Policing Without the Police: Race, Technology, and the New Jim Code

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2020

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.

[Originally published on July 8, 2020 via Haymarket Books]

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