#BlackLivesMatter: If you google 'black teenagers' and 'white teenagers’, something absolutely shocking happens
While we may have made some progress over the years, it’s abundantly clear that racism is still a huge problem.
After countless racist police shootings, not to mention the inexplicable deaths of at least five black women in their prison cells in July 2015, we saw the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter begin trending on social media.
However many were still stunned when Kabir Alli posted a video to Twitter of himself carrying out a straightforward search of “three black teenagers”.
The search term overwhelmingly turned up a selection of prisoners’ mugshots.
Then, in a thought-provoking twist, Kabir decided: “Now let’s just change the colour ...”
Tragically, the result for “three white teenagers” shows stock photos of smiling, wholesome-looking young people.
Watch the video for yourself below:
It’s frightening to see how very differently teenagers of different races are viewed in society, isn’t it?
The post has been retweeted countless times since it was originally shared, generating thousands of comments from shocked users.
But does it prove that Google is racist, as so many have stated?
How does Google work?
While some may assume that Google has a racist agenda, the problem is not so easily explained away.
It then dips into the index and produces ranked results, which have been rated by over 200 factors.
These include user context and “freshness”.
This can be defined as: “The latest news and information…[and] provides relevant results based on geographic region, web history and other factors.”
Why does Google seem to have a ‘racist agenda’?
Well, a disturbing government report, produced by the Ministry of Justice, showed that black and Asian defendants are almost 20 per cent more likely to be sent to jail than those who are white.
It also showed that judges and magistrates are institutionally racist, handing down more lenient sentences to white criminals.
Who was Sandra Bland?
For those who don’t remember the case, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her Texas jail cell in 2015, shortly after being detained in what started as a routine traffic stop.
In footage of her arrest, captured by state trooper Brian Encinia's dashcam, Sandra could be heard complaining about the officer's violent treatment of her - and screaming in pain, yelling "my wrist!"
Three days after she was arrested, Sandra Bland was found dead from apparent "self-inflicted asphyxiation" in her cell.
Questions were not only raised over Sandra’s seemingly violent arrest, however; people also demanded to know whether she was already dead in her mugshot.
Was Sandra Bland already dead in her mugshot?
Speaking on Counter Current News, one writer claimed: “Her face, collagen, fat, loose musculature, is all seeming to fall backwards, rather than down. This would seem to indicate that she is laying down.
“On the right side of the image, we can see the left side of her face (our right), drooping lower than the opposite side.
“Some have suggested this indicates effects of oxygen depletion to the brain.”
Police denied the claims.
Why have so many black women died in police custody?
Sandra’s death came at the same time as those of five other black women, all unrelated and in separate areas of the USA.
However they all had one thing in common.
These tragic deaths have shined an even brighter spotlight on the plight of black women in the criminal justice system.
As MIC.com explained: “Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to use her turn signal in Texas. But her being pulled over at all falls into a bigger national pattern: In 2013, for instance, more than 53% of all women stopped by the New York City police in 2013 were black.
“Black people overall make up just 27% of the city's population.”
They revealed that black women are three times more likely to be jailed than white women in the USA, and that black women are among the least likely to die via suicide in prison.
“The lives of these five women can never be fully explained using a set of dispassionate statistics, facts and figures,” they added powerfully.
“But the ways their experiences fit into broader disparities that affect black women are telling.
“They prove the United States has a much bigger problem on its hands than these individual deaths.”
How does this all relate to the Stanford rape case?
It’s unsurprising that this bias towards black ‘criminals’ has a huge effect on how the media portrays black and white people.
This in turn creates a bias towards crime, which the Google algorithm then uses to make up its 'racist' index.
And it’s a bias which can be clearly seen in the Stanford rape case, which revolves around the sexual assault of an anonymous 23-year-old victim who wrote a powerful letter to her attacker.
Despite being found unanimously guilty of the rape and assault, the judge handed down a mere six month jail sentence to Brock Turner.
Brian Banks, a black man who served five years in prison for wrongful rape conviction, accused the judge of favouring Turner because he is a privileged white athlete and student.
He told New York Daily News: “It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle. He's lived such a good life and has never experienced anything serious in his life that would prepare him for prison. He was sheltered so much he wouldn't be able to survive prison.
“What about the kid who has nothing, he struggles to eat, struggles to get a fair education? What about the kid who has no choice who he is born to and has drug-addicted parents or a non-parent household? Where is the consideration for them when they commit a crime?”
While this is infuriating enough, many have also expressed anger over the fact that images of the rapist were taken from the white athlete’s high school yearbook instead of his police mugshot.
The image showed him smiling and wearing a suit, which social media users claimed would not have been the case if he had been black.
Brock Turner’s mugshot was only released to the public after he was sentenced last week.
So who is really at fault?
If we look at how black and white suspects are covered in the media, it’s clear that there is a hugely divisive line.
With a white suspect, the media will provide details about the criminal’s life, allowing us to find out everything we need to know about their family, their job, their mental health, their childhood, their hobbies, their school records.
With a black suspect, we get a few throwaway details about their life beyond the crime they were accused of. And, of course, a mugshot.
It reinforces an ancient and ridiculous stereotype - one that foolishly claims that white people are more ‘human’ than black people. That they are more deserving of our sympathy and empathy. That they are owed a careful analysis of their life leading up to their misdemeanour, so that we have a chance to better understand them.
Black people, however, remain faces without stories. And, looking at the statistics, they are far more likely to end up behind bars - or dead.
In short, Google is not racist - and it is not following any agenda of its own making.
The search engine is simply following the precedent that we have set, and continue to set, each and every day.
Until we realise that #BlackLivesMatter is so much more than a hashtag, the world will continue to make wildly biased assumptions about black people.
It’s time to look beyond the colour of our skin and treat all people as exactly that; people.
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