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Can computers be racist? July 31, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in blatant, blatant racial epitaph, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, computer, computers, IDMV, institutional racism, license, license plate, N666R, plate, Racism, Racist, University Culture Center.
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In a strange story a director of a University Culture Center feels the license plate N666R contains a “blatant racial epitaph”. If the “blatant racial epitatph” is not apparent it is because of institutional racism. The story follows below:

Last month, I drove out of an apartment complex in Boise and spotted a license plate that had 3 sixes.

This captured my attention, and as I slowed to look I realize I was staring at a blatant racial epitaph.

I questioned how the Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles could let this one slip by?


It didn’t take but a single glance for me to realize this racist epitaph is parked in plain view for all to see.

Secondly, why hasn’t this plate been reported?

Have we become so engrained in thinking that this term is ok, or is the IDMV really this dense?

After hearing back from the IDMV, they tell us the “N666R” license plate is randomly generated. The “r” at the end denotes that it is a recreational vehicle.

Since they have been alerted, the IDMV has contacted the owners, who they say were surprised and not aware of the implications and the plate is being pulled and invalidated.

Some people say, “Well there you go, there was no racism involved in that.” Perhaps no intentional racism, but there was racism at work here.

Not the cross burning variety of racism, rather a type of racism that is so engrained and institutionalized, that wedo not readily see it. We tend to think that because we didn’t meansomething or we were not aware of it’s offense, that it absolves us of the responsibility of perpetuating a thing. But this is where many do not see that anyone is capable of perpetuating racist behavior, evenif they do not mean it or are aware of it.

The fact that there was lack of awareness on the part of the IDMV, and on the part of the recipient of the plate stems from people not understanding the importance of including perspectives other than the obviously dominant one.

While it is relieving that the plate was not intentional, it is difficult to believe that the persons approving the plate couldn’t see the offensiveness of their creation and that the recipients of the plate did not see it either.

This is clearly part of the the unintentional racism that occurs daily by well-meaning people who do not realize why it could be seen as offensive, or people that just do not have the understanding of seeing things from a non-dominant view.

The feedback we got from people about this issue were all white and all had a similar message “stop grasping at straws”. Unfortunatley this is what happens when an issue that conflicts with dominant views is raised and instead of trying to see why it is important to

non-dominant views, the tendancy is to judge it through dominant value perspective.

This is what the Cultural Center works to raise awareness about – literally on a daily basis – because the opportunities for this type of awareness come on a daily basis. The challenging part about this is the recipient’s response. The usual reaction to this type of awareness raising is defensiveness. But really by pointing these things out we hope to start a dialogue and get these issues out where people can talk about them and get different views on a topic.

We have not been taught to have these types of conversations respectfully, because they are uncomfortable and because we may tend to feel that anything that challenges our individual value system is a threat.

We propose that this reaction needs to change. Let’s have respectful and informative exchanges that allow each of us to understand where others are coming from- without feeling as though the discussion itself takes away from our values and beliefs. And even if we do not agree with one another, at least each side is exposed to another perspective they might not have considered.

Source: Arbiter Online

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