Dr. Ruha Benjamin Presentation: "Racial Literacy for the 21st Century"

Dr. Ruha Benjamin Presentation:

Show Video

An entertaining storyteller, brilliant scholar,  and fierce advocate for all things just, Dr   Ruja Benjamin is a professor of African American  studies at Princeton University where she studies   the social dimensions of science, medicine, and  technology, with a focus on the relationship   between innovation and inequity, knowledge  and power, race and citizenship, and health   and justice. As the founding director of the Ida B  Wells Just Data Lab, she brings together students,   educators, activists, and artists to rethink and  retool data for justice Dr Benjamin is the author   of Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for  the New Jim Code; Editor of Captivating Technology,   and she is currently working on her fourth  book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We   Want, born out of the twin plagues of COVID 19  and police violence. at the center of all Dr   Benjamin's work is the invitation to "imagine and  craft the worlds we cannot live without just as   we dismantle the ones we cannot live within."  please join me in welcoming Dr Ruja Benjamin   Thank you thank you so much for that warm welcome  i am beyond beyond thrilled to be in conversation   with all of you at Cuesta tonight i am  a California home girl and so any excuse   to return even virtually is such a treat i don't  know about you all but we're at the very tail end   of the semester and so i'm extra appreciative of  people who took time to log in today and at the   end of what i can imagine is a is a was a busy  day and term so let me get started with uh this   talk on racial literacy for the 21st century um  by making the connection between racial literacy   and this broader practice of reading  reality so what do i mean by reading reality   i'm talking about looking at the world around  us the patterns the institutional patterns the   interpersonal dynamics even our internal reality  like our inner monologues and casting a critical   light on what we take for granted about what  we're seeing looking beneath the surface   questioning the the ideas that we've inherited  the ways that we've been socialized to understand   the world to relate to one another even again to  understand our own place in the world often in a   way that presumes a false sense of superiority or  inferiority and so i want us to question all of   that by putting on um some different conceptual  lenses that help us see what's around us with   greater precision and accuracy and acknowledging  that it becomes even more challenging to do this   when more and more of our lives are mediated by  these screens that we're looking at right now and   so it's one thing to be able to read reality and  to cultivate racial literacy when we're together   in person in the same space when we're interacting  we can see each other's um posture body language   eye contact it's quite another when we're in these  little boxes to be able to really grapple with   a precise and accurate reading of the world  and so to begin to broach that challenge   i i turned to some of the literature on online  learning specifically very recent work that's   thinking about what it means to have anti-racist  online learning and i really love the title of   this article the future started yesterday and  we're already late so again thinking about you   know what kind of future we want to create  and cultivate and how we want to incorporate   values of equity and inclusion and anti-racism  and everything that we're doing and one of the   lines that stands out to me in this article  i hope all of you get a chance to look it up   is this line that says enacting an anti-racist  pedagogy requires students and teachers alike to   bring their full selves to the online environment  and so i i don't interpret that full selves to   mean that we have to know everything about each  other and we don't have any privacy and you know   we're kind of like open books i i interpret that  to mean that we um really put our passion and what   we care about front and center we don't pretend  like we're just talking heads like pundits on   tv but we really understand what is animating our  work whether we're learning whether we're teaching   what is at the heart of education rather than  pretending it's only about what's in our heads   what's also in our hearts why do we care about  these topics why do we want to learn and teach and   so an effort in an effort to do that to bring my  full self to this little box that you're looking   at me through um i thought i would share with  you just a glimpse of why i care about this topic   about racial literacy and i'll start with the  fact that in addition to being a professor i am   a mother and so when i'm thinking about racial  literacy and i'm thinking about education i'm   necessarily thinking about my children also and  so in these pictures you see my sons i'm sure you   can guess who they are and my nephews and so these  kids have grown up together like brothers me and   rozzy their mom are like sisters even though we're  not related by blood and so the question for me   is what kind of world are we creating for these  children not just my children all children and   to the extent that they love each other like  brothers does the world really reflect that love   back at them how are they treated how are they  seen differently in terms of you know their value   their potential and so in bringing my full self  to the table it's also about letting you know why   i care about these issues it's about not simply an  academic matter but it's also about world building   building a world in which the love and care  that these children have for each other are   mirrored back and in the institutions in the  communities that they have to walk through   and so as it stands when we think about education  when we think about our schools there are two   parallel realities at work you know and here i  want to think also i'm going to get to this role   of technology in producing these realities but  we have on the left the way that our schools and   institutions many times are engines of inequality  that means to say that they produce more they   don't just reflect the inequalities that exist out  in the world they amplify them they produce them   they create hierarchies and distinctions and  reinforce all kinds of inequalities that already   exist and so that's one model of education the  other model that i think is much less much less   prevalent is thinking about our schools and our  classrooms as incubators of imagination incubators   of equity incubators of inclusion incubators  of of democratic participation thinking about   our schools as places where we see the kind  of world that we want to grow more of and so   in both of these these parallel realities whether  engines of inequity or incubators of imagination   we want to think about the role of technology in  producing one one uh scenario or the other one   reality or the other um and in many ways what we  have now the default setting that's being produced   by silicon valley in terms of edtech that's the  shorthand for educational technologies is they   tend to reproduce inequality because of not just  who is designing them but also with what values   those values are being encoded into these digital  systems but they don't have to be we can question   them and we can design differently to do that i  think we have to take tony cade bambara's insight   seriously she's a black feminist writer who said  not all speed is movement i think that could be   applied to so many areas of our lives i think  about it in terms of my own personal life when   i'm trying to race and do things very fast and  not getting very far but i want to think about it   in terms of technological speed not all speed is  movement and the fact that too often we conflate   tech innovation with social progress we think  a shiny new gadget or device or software system   or ai program that that is an indicator that  we're moving forward but in fact technologies   can just as well hide and deepen different  forms of harm and inequality and the danger is   that we presume that it's neutral and objective  simply because it's wrapped in a shiny exterior   so part of reading reality and gaining racial  literacy is being able to peel back the   surface look beyond the shiny exterior and think  critically of what is under the hood what's behind   the screen what are the values that are being  embedded into these digital worlds that we inhabit   so we can see examples of not all speed is  movement all around us whether we look at   the fact that many many states now are using  automated grading software when it comes to   the sats for example and what's happening  in those cases with audits of those cases   shows that a lot of times these software  systems are assuming that long convoluted   sentences big fancy words are indicative of  intelligence indicative of a right answer   and and one there was one team at mit a team  of students who actually created a program you   guys can look up called babble and what  they did was they looked critically at   these great this grading software and they put  in again long convoluted paragraphs and they got   high grades even though those paragraphs made  absolutely no sense and so here's an example of   the presumptions that are going into the these  grading algorithms um that actually remind us   that just because it's automated and seemingly  efficient that means we're going fast the grading   is happening faster doesn't mean it's accurate or  correct or fair and so that's exhibit a exhibit b   i don't know how many of you followed the  story right at the beginning of covid when   in the uk because students couldn't  take their a level exams in person   the government hired a company to predict what  grades students would get so they used all   kinds of demographic data and what happened  quite not surprisingly is that students who   went to more working class and more  working class neighborhoods in schools   their predicted grades were lower than those that  went to private elite schools even though none of   these students had taken the test but because  of the the assumptions and the training data   that was used to feed this algorithm that would  spit out these predicted scores it reproduced   the these class and racial inequalities that  already exist and the whole premise of this   was that the government didn't want teachers to  inflate students grades and so they thought oh the   technology will do it better than the teachers  and in fact what it did was piss people off   and eventually those scores were revoked so  exhibit b of how not all speed is movement then   of course we spend so many so much of our time on  social media and while the origins of you know the   internet and social media are that it connects us  it brings everyone together it's a global village   no one knows you're a dog on the internet  that's what one of the early ads put it in fact   our social media too often is reflecting  and deepening forms of harm and violence   and racism and sexism and the list goes on and so  just assuming the fact that we can be connected is   a straightforward good in fact we can be connected  to things that hate us things that harm us and   so we have to be more deliberate about the kind  of digital ecosystems that we're cultivating um   and so again this is a reminder not all speed is  movement and then we have the environmental costs   just because things are in the cloud doesn't  mean that they're not having a really intense   environmental impact this one study that's um  discussed in this um in this particular article   here is looking at um the you know the carbon  footprint of just training one ai model now there   are many many hundreds of thousands of ai systems  that are you know proliferating but just training   one is equivalent to the emissions of five cars in  their lifetimes and so we should not assume that   automation that the cloud that just because things  are not in a physical form that they're not having   a really great great environmental impact we have  to question that and remind ourselves that not all   speed is movement taken together this is what i  want us to really reflect on that there are two   stories that are told about technologies  on the left the story is what we might call   the techno dystopian narrative the idea that  technology is going to rule over us it's going   to take all the jobs it's going to you know  remove human agency this is the story that   hollywood loves to sell us where we think about  the terminator the matrix and the list goes on   on the other side is what we might call  the techno utopian story the idea that   technology is going to save us it's going to make  everything more fair more efficient more green   if only we would hand over our important decisions  to automated systems we'd be in better hands   this is the narrative that silicon valley loves to  sell us and while these seem like opposing stories   right they have different endings one in  which were harmed one in which were helped   one in which were slayed one in which were saved  they actually share an underlying logic the logic   is that technology is in the driver's seat that  we're impacted by these developments but we don't   have any impact on them we don't really have a say  in what's created or designed in the first place   that is to say that the humans behind the screen  are missing from the scripts whether we're talking   about the values the desires the ideologies the  incentives that are being that are animating these   developments those often get written out so all  we're left with is the impacts what's created for   better or worse and so one of the first things we  have to do to slow down in terms of our thinking   and our development is to look carefully at who  and what is behind the screen and as it stands now   only a small sliver of humanity a very narrow  demographic is materializing their imaginations   in our digital worlds that is to say we are living  in someone else's imagination the more that we   enter into these into these digital structures  and so we need to pull back the screen and think   carefully about what it is we're creating and  i think we can do that when we shift gears a   little bit which is what i want to do now and  not focus solely on the new fancy technologies   ai machine learning all of that which we'll get  to in a bit but look at simpler types of tools   and and objects because the same principles apply  the same questions that we're asking about these   more complex systems can be applied and we can  begin to read reality with greater precision all   around us see with fresh eyes so a quick exercise  a quick story example of this you see this bench   here it's located in berkeley california which is  where i went to graduate school and then even once   i moved to the east coast i again travel back  every chance i get and when i took this picture   which is located near the corner of like shattuck  avenue and ashby across from my favorite flea   market i took this picture on a trip and it was  february and i was living in boston at the time   and i just wanted to lay down in the sun for like  20 minutes before my meetings and realized because   of the way this bench is designed i can't lay  down comfortably on it and so i thought okay well   there's all kinds of practical reasons why someone  would design these arm rests at regular intervals   and i'm sure you could think of some literally  to put our elbows down perhaps if you're elderly   it helps you get up and down when i was nine  months pregnant it surely could come in handy   perhaps it offers a little privacy of someone  sitting on one end of the bench you might be   more likely to sit on the other because of that  that arm rest but i my mind went to where some   of you are probably thinking which is this also  deters people from sleeping on the bench people   who aren't wanted in this area of course there's  a few cute antique shops right in front so i can   imagine that for businesses that don't want people  sleeping um in their vicinity that those arm rests   would be interesting a good tool for them without  having to yell and push people away the design   pushes people away and so i thought rooha you're  probably being a little paranoid you know you   gotta you gotta turn off that social analysis  sometime but eventually i did a little digging   and i found that in fact it's a global phenomenon  this idea of hostile architecture in the way that   we design public space in order to draw some  people in and to push some people out i found   single occupancy benches in helsinki so  only one person can sit there no sleeping   i found caged benches in france and in this  town what's interesting is the mayor put   the benches out on like christmas eve and within  24 hours the people in the town rallied together   and force them to be removed which reminds us that  we don't have to just put up with what i'm calling   discriminatory design when we work together when  we organize when we let our voices be heard we can   actually insist that our public space our public  policies um actually reflect our higher values but   my favorite example of how things are designed  in a way to reinforce inequality and exclusion   is the metered bench where you actually have to  put some money in for those spikes to retreat   and i think it buys you like 20 minutes 15-20  minutes so don't get lost in your favorite   harry potter book because the spikes will start to  come back out and probably not feel very good what   you'll be interested to know is this particular  design was created by a german artist to get us   to think critically about how we create things how  we design things and he wanted us to think about   the bench almost like a parable a metaphor for how  we design lots of things how we meter social life   how things can be nominally for everyone  but because of the way we've designed them   they can have certain forms of exclusion and harm  built into them so the metering of education the   metering of health care the metering of politics  the idea that you can only play if you pay and   so if we use the the bench oh first i should say  before we use the bench to think with this design   has actually been adopted by cities in different  parts of the world so although it started out   as art there have been some mayors and some  governors in different parts of the world that   thought oh that's a great idea let's put this in  our parks in order to push out so-called vagrants   and so be careful what you design even when  for you artists in this in the room um because   people might think it's a good idea and when  you are trying to use it as a form of critique   so using it as a form of critique thinking with  the bench my question for you all is what spikes   are we building into our schools  into our classrooms into our pedagogy   and so when we think about the spikes and you  think about let's say you start a new job a   lot of times we are not building the bench we  just got there we just started a position or we   just entered a classroom we've inherited the  spiked bench someone hands us a way of doing   things teach this way you know do the job this  way and we didn't have any say in how that way   was created but now we're being asked to carry  it forward to continue it so the question becomes   what is our responsibility as individuals when  we inherit the spiked bench what should we do   how should we operate should we just continue  perpetuating a harmful practice a harmful design   or should we work with others like those people  in france in order to change the status quo   and so coming back to racial literacy and how  we read reality looking beneath the surface   finding the spikes because a lot of the  spikes aren't obvious they're not on the   surface they're not in our faces they're embedded  in in the structure of the world that we live in   we have to be able to read reality and too  often racism distorts our ability to see clearly   it distorts not only our understanding of  larger patterns like i said earlier distorts   our interpersonal dynamics and it it distorts how  we even see ourselves a few examples i'll give of   this before in different contexts and then i'll  apply it again to online learning and technologies   how does racism distort how we see so that we  can we can't develop racial literacy so here's   an example from a few years ago so what you're  looking at is the images that the north miami pd   public police department was you were using for  target practice so they were at the shooting   range and these were the faces that they were  practicing on this is how they were practicing   seeing danger and threat so is it any wonder  that if this is how they're practicing that   when they hit the streets this is also what they  associate who they associate with danger and   threat so it really matters how we practice  seeing what we're doing behind closed doors   that's part of our socialization part of how  we naturalize i'm seeing certain groups as a   threat or danger or certain groups as inherently  innocent and good the only reason we know about   this is because the sister of one of these young  men went to the shooting range because she was in   the national guard and she saw her brother's photo  in the trash can with a bullet hole through the   forehead and thought what in the world is going  on and so she went to the media and she started   raising her voice about this and and what was also  a development was that clergy in the area in miami   were outraged as well along with everyone else  and they created a hashtag use me instead and   they put their own faces there majority of them  were white clergy in the area and they were   moved to call attention to the hypocrisy and  harm of this everyday practice of anti-blackness   by law enforcement and so they remind us that  again we don't simply have to put up with it   we can actually work together to counter  these forms of harm that we think   that we think is or don't reflect our values  and so we move from policing to preschool   a very unlikely place to see racist distortions  but many times that's where it starts here's a   study from yale in which the researchers put  eye tracking technology on preschool teachers   and they had them look at little children playing  together in these videos and then they said   look for the challenging behavior and the vast  majority of teachers attention invariably went   to the little black kids in the play group  even though they were behaving the same way   as all the other kids they were hired  child actors instructed on how to behave   and so what's happening here where we're talking  about profiling in a in police in adulthood by   police but we all can see a spectrum that goes all  the way down to childhood in education in a whole   completely different arena but it's connected  these distortions are connected this way of seeing   is connected but it's not natural and we're  going to come to that in just a minute so i   don't want you to assume that oh human beings  are just like this no we're taught to see the   world through these distorted lenses which means  we can be taught not to see the world that way   the example i want to give you before i get  to that point is out of stanford because when   we think about how these distortions happen in  our cognition there's a good study um that shows   that when the researchers presented white  americans with data on the racial disparities   in our jails and prisons in this country showing  the higher rate of incarceration of black people   they had an interesting finding that  was when their survey respondents   were presented with the data they were  less likely to want to support reforms   that could actually challenge those disparities  that could undo them the policy in california the   three strikes law in new york the stop and frisk  policy so the more people were presented with data   on disparities the less likely they were to want  to support reforms to the policies which seems   somewhat counter-intuitive if we assume that  just understanding the facts or the statistics   will lead to certain enlightened conclusions so in  the researchers words they said using statistics   to inform the public about racial disparities can  backfire worse yet it can cause some people to be   more supportive of the policies that create those  inequalities and so what's happening here between   this the stats and people's cognition  this intervening space we could call it   you know interpretive lenses we can talk  they'll call it racial narratives we can say   cultural lies or distorting a distorted way of  seeing because of the racist understandings that   they have about the world that if there's  more black people in our jails and prisons   it must simply be because black people are more  prone to crime despite all of the the data that   that points to otherwise and so it reminds us that  the stories this stuff that's happening right here   the stories that are told about the social world  are just as important as the statistics if we want   to be able to ha to to cultivate a different  world one that's based on equity and justice   and so we move now from those public attitudes  to a quick historical detour again remember   i said just because we see this pattern where  we see these distortions in almost everywhere   place we look doesn't mean it's natural they've  been created over time socialized and science and   scientists have played a part in creating those  distortions and so here you have a photo of a very   renowned french naturalist uh george cuvier who  was one of these scientists who helped to create   this architecture of race we can imagine this  architecture that we continue to live inside of   and so cuvier wrote the white race with  oval face straight hair nose to which   the civilized people of europe belong and  which appear to us the most beautiful of all   is also superior to others by its genius  courage and activity to which he of course   compared the negro race marked by black complexion  crystal woolly hair compressed cranium flat nose   the projection of the lower parts of the face and  thick lips evidently proximate to the monkey tribe   the hordes of which it consists have  always remained in the most complete   state of barbarism presented here as objective  fact as a clear reflect fraction of reality   despite its distortions couple things going on we  could probably talk about it for an hour but i'm   just going to highlight a couple things before  bringing us back to the present one take note   of this juxtaposition of black and white so if  we imagine we're in this racist architecture   then these are twin pillars that help to hold  up this structure to understand the supposed   superiority of whiteness cuvier and his colleagues  needed to create a foil that is the purported   inferiority of blackness the other thing to note  is that he and his colleagues don't talk simply in   the abstract in generalities white civilization  over here black culture over here they're   mapping these racist judgments onto something  seemingly concrete fleshy the body why is that   because the more that they can associate these  racist judgments and hierarchies onto something   concrete then the less likely we are to question  them because they come to appear as if they are   natural immutable fixed god-given and the more  we think of race and racism as fixed god-given   inherent immutable the less likely  we try to do anything about it   it seems fixed in place and so the power of  creating these natural hierarchies is that they   make sure that they're passed on they have this  longer shelf life so one of the things we could   all do yesterday is to begin to denaturalize  these racist associations because they continue   to live with us today and how we think about  different groups the ones that we think of as   inherently intelligent or inherently athletic or  inherently uh you know a good inherent leaders   um some that are creative um some that are prone  to crime some that are good and so all of these   judgments continue to be passed down generation to  generation and are mapped onto the body in the way   that we see each other the last thing i want to  point out before moving on is that a lot of times   when we hear these examples from the past we kind  of feel protective like oh we can't impose our   values on these guys you know um it's projecting  um our our present day norms and and sensibilities   onto the past but that ignores the fact that there  were people living in cuvier's own time who were   questioning these norms and and ideas including  cuvier's own student one frederick tiedman   who initially you know sat at the feet of  his teacher was soaking it all in thought   cuvier was brilliant and ultimately began to  realize oh no there's something wrong here   not only is this a bigoted way of thinking  but the science behind it is really faulty   and eventually tiedman began to publish  refutations going against cuvier's racial science   and so it reminds us that even his contemporaries  although cuvier was renowned getting all the major   positions and and money etc that there were still  people who were rejecting it during his time and   so just like those clergy use me instead there  are people like tiedman who didn't just go with   the flow who didn't just accept the racist status  quo but actually questioned and worked against it   creating an anti-racist science which brings us  back to the present again we're looking at how   racial literacy the challenge of racial  literacy is being able to read reality with   greater precision connect the dots understand  that what's happening in policing is related to   what's happening in preschool understanding that  the history of science that i just summarized   relates to something like the vogue cover here and  so you might not necessarily think about those as   connected but look at how the first time a black  man is on the cover of vogue he's he's represented   so they deliberately used this world war one  propaganda poster in which in that case the   mad brute was the german here you have uh you know  lebron as the black brute his position his growl   his posture all the way down to his sneaker choice  and note that he's not on the cover alone remember   those twin pillars in this racist architecture  in order to accentuate the brutishness   of blackness you need a foil you need that other  pillar and so you have gisele there accentuating   all of the goodness and lightness um of of white  femininity and so it's a gendered racism at work   and and so you know this is part of the  landscape that we're all immersed in   that naturalizes and distorts how we see this is  a magazine cover but we just go to the cartoons   that we grow up on the movies that we watch and  the way that darkness is associated with evil   and blondness and lightness is associated with  goodness that's that's socializing children at   a very young age to see the world through these  distorting lenses so racial literacy in the 21st   century means recognizing these distortions  questioning them and trying to create a world   and representations and relationships that are  not predicated on these racist judgments which   again requires a deliberate acknowledgement  of them color blindness is not the antidote   to these racist distortions we have to actually  see them before we can change them which brings   us to technology which doesn't exist in a vacuum  it's not in a bubble it's not immune or somehow   more neutral it reflects and reproduces many of  the dynamics i've described quick exercise if   you go to google images and you type in the phrase  unprofessional hairstyles you'll see images like   the ones on your left professional hairstyles on  your right and you see a pattern emerge in which   black women's natural hair is coated literally  coded unprofessional allah uncivilized going   back to cuvier with some exceptions of course  you have the hunger games lady on your left you   have beyonce on the right but the larger  rule holds and what's interesting is that   this pattern actually reflects widespread social  judgments that impact people every day in schools   and in workplaces around hair based discrimination  it's so widespread in fact that there are   laws being passed to address it one i believe  just passed in the house called the crown act   and so our technology is holding up a mirror  to things that we might not otherwise notice or   or um take seriously so that example might be  easy to write off in terms of technology and   its impacts but what about even more consequential  ways in which technology might impact us we know   from mounds and mounds of social science research  that there are numerous biases and forms of   discrimination that infect our health care system  from the way that medical students treat and see   black patients assuming often that they are not  feeling the same amount of pain as white patients   um when they're looking at a very similar x-ray  to the way that all the way up the hierarchy   um even medical residents are treated by by  their um by their colleagues and and other staff   and the way that nurses sort of make judgments  about patients the list goes on and so presented   with this research some people might assume oh  well if humans are so biased why don't we let   technology make these decisions about patient  care wouldn't we be in better hands remember   those two stories that we think about technology  well again what if we outsource decisions to ai   what would happen if we brought in these automated  systems in terms of our health care system   and so that is a question that's animated two of  the books that i've written recently and one here   race after technology is looking more at at the  context of policing and where i talk about the new   gym code and then this edited volume is looking at  this context from many different angles bringing   together researchers who work on different um  different aspects of the problem to think through   the connections that are being drawn around  the carceral technoscience the reason why   i started working on those books is because i  was noticing headlines and hot takes like these   about racist and sexist robots there was a first  wave of stories a few years ago that seemed to be   surprised oh my gosh technology is not neutral  and then we've entered a second phase in which   the reporters seemed less surprised of course  technology inherits its creators biases   now i think we've entered a phase of  many different attempts to address   the default settings of racist and sexist robots  and here robots is a kind of shorthand to think   about automation and advanced technologies  more broadly and so one of the challenges   we face is how to meaningfully differentiate  these tools that are meant to differentiate us   so the the connecting strand between this work is  what i've dubbed the new gym code innovation that   enables social containment while appearing fairer  than discriminatory practices of a previous era   so whereas in my grandma's generation during the  jim crow era you know she might have walked up to   a hospital and seen a big whites only sign there  letting her know she didn't belong but now i can   walk through the front door but there may very  well be a healthcare algorithm making decisions   about my care that creates the same pattern of  discrimination and resource allocation but without   me even knowing it so that's part of the danger  of the new gym code is that it can reinforce   racial discrimination but it's hidden behind  a veneer of technological neutrality and so   to help us make sense of these different  aspects of the new gym code i've described   four different dimensions that follow along a  kind of spectrum from the more obvious types that   we can usually see coming that are harmful  engineered inequity to the more insidious   types that seem like they're doing good but if you  look a little closer look a little deeper you can   see how they might be perpetuating forms of harm  and so i'm not going to get into these now for   the sake of time i'm just going to highlight that  third one because it relates back to our schools   our classrooms and to online learning more broadly  and so coded exposure is this names this tension   between being invisible like this depict this  photo shows in which a lot of facial recognition   um systems can't pick up people with darker skin  accurately and it's that side alongside the over   surveillance the hyper visibility when the systems  to continue to target communities and populations   based on a presumption of guilt and threat and so  looking at being invisible and hyper visible at   the same time is an important rubric to think  through the range of harms that can come when   again we're going to talk about it in the context  of um technology and education um let me just look   at the time i would usually show a quick video  yeah i'll show you guys this two-minute video and   then i'm going to start moving towards conclusion  so this video is going to reflect one side of that   that previous slide that  you'll know it's what it is hello motion sensors motioning emotioning please sense me oh uh one other thing lem mentioned that  there's uh something weird going on with   the motion sensors in the lab oh yeah we  replaced all the sensors in the building   with a new state-of-the-art  system that's gonna save money   it works by detecting light reflected off  the skin well lem says it doesn't work at all   lem's wrong it does work although there is a  problem it doesn't seem to see black people the system doesn't see black  people i know weird huh   that's more than weird veronica that's  basically well racist the company's   position is that it's actually the opposite  of racist because it's not targeting black   people it's just ignoring them they insist  the worst people can call it is indifferent   nothing we never should  have looked that white girl   we're eight blackman in an elevator of  course the white guy's gonna get off   veronica oh god this looks way too aggressive  no it's okay i think i know why you're all here   well most of you um have something prepared um veronica you are a  terrific boss thank you lim i'll take it from here   let me start by apologizing on behalf of  verdian for this inexcusable situation i laid in the veronica pretty good i figured it  was my only shot so i took the gloves off wow   that sounds great lamb sounds like you gave  the company a really strong message oh yeah   she said they're working 24 7 to make things right can you believe this i know isn't it great we  all get to home free white guys you like it   yeah hey ty's the best he anticipates  everything i need plus he picked up my   dry cleaner oh andy got this kink out  of my neck really mm-hmm oh i got sucks   well maybe you're just not using yours right  yeah maybe it's on you dude shut up stew i got the worst black guy it turned out lem had also been  thinking about the money issue   and he put together some  interesting numbers to show us and then we all went to speak to management  in a language they could understand within   a margin of error of plus or minus one percent  and so if the company keeps hiring white people   to follow black people to follow white people  to follow black people by thursday june 27 2013   every person on earth will be working for  us and we don't have the parking for that   all right i'm not sure how many of you recognize  that scene it's from the show better off ted   which is now off the air and that episode is  called racial sensitivity in case you want   to watch the whole thing on on online and  what it really depicts is how a superficial   diversity ethos the prioritization of efficiency  over equity and the default whiteness of tech   development all work together to ensure that  innovation literally produces containment   the fact that darker skin employees are unable to  use the elevators open doors water fountains all   treated as a minor inconvenience in service to a  greater good but good for whom is what we have to   continuously ask and the real genius of the clip  i think is bringing back this iconic um image of   the water fountain which is from a prior era of  racial domination to show how it can become a fix   um to deal with what i'm calling the new gym code  the discrimination of these of these particular   sensors and so if we think about this context this  dialectic relationship between being invisible   and hypervisible in the context of schools and  online classes we can point to a recent study   called biases and online classes that measured  professors instructors responses to students   discussion comments and they the researchers  found that from 124 online courses instructors   were 94 more likely to respond to comments that  were presumed to be from white male students and   so what the researchers did was change the names  um on the comments and and that the names were   racialized and gendered and then they waited to  see who professors instructors would respond to   as to kind of assess out um you know who was being  prioritized prioritized in this online environment   and of course this like so many other aspects of  um tech mediated discrimination doesn't require   anyone to be self-conscious or intentional  about the harm in fact it really relies on   an indifference to the social context and not  thinking rather than necessarily being malicious   and so a lot of times people ask well do you think  they were trying to be um you know discriminatory   and i think that question in some ways is not  relevant it's about the impact of the actions   more so than um the intent behind them so  that's being invisible well what about being   hyper visible being seen when you don't want to  be seen and i think this can really be applied to   the many kinds of proctoring software that  have been adopted even more so in our cove   at times but already existed before that and so in  addition to the fact that a lot of this software   relies on facial recognition that is very faulty  like the clip showed the fact that students have   been documented um they've been trying to  use various you know proctoring software and   they're prompted to shine a light a brighter  light on their faces if they're darker skin   um so that the technology can pick pick them up  more accurately so that's an example of being   forcing to be hyper visible but it even goes in  addition to the racial dimensions of it it really   distorts in many ways the learning  environment as this one student put it   it's not just about racial bias there's the  unaccountable data collection and the damage   the student-teacher relationship um he says and so  so many of these companies that are selling edtech   to our schools are taking student data and buying  and selling it for a variety of reasons and it's   that aspect of what's happening behind the screen  that we also have to be able to see and understand   in order to stop a teacher at the university  of delaware jennifer buckley put it like this   no thank you i'd rather my students not feel like  they're in a police state and so again this idea   of invisibility and hypervisibility forces us to  think about what authentic assessment looks like   in our colleges investing in people not proctoring  thinking about what the underlying nature of the   values and relationships are that structure our  our classes it entails listening to students   a few years ago students in brooklyn protested  their high school's adoption of an online program   that was developed by facebook and one of the  problems that they had with it is that they   were sitting in front of screens every single  day and had 10 to 15 minutes of mentoring time   with their teacher every week and so they decided  this is not really learning and we're being you   know babysat by these devices and we refuse and  so they protested and had that learning program   um online program removed similarly in a town in  kansas and where the school board again adopted   one of these um the these programs summit learning  again parents students they were all frustrated   because it was amplifying not only um you know  issues that had to do with um you know a little   bit of time with instructors but kids any kids  with disabilities the you know they were being   aggravated uh aggravated the time staring at  a screen was we're producing seizures and all   kinds of other physical um and mental health um  issues and so again the entire town protested   against this and so it's about listening to  people's actual concerns and needs when it   comes to our adoption of technology developing  what some researchers have called pedagogies of   educational dignity which involves recognizing  and this is a screenshot from my lab here the   just ada lab recognizing the power of students to  read the world make meaning and act with intention   and efficacy so that's one way of understanding  what pedagogies of educational dignity   is in theory the question becomes what is it in  practice what does it look like to read the world   make meaning and act with intention in whether  in our online classes or in our in-person classes   one answer to that can be found in this great  volume which actually you can download for free   called critical digital pedagogy  it's a collection of essays   that lays out many of the concerns when it comes  to technology and education and solutions ways to   address it one of the authors pete rohrbar says  digital tools offer the opportunity to refocus   how power works in the classroom in its evolution  from passive consumption to critical production   from the cult of the expert to a culture of  collaboration the critical and digital classroom   emerges as a site of intellectual and moral  agency and similarly another one of my colleagues mahabali writes in the same volume which  maybe someone can drop the link for   this book in the chat critical pedagogy for her  is not about knowing how to do everything right   or getting it right the first time or every  time it's about putting faith in our learners   to take control of their learning and teach  us each other and themselves in the process   and so it's trial and error it's experimenting it  requires humility and it requires questioning the   tools that we've been handed finally a wonderful  resource similar you can download for free and   someone else can drop this link in the chat called  the advancing racial literacy in tech handbook   and it applies to tech in every area of our lives  definitely to tech and education and there's   the point of this particular handbook is threefold  to develop an intellectual understanding of how   structural racism operates in algorithms social  media platforms and technologies not yet developed   and emotional intelligence concerning how  to resolve racially stressful situations   and a commitment to take action to reduce harms to  communities of color and so as a final proposition   i want to suggest this if inequity is woven into  the very fabric of our society that means we see   it from policing to preschool to public attitudes  to pop culture then each twist coil and code   is a chance for us to weave new patterns practices  and politics the vastness of the problems that   we're up against will be their undoing once  we accept that we are pattern makers that we   don't simply have to inherit and continue the  old patterns that we've been handed but we can   actually develop new patterns of relating thinking  and working together and so what does that look   like in practice i think it looks like focusing  on every the everyday nuts and bolts of of what   we do our workplaces our classes rather than big  grand events and statements um that are flashy   it's questioning how we've always done things and  looking to see changes in the nitty gritty it's   expanding what we teach not just who we teach ship  shifting from cosmetic to substantive inclusion   rather than just looking at things at the surface  thinking about what's hiding beneath the surface   what our values are animating what we do last  but not least it's about prioritizing the process   how we do things not just the end point not just  trying to race to some desired ideal end point so   we can make a big show of that it's about who  we're listening to and engaging and in that i   return to tony cade's incisive point when we think  about process not endpoint not all speed is a   movement with that i thank you for your attention  and i'm looking forward to your questions thank you thank you Dr Benjamin that's wonderful  i like the line what spikes are we building into   our education i thought that was really cool  we're going to move to Q&A now and it's going   to be facilitated by Darius Jones uh Darius is a  political science major and first year student at   Cuesta College at Cuesta Darius serves as the Vice  President of the Associated Students at Cuesta   College and the Vice President of the Black  Student Union i hear he might be president-elect   next year Darius is excited to continue working  with students and staff to improve student life   on campus and let me see if i can co-pin him  here and so he could start the Q&A there we go awesome all right sweet yes um thank you so much  Dr Benjamin for um your time and really sharing   this informative presentation on racial literacy  in the 21st century um similar to Carina Love one   of the main things that really resonated with  me was that driving question that you prompted   of what spikes are we building and so i'm really  excited for your thoughts as we transition into   this q a aspect and so the first question that we  have is can you tell us about what inspired you   to pursue your field of research yeah there's  a there's so many different origin points i   could point to so let me see what would be um most  pertinent um i think when i was about 15 years old   there was an experience that i had moving with my  family from south carolina to the south pacific   we moved to the marshall islands and um at that  time i wasn't in school i was like finished   one one school and i was waiting to start another  school um and so i had like a seven month gap to   just take it all in and one of the experiences  i had was going from our capital island madro   to a neighboring island um that was a military  base at the time kwajalein and kwajalein was   a u.s military base and right next door to  college kwajalein was an island called ebi  

and ebi was what some people call the ghetto  of the pacific it was really run down there   were hardly any palm trees people lived in like  shanty-like conditions the rate of infectious   diseases was really high because of the living  conditions and so on a one particular weekend   i got to experience both kwajalein and ebay  kwajalein was the military base and it was like   being in suburbia it was like someone flew me  and dropped me in like the stepford wives movie   um green lawns everywhere golf courses baskin  robbins people walking around with little   strollers like you would not know you're in the  pacific much less right next door to this really   um really deteriorated island and what  was another dimension of it that i   learned was that marshallese who who had been  affected decades prior by the testing of um   bombs by the u.s their pup their health  had deteriorated their children were born   um disabled and so they were given checks  every month from the u.s and some of them   came to quite a quadrillion to work but  had to go back to ebay so it was this   juxtaposition when i was 15 years old noticing  how this two parallel universes were created   right side by side these two islands and they  were created through policies of my country   and they impacted people who had no say in these  policies and yet they were creating premature   death for some and health and longevity and a good  life for others and so at a really formative age   it was seeing this what we might just call  engineered inequity that really stuck with   me um and it lit a fire in me to understand  and look for how this is happening in other   areas so if you remember the talk how i started by  showing those two side-by-side photos of the kids   one with kind of getting downloaded and one whose  imagination was being sparked that's another   example of like parallel realities of how so often  um for some people to be uber wealthy some people   have to be immiserated like the relationship  between wealth and power and thinking about   issues of justice from that early age i think  is something that has been really formative   in my work whether i'm thinking about it as  in terms of health or technology or science oh thank you so much for answering that thank you  awesome and so the next question that we have is   um how can students and staff work together in  order to create an anti-racist school system yeah that's a good one and i feel like in some  ways some of the threads that i i wove together   and the talk could be applied to that question  in terms of starting with listening to people   and their concerns and having um an infrastructure  where those can be surfaced so that people aren't   just encountering these institutions in a  top-down way where all the decisions are made   without their input so it's about democratizing  and and creating participatory mechanisms where   our varied experiences can be heard and  then the next step is taken seriously   because sometimes people will voice their  the ways that a policy or practice is harmful   or excluding them or you know diminishing them  and and we we will give them air but they won't be   taken seriously the next step won't be to actually  try to redress it um and so i think we have to   create mechanisms to make that democratization  um make it routine it can't rely on the good will   simply the good will of people like we hope  people will be who will listen or we hope   you know teachers or staff and officials will be  good and and you know and thoughtful and inclusive   we actually have to create the mechanisms  for that to happen regardless of people's   intent regardless of people's uh well-being and  so taking a look again at the everyday workings   of our classes and our schools and thinking asking  of each thing like is this reinforcing forms   of exclusive exclusion racism discrimination  or is this working against it is it creating   more equity and more inclusion and taking putting  all of those things under the microscope and being   willing to change the things that we find  are not are not um supporting that vision yeah thank you so much and i love that question  that you prompted are we reinforcing or working   against it absolutely and thank you for also  including listening as like a key aspect as well   and i know even within our school it's really  important for us to kind of have mutual language   and understanding of what these terms are and  so i'm curious if you have a good definition   as to what listening is um and also when a student  also asks if you knew like a definition for equity   and if you see if there's like some sort  of relationship between those two terms   yeah that's a good question i will say that i'm  not a really good person for definitions like i   don't ask my students to memorize definitions and  i usually don't have them handy in part because   i'm really keen on looking how at how things  are practiced i think sometimes a definition   it feels very static to me and then that's used  in order to judge is this equity according to   this definition or is this listening as  opposed to actually what does it feel like   what does equity feel like what does listening  look like and so it's thinking about what these   different terms mean in practice so in practice  one of the things that really comes to mind in   terms of listening i would really encourage people  to look it up is this elementary school in the uk   in which the kids are taught and practice how  to listen to each other as part of all of their   classrooms and there's these doc this documentary  video showing how like kids that look like they're   like eight or nine you know sitting across from  each other in little pods one-on-one and they're   learning how to listen they're learning how to ask  each other questions to elicit different points of   view and the maturity and sophistication in which  these little people are listening to each other   you probably couldn't find in like the parliament  and in most governments around the world in terms   of like politicians so one it reminds us that  listening can be taught but key it requires   practice it's something that they're doing as a  matter of like everyday practice and in part what   it relies on is asking good questions and so you  know it's really it's really quite remarkable how   you know i can want to share something with you  but if there's not a question that elicits it then   i might never find a way to express it like so  there's this reciprocity that's required in terms   of listening and asking good questions that draw  out people's vulnerability people's willingness to   share and also to hold space for complexity and  contradiction and so um in practice this school   in the uk which is like a very diverse um school  kids you know from many different backgrounds with   their little cute english accents listening and  talking to each other is to me like my dream is to   one day visit and also for that model of education  to be transported um everywhere including to the   highest halls of government where most adults  don't know how to listen and ask questions absolutely thank you so much absolutely i got  another question in the chat and so it says   um as you mentioned that data can reinforce  inequities as an institution that glorifies   data in the development of new practices do you  have suggestions on what we should use in addition   to data when making decisions yeah so f

2022-05-07 05:08

Show Video

Other news