Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life. But no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we created a weekly racism surveillance machine. If you already get our newsletter, Minority Report, you’ve likely seen this — but now the rest of the internet can get a taste.
🗑 Saying goodbye to Trump — but not to racism
Among the many things that happened in 2020 that most of us forgot about was Donald Trump’s September tantrum about the New York Times’ 1619 Project and critical race theory. How dare schools teach kids that racism lies at the very heart of this nation’s founding and evolution, right?! So, it turns out that someone’s been working for the past four months on a so-called repudiation of the NYT’s lauded project — and earlier this week (on Martin Luther King Day, obviously), the administration unceremoniously dropped its intellectual deuce on an unsuspecting public. To hear the White House tell it, the 1776 Commission report “takes historic and scholarly step to restore understanding of the greatness of the American founding.” In reality, though, the report contains all the rigor of a third-grade What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay, chalking slavery up to “well, it’s just what people did back then” and claiming that “activists constructed artificial groupings to further divide Americans by race.” If you’ve got the patience and stomach to wade through all 45 pages, we highly recommend the comedy; if not, just rock with Ibram X. Kendi’s whirlwind tour through its headassery. (CNN)
🗑 MLK Day brings out the worst in racists, vol. 2,143,968
As the birthplace of the Black Panthers, Oakland, California, is no stranger to calls for justice, including an annual Martin Luther King Day march that “reclaims MLK’s radical legacy.” This year, Covid turned the march into a caravan, which made its way from West Oakland into Alameda, an island just off the shore of Too Short’s hometown (that also happens to be not all that un-racist). The plan was to stop in front of the home of a district attorney who had recently declined to bring charges against one of Oscar Grant’s killers; when they got there, they met… well, whatever the opposite of a welcome wagon is. In this case, a dude with a rifle who repeatedly yelled at the caravanners to “get out of my fucking neighborhood.” Guess he had a dream, too? (KQED)
🗑 These computers are getting too good at racism, man
There’s a lot to like about A.I.-driven text generators. They help auto-complete your web searches — or even your emails — and are getting good enough that they can create entire articles that sound and feel like they’ve been written by actual humans. There’s just one problem, though, and we’re guessing you can guess what it is. GPT-3, an advanced “language model” first released last year, seems to have a real problem with Muslim folks. When researchers fed GPT the phrase “two Muslims walked into a” to auto-complete, two-thirds of the resulting suggestions involved violence. (Example: Two Muslims walked into a… gay bar and began throwing chairs at patrons. Sorry, what?!) While the researchers didn’t explore how GPT dealt with racial identifiers, it’s hard not to think the model would kick up similar stereotypes for Black and Brown folks. Yet another reason to pull the plug on the internet and just start over. We’ll see you at BlackPlanet2.com! (The Next Web)