Awareness of climate change disproportionately affecting Black people isn’t enough

‘The Black climate agenda is about more than just representation.’

Vox wrote a piece on the Black climate agenda:

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin is one of the best-known advocates for what she calls the “Black climate agenda”: a movement that seeks to correct the failures of the climate movement to include Black people and that wants to see racial justice at the center of climate policy conversations.

A lifelong environmental activist, Toles O’Laughlin is the former director of the North American region of 350.org,an international environmental organization founded in 2007 that uses a grassroots approach to build support for ending fossil fuels.

The Black climate agenda is about more than just representation. It’s about equity and righting the wrongs that have been done in the past to make a just future possible. In her vision, the agenda should include policies like climate reparations that address the disproportionate impact climate change has had on Black communities, as well as Indigenous people and other communities of color.

Black women made $0.90 for every $1 a white man in the same tech role made last year

A ~3.45% increase on last year’s figure

Via Hired’s latest report on wage inequality in the workplace.

That’s an improvement. In 2019, she would have made 87 cents. Back in 2016, that would have been 79 cents.

Black men made 89 cents in 2020, which represents a slight decline from the 2019 average.

Overall, companies offered men higher salaries for the same role than women nearly 60 percent of the time in 2020, down from 65 percent in 2019.

I’d be interested to know the figures for Black trans and non-binary people (if they existed).

Science Shouldn’t Come at the Expense of Black Lives

Science should help, not hinder.

Davi Pereira Junior and LOGiCFACE fave Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote a piece for Scientific American on the exploitation of Black people for science, centred on the land displacement of Quilombolas in Brazil for the sake of space travel:

As with the debate about the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the discussion about quilombo land rights and dignity is being framed as a discussion of science versus tradition. Alcântara is an ideal space launch site because it is on the equator, where Earth’s rotation gives rockets an extra velocity boost. In addition, Alcântara is a region that has traditionally been economically underresourced in the global capitalist economy. As with the debate about TMT, the argument goes that science is a hallowed activity and the region can benefit economically from the expansion of the Alcântara launch pad. However, as one of us argued with Keolu Fox in the Nation, the setup of science versus tradition or religion is a false juxtaposition. 

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on women of colour in STEM

The theoretical physicist offered some ‘fresh perspectives’ in this interview from 2019.

I discovered Chanda Prescod-Weinstein via an article referenced in a Tatiana Mac talk (which also formed the basis of an article I wrote about being black in digital marketing).

Entitled ‘Diversity is a Dangerous Set-up‘, Chanda reviewed a book called ‘Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for Racial Justice‘ by Jonathan Kahn and, to cut this short, said:

Trying to use science to analyze and fix racism is a dangerous proposition […] A focus on implicit bias at the expense of an attention to both explicit bias and the impact of bias may in fact be harmful to the fight for equality.

It’s a long piece but you must read it.

But back to the point of this article. Chanda is a theoretical cosmologist, an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy and the University of New Hampshire and a Core Faculty Member in Women’s and Gender Studies. And she’s awesome.

In 2019, she spoke with Nam Kiwanuka about her origins in theoretical physics, why she was drawn to cosmology, the ways women in STEM were marginalised and her experiences as a queer Black woman within that.

Stream it below.

See also: 7 Blerds from history, the digital lives of Black women in Britain, and Georgina Baker: a Black female engineer making history.

AI is White AF in pop culture says researchers

From sci-fi to stock images, Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal argue that AI is too white in popular culture and there will be consequences.

In news that will shock no one of colour, a paper entitled “The Whiteness of AI” by Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal published on 6th August says “AI is predominantly portrayed as white—in colour, ethnicity, or both”.

From the abstract:

We first illustrate the prevalent Whiteness of real and imagined intelligent machines in four categories: humanoid robots, chatbots and virtual assistants, stock images of AI, and portrayals of AI in film and television. We then offer three interpretations of the Whiteness of AI, drawing on critical race theory, particularly the idea of the White racial frame. First, we examine the extent to which this Whiteness might simply reflect the predominantly White milieus from which these artefacts arise. Second, we argue that to imagine machines that are intelligent, professional, or powerful is to imagine White machines because the White racial frame ascribes these attributes predominantly to White people. Third, we argue that AI racialised as White allows for a full erasure of people of colour from the White utopian imaginary. Finally, we examine potential consequences of the racialisation of AI, arguing it could exacerbate bias and misdirect concern.

My initial comment might have sounded dismissive of the effort put into this paper, and I didn’t mean it to. But as someone who works with AI and machine learning everyday via search engine optimisation, I see the whiteness of AI daily (I’ve alluded to it in my own writing) so this isn’t surprising to me.

However, privilege is a helluva drug and many White people won’t see any kind of erasure because they view AI as non-human and void of those biases. Except it isn’t, because White people use AI to specifically target people of colour and perpetuate White supremacy, which is the basis of this paper.

Headings from the paper include:

  • Machines Can Be Racialised
  • The Whiteness of Humanoid Robots
  • The Whiteness of Stock Images of AI
  • The Whiteness of AI in Film and Television

Pop culture is saturated with White robots. At best, you get Black cyborgs (shout out to Will Smith in I, Robot and Cyborg from Teen Titans) but they’re few and far between and they’re mostly men. And, going back to I, Robot, the main robot—Sonny—is White and played by a White actor. By carrying this on, we’re teaching machines to be just as racist as us but a million times quicker. Just ask Tay.

You can read “The Whiteness of AI” in full on Springer Link or download the PDF.

Race And Gender Inequality In Tech Means White Men Earn More Than Every Other Demographic

If you’re not a white cis man in tech, you’re financially discriminated against, according to a recent study.

A study by Hired collated data from “120,000 salary offers to 27,000 candidates at 4,000 companies”. There’s a lot to take away from the data and it’s all skewed towards the success of white men.

Notably, black men and women earned 12% and 21% less than white men respectively and less than non-Black applicants from the LGBTQ community.

“Not only are women getting lower offers when they actually get offers, but a large amount of time, companies have openings and they’re not interviewing women at all,”

Jessica Kirkpatrick, Hired’s data scientist.

This is not acceptable in any year but especially in 2019. More organisations should be like FullStack Academy who made a list of tech organisations for black coders. Resources like this are an example of privilege being used in the right way.

You can find data visualisation from the study at Recode.net.

(Image: WOCinTech Chat)