on the Changing Face of Racism
Ethnicity and ethics are intertwined, particularly in a society where race affects socioeconomic status, education, careers, housing discrimination, health care, technology, class wealth and experiences of racism — both covert and overt. David Theo Goldberg, a leading scholar of critical race theory, Professor of Comparative Literature School of Humanities, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), and one of the co-developers of Voto Latino's VL Innovators Challenge, spoke with Latin Post about the changing face of racism and its relation to technology and access to services and STEM jobs for Latinos and African Americans.
Co-founder of the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) and author of a number of books, including "The Threat of Race" (2008), "The Racial State" (2002) and "Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America" (1997), the accomplished South African-born theorist co-directed the HASTAC-MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition, an annual international contest that promotes transformative learning practices through the application of digital technology, before linking up with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar to create the more targeted Innovators Challenge, which looks to create technology solutions for the Latino community.
The competition will award $500,000 in grants to 10-15 millennial-led projects that improve conditions and learning for Latino communities. The need for projects and initiatives like the VL Innovators Challenge becomes apparent as Goldberg discusses race relations in America and the debate over whether America is now post-racial country.
He says many people think, "'Yes, we obviously are [in a post-racial society], because [President Barack Obama] got elected. Racism is over. Look how far we've come.' Now, look at all the incredible data, which proves otherwise, from all the environments in social media. And, the ongoing data, like high fatality rates, which African Americans and Latinos continue to fair significantly less well throughout the duration of their lives. Socioeconomics, access to education and so on and so forth," Goldberg said. "I've argued recently that there's a new logic of racism afoot, sometimes characterized as born-again racism."
"Racism takes a new methodology, in the name of the non-racial, in the name of the post-racial, in the name of acculturation. It's a new logic, a social logic called racism, where the cognoscenti point to the fact that there's no more racism because Obama was elected. Donald Sterling said, for instance, said, 'No I'm not racist. I don't like black people around me, but I'm not racist.'"
Goldberg says not only is there denial, but that society also denies the denial. New forms of discrimination are taking place, where the erasure of race has been invoked by public institutions because race has been used in order to differentiate and discriminate between people publicly. Institutions, however, protect racist speech in the private sphere — part of this new logic of racism. This impacts technology because technology is an entity that's invariably involved —and institutions can influence technology in stealthy ways.
Being able to take on an avatar, for example, allows individuals to be anyone they want to be in the virtual world, whatever subject or culture one chooses to be, no matter who or what they are — meaning "you can parade around all kinds of ways and parade behind that parading in order to unrestrict oneself. In that way, racism itself has become anonymous expression."
As for technology, it can be accessed by part of the population in a ways that are inaccessible to other parts of the population, allowing certain individuals access to information about economic and political activity. That lack of technological access for the other side of the population can "prevent people from voting or prevent people from registering to vote, which is the importance of the work of Voto Latino."
When pitting new school racism and old school racism against each another, it's easy to see that there are no winners. The old, in-your-face racism, as awful as it was and has been, and the awful conditions that it produced for the people involved, at the very least is easy to recognize. One can organize and rally against the identifiable wrong and those who are practicing it.
"The problem with contemporary racism is that in a way it's untouchable, it's even unnamable because the terms by which we've identified racism are being erased. It's become bogus, perforated. Where are the lines where we can say, 'That's wrong. Those people are racist and guilty of wrongdoing?' It's seeping into the social landscape," said Goldberg, before mentioning again the Donald Sterling situation. The public called Sterling out for his statements, but many on the internet rose to his defense, calling Sterling's remarks "private expressions in the bedroom," according to Goldberg. Ramifications occurred mainly because Sterling was wealthy with a large organization under him.
The VL Innovators Challenge will produce apps, programs and technology that will benefit the entire Latino community, helping to create a viable and expandable Latino workforce in the technology sector, as well as helping well-trained people engage with startups and major corporations.
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