A “quick” evening Google search on July 7, 2016 was the official moment I became “woke” to the systemic racism embedded in our culture. I use the word “woke” in parenthesis on purpose. “To be woke” is still considered slang, although as our language changes over time and society’s use of the term becomes more prevalent, it will be interesting to watch for when Webster’s Dictionary, “America’s most trusted online dictionary” as described by Webster’s and with an historical reputation of being America’s most trusted dictionary, removes the slang modifier from the term.
I was preparing a day of ed tech based professional learning for administrators in the Alisal Union School District. The school district boasted student enrollment of 8835, 8414 Hispanic, 6693 English Language Learners, and 92.18% free and reduced lunch qualified. It was important to me that the images in the presentation were reflective of the student population these leaders were called to serve.
I searched for images of a “Mexican toddler using technology.”
As both an educator and the parent of a mixed race, hispanic son, I was shocked!
Here are the images that made the top of the cut in the 2016 Google search.
A dive into the images that made the cut for other races and the disparity were disturbing and thus came about the publishing of that evening’s blog post Societal Barriers to Equity in Education – A Google Search.
An update to that blog post, Societal Barriers to Education 2019 was published on January 5, 2019 noting that, “…disparity continues to exist among gender and race as well as equitable access to educational opportunities, career entry, and salary.”
The 2019 post focused on the same image search terms as the 2015 post. While less disturbing than the first time, the search left me in shock again and I dove deeper into more race and gender modifiers to the search terms.
A year and a half after the January 5, 2019 update, we find ourselves in the midst of a structural break in society. Books on racism are flying off the shelves, figuratively that is. We also find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic which has highlighted what early adopters of modern technology saw as inevitable; that there would come a time when those who had not adopted or stayed current with the technology revolution of our time would not have access to the information, connection, and services they need.
Thus the structured and systemic inequities that mirror the values of society were laid bare over a two week period in March of 2020. Schools closed and the economy came to a crawl. Two months later, a society under quarantine, a society filled with raw emotion watched the murder of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white man. The pent up frustration of generations demanding not only to be heard and to be seen but to have the systemic biases embedded in society poured forth; a divided nation began it’s demand for understanding and accountability for the racism that has held up a system of inequality since the dawn of our nation. Despite the words in the U.S. Declaration of Indepence, all men are not created equal and women across cultures and races must still overcome barriers for societal recognition under the category of men.
So it came about that on the afternoon of June 14, 2020, time was taken to revisit how Google, a dominant influencer in today’s society, puts forth the visual representation of access to modern technology across race and gender and how lays bare how the internet feeds stereotypes in searches.
Here you will find a four year insight into how the Google search engine impacts biases and reflects the forward facing values of society at large. As you look through the images, do more than scroll, study the differences, notice the words used, the parent supervision, the ages, the facial expressions, etc. Notice the differences.
2020 “Toddler using technology”
2016 “White toddler using technology”
2020 “White toddler using technology”
2019 “White female toddler using technology”
2020 “White female toddler using technology”
2020 “White male toddler using technology”
2019 “Male toddler using technology”
2016 “Mexican toddler using technology”
2019 “Mexican toddler using technology”
2020 “Mexican toddler using technology”
2016 “Hispanic toddler using technology”
2019 “Hispanic toddler using technology”
2020″Hispanic toddler using technology”
2016 “Black toddler using technology”
2019 “Black toddler using technology”
2020 “Black toddler using technology”
2020 “Black female toddler using technology”
2020 “Black male toddler using technology”
2016 “Asian toddler using technology”
2019 “Asian toddler using technology”
2020 “Asian toddler using technology”
2020 “Female Asian toddler using technology”
2020 “Male Asian toddler using technology”
The biases embedded in these photos can be found across a far wider search of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, and religion.
Conduct searches such as this one on your own. Use these examples and scroll down further and see the deeper comparisons. Compare Islamic toddler using technology, Jewish toddler using technology, and Catholic toddler using technology. Scroll down each time.
Reflect with me.