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On Structural Racism and Science

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The comments on Turley’s attacks on me are split between the majority who are correctly outraged and a smaller group who are outraged by the fact that I would say that science, statistics, and technology are inherently racist, despite the enormous body of evidence supporting the point. Like my school posts, there’s a group of white liberals who just can’t deal with institutional racism. They say they can accept it, but when confronted with it in real time, they find any discussion repugnant and get defensive or outraged. In addressing this, I want to place a comment by FluxAmbassador on the front page, because it really nails the issue.

I swear to God the need white people have for the things they respect or enjoy not to be racist is fucking mind boggling. If the effort put in to debating that androids don’t dream of electric klan rallies went into questioning why so many of our tools end up being used against our country’s ethnic minorities and how we can stop it the first debate wouldn’t need to take place.

Of course science is racist. The people who get to decide what to investigate and how and what conclusions to draw are overwhelmingly white people steeped in the racism of society. Fuck, it’s no shock that to this day poverty and poor choices is the answer of choice for diabetes in the Black American community, but that when the same trends were observed in post-war Holland it was traced back to the epigenetic influence of famine on the offspring of war survivors. Gee, I wonder if Black Americans have any history of famine or deprivation in their genetic past.

Of course statistics is racist. Look at any fucking debate on police brutality and the numbers crunched to prove that “Well, yes, police do beat up Black people more but they don’t shoot them more often as a percentage of their overall interaction.” Racist statistical analysis is accepted as legitimate all the time because, hey!, the math checks out!

Of course technology is racist. Ask anyone who ever had to photograph Black people how much harder it was to get the exposures and light balance right compared to shooting white subjects. Because technology is designed in this country with the white default in mind – consciously or not – it will disadvantage other groups.

Part of this is because people act like racism is a moral question when it’s not. It’s a systems question. Saying an object can’t be racist because objects don’t have moral agency is facile and tiresome. The object is racist because the system it inhabits and utilizes it is racist. There may be a way to get to systems that aren’t racist and therefore remove the racist component of these objects, but we’re not even close to that point and wasting time arguing that science is some sort of method that exists outside the boundaries of the society that uses it to interpret the world is insulting to everyone who was ever subject to degredation at the hands of people who were just doing what the science told them to do.

Indeed.

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