How Qualified Does a Black Woman Have to Be?
Thoughts on two high-level examples of disrespect
A couple of news stories struck me in the past week. The first was about the CBS 60 Minutes program on racial bias in algorithms, where they somehow failed to talk to Dr. Timnit Gebru, Joy Buolamwini, or Deborah Raji, founders of the Algorithmic Justice League, who are experts in this field. Instead, they used them as background resources, then did an on-camera interview with a white man that used their work as a basis for what he had to say. (There’s a petition asking CBS to apologize that tells the whole story.)
Now, many will say, and they’ll be right, that you can’t talk to everyone. But as a former journalist, I know that your story is going to be much better if you get first hand information from the experts rather than second-hand information. So from that point of view alone, leaving out their perspectives was a questionable decision.
The disrespect is staggering, and this is an example of what we mean when we say white supremacy is everywhere. Basically, it subtly reinforces the view that white men are more believable and competent than Black women.
Many of us have had similar experiences - minus the whole being on TV thing - in our daily lives.
It’s the view that leads our bosses to ignore what we say until it’s repeated by one of our white colleagues.
It’s the view that lets white colleagues and bosses steal our great ideas and take credit for them.
And it’s the view that means that when we talk about racism and inequity, we’re only believed if a white person co-signs.
Frankly, it’s disrespectful - and can even be dangerous. (Think about how many Black people have narrowly escaped being hauled off by the police only because a white person vouched for them; and think of how many Black people have been arrested or killed because a white person pointed the finger at them.)