Wednesday, December 2, 2009

About Black Men or at Least Us, Blackness, and Michelle Obama

With all this talk about Michelle Obama and the racist monkey image, and how Google search works, I recalled that I wrote a poem in 2006 about the kinds of search strings I saw coming through the WritingJunkie/Kings and Kindreds website. In my opinion the types of keywords people used to look up information about blackness and black men revealed something about this society, what many people thought of black men, the stereotypes, mostly, or at least that there are still a lot of people out there who choose to be ignorant and live at humanity's basest levels.

I know that people are angry about Google not wanting to remove the picture from its search engine results and that the company apologized, but the fact that people post racist images and propaganda and it ends up at the top of a search list says more about the world than it does about Google's algorithm. However, one person, Deb on the Rocks, commenting on my post and Google's position that it favors freedom of expression made a provocative point.
Google's point is well made, but just as newspapers have free speech at the forfront buffered by ethical choices (not printing rape victim names, for example) they should make exceptions to their algorithm, and they will have to figure out how to be more consistent, equitable and transparent about that. (Deb in comments)
In 2007, I took the poem "All About Black Men," which addresses the search engine and race topic, offline when I moved back to New Orleans just in case I needed to look for a job. You do know that what you say online can keep you from a job right? "How?" you ask. Well, whatever objectionable deed you've done or words you've posted may come up when they Google you, anything they don't like may be used against you in the job decision.

Little did I know, however, that that move wouldn't save me. An appreciative reader had already posted it elsewhere, and I just found that out today.

The original poem, "All About Black Men" is posted here. It's not for the prudish or uppity. I dug it out of mothballs.

No comments: