Today I read more from Safiya Noble’s book Algorithms of Oppression and then Jessie Daniels’ article from 2013 on “Race and Racism in Internet Studies: A Review and Critique.” I am seeing more how the racism that underlies the United States as a country is reflected and even magnified on the Internet through commercial search engines, the pornography industry online, and the capitalistic way the Internet has developed over time, supporting a dominant color-blind “norm” (aka white and male). Noble shows this through her study of Google search results and Daniels shows this through her critique of Internet studies’ unwillingness to center race or the history of racism as it is manifested in online spaces.
I was also made aware of my own complicity in supporting racist narratives through a meme I had included in a previous blog post. I thought I knew the story behind the meme but I didn’t. I removed it from the blog post and have to accept the fact that I am part of the problem. It was a learning moment to see that what I had shared had a source based on a racist Internet meme, but that is what it is. And I am learning.
The United States is race-based in how we function. Racial divisions are defined by those in power, a group also defined by race (White), and all other groups are kept in an Other category that exists still today online. Acknowledging this racism (but not accepting it) is one way to figure out strategies to counteract it.
Within the academic library, we have to serve our researchers in a more inclusive way. I think part of this is by being more transparent about the deficiencies of our description, not because we are bad at describing things but because we are part of the aforementioned society and that is reflected in the metadata choices we make and the controlled vocabularies we use. I’m not sure yet how that transparency can be best expressed, but I do think there are ways.