With calls for “defunding police” on the rise, invisible, tech-mediated surveillance continues to penetrate every area of our lives – workplaces, schools, hospitals, and of course policing itself.
How does this relate to a longer history of surveilling Black life and how are people mobilizing against this New Jim Code?
From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed, and deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racist practices of a previous era.
In this conversation, Dorothy Roberts and Ruha Benjamin explore a range of discriminatory designs that encode inequity: by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. They take us into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provide conceptual tools to resist the New Jim Code with historically and sociologically-informed skepticism. In doing so, they challenge us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.
Ruha Benjamin is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, founder of the Just Data Lab, and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (2013) and Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (2019) among other publications. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and inequity, health and justice, knowledge and power. Professor Benjamin is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Institute for Advanced Study, and the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. For more info visit www.ruhabenjamin.com
Dorothy Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology and the Law School where she holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander chair. She is also founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society in the Center for Africana Studies. Her path breaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent social justice issues in policing, family regulation, science, medicine, and biopolitics. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century; Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty.