“Are We Good Neighbors?”

The “Are We Good Neighbors?” project was derived off of Alonso S. Perales Collection at the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. The goal of this project is to display the discrimination against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas by using personal stories and a map to point out geographically where these events of inequity took place. “Perales was very dedicated to civil rights for Mexican Americans and urged people to publicly share experiences of racism as well as the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service” (Gauthereau). This mapping project aims to reveal the embodiment of racism in the United States to those who don’t realize that racism happens when citizens are playing out their accounts of everyday life activities: such as going to the barbershop, buying a home, or riding the bus to school. This Digital Humanities project is deeply important to me because even though I am not a Mexican American, I always wondered what happened to the Latinx population in times of segregation and times of intense racist climates. I feel a personal history there and I feel as though the Latinx history in the United States wasn’t made a priority to learn about in schools. Mexican Americans in the 1940s faced disgust, hatred, shame, and violence solely due to their hertigatege. This type of information is valuable for all audiences, but it possibly may have a greater effect on the Latinx population that isn’t fully aware of the type of discrimination that took place in the South towards the Mexican American population. Information is separated by the home page, describing the purpose of this project, and by each individual’s/family’s story. The technology plays an important role being lined up with each story because the map allows viewers to see where the map moves in correspondence to the text. The map is interactive, so users are able to zoom in on specific parts of Texas, and other states too. It is necessary to have projects like “Are We Good Neighbors?” because it highlights Latinx racism in the United States regarding personal historic accounts. The focus isn’t on the statistics of racist acts/events, but on the accounts that happen in our own neighborhoods with your average United States citizens.

Gauthereau, Lorena. “Are We Good Neighbors?: Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas.” https://arcg.is/1C1bbv. Accessed [10-10-2019].


Toni Morrison and the “music” of her words

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it” was the quote that I heard over and over, and that also stuck with me after the Toni Morrison memorial. Morrison has touched a number of hearts with intersecting identities and has taught many valuable, life-changing, lessons about what it means to be you. Morrison is unapologetically herself throughout her writing and makes other conscious of who they are through the music of her words.

I have read Beloved in an Adolescent English Education class with Dr. Bender, which made his presentation on Morrison’s literature very familiar to me. In this way, I was grateful to have this background knowledge about this fiction novel that so accurately represents the feelings behind slavery in the South and the realistic happenings of a slave’s life. The connection between self-identity and the power of relationships is much more moving than any non-fiction, historical document when the topic discussed is slavery. Morrison connects the bridges between personal experiences and historical issues that deal with what it means to be a black woman in America- so well in which she has won the Noble Prize for American literature. Taking into accountably that she won for that category- not African-American literature or a featured Female in American Literature. Toni Morrison’s children’s books, novels, all her literature ignites feeling within every reader with her nontraditional mechanics of writing that turn into music on a page when reading aloud.

Professor Savonick’s talk touched upon the movement of freedom for African Americas and/or women through Toni Morrison’s novel Sula. Morrison writes about how a friendship can open doors of possibilities, be life-changing, and leads to an understanding of the character’s identity. The idea of living with no priorities wasn’t seen as lazy, but instead seen as a radical movement against a system that sets up black women/girls to fail and compete against one another; still leaving them at the bottom of the societal power ladder. Toni Morrison will always be remebered for the impact she has on people of all intersecting identities, and the inspirational nature behind her stories of a community’s struggle. 

Noble’s Concluding Statements…

 Noble’s “Conclusion” and “Epilogue” in her book: Algorithms of Oppression, highlight her research about the inequalities that exist on the internet- in which popular, public algorithms continue to engrain oppressive and discriminatory ideas in our society. Noble stresses that since these companies are so user-friendly and accessible, people [unaware of systematic oppression] become even more of a target to spread biases on a platform that the public sees as safe, neutral, and objective, and reliable. Noble ties up her book with an interview regarding how platforms have a “lack of identity control” (173). Algorithms affect an individual’s, mostly minorities, life outside the computer too; their identities being negatively targeted, pushed away, or taken control over, to make room for the non-marginalized. 

 Noble’s choice to use an interview for her conclusion was a strong writer’s move because it allows readers to feel close to the issue- to remind her readers that situations such as Kandis’s can happen to almost anyone. Nobles argument with presenting this interview is that the African-American community (as well as other minority groups) must create an influence in the field of technology studies to push and challenge racists, sexist, economic, biases. BFTS, black feminist technology studies, is a topic that I have not heard of- yet assumed was already being practised in the corporate world of technology. As Noble writes, BFTS is an “epistemological approach to researching gendered and racialized identities in digital and analogue media studies, and it offers a new lens for exploring power as mediated by intersectional identities” (171-172). Noble highlights that Black feminist technology studies are crucial when planning progress for the growth of equity online. Having African-American feminist, youth, and women working to erase stigmas by becoming a large percentage of contributions behind the screen of algorithms, and other online platforms that use negative biases, allow for the growth of an inclusive content. This idea reminds me of the push for students learning science and math during the time of WWII. At this time, the United States government was pushing for its students to be experts in this field so they can contribute to the race-to-space. The drive for using children in this competition arose due to American trying to be prized #1 in technological advancement, rather than Russia or any other country beating them. If society pushed equity with technological advancements, it would look like having students of color and more girls being taught in school how to code, learning how to make platforms more user-friendly, learning how to edit credible information on websites: is this not just as important, even more? We need to ask ourselves the question of why aren’t we pushing the idea of getting behind the screen to fix the inequalities that they project back onto us? Technology is going to be here forever, continueoulsy growing whether we decide to admit it, or not.

 Kandis’ issue with Yelp could have been partially solved, at the least, if Yelp had actual people checking what type of content was being shown regarding Kandis’ business, or if algorithms were made to protect the “rights” of their users. Kandis’ personal business started to fall very short when the community around her physically changed, as well as the representation and reputation of her hair salon online. Kandis used Yelp as a way to get her business name out to the public- since before the age of the internet it was so popular that word of mouth got her the amazing reviews she needed for the salon’s intense popularity. Yet, Kandis found that the competition that wasn’t even close to what her salon offers were taking over Yelp, leaving her salon in the shadows of search pages. The positive reviews did not carry over to her online representation of her salon, in which she was paying for her competition of White companies to be ahead of her! Kandis states, “I can’t find myself and why, when I use certain keywords…they are suggesting that I don’t exist” (177, Noble). As previously mentioned, everyone under the Constitution of the United States has rights that can be exercised. Kandis’ non-existent business and online identity reminded me of the roots that this may come from- a seemly far fetched comparison to slavery. If people of color aren’t being represented as their individual self, are considered property online, and are overrun by their controlling power of White companies, what freedom do people of color get, where are their rights? Why does the work of African-Americans become property, even at this point in history where today’s society is supposed to be great at recognizing the rights of an individual? These companies, such as Yelp, carry a greater wealth over its customers in which it gives them more power over certain individuals in multiple contexts, making their title on the internet. 

 Noble’s “Conclusion and “Epilogue” leave readers with a heavy responsibility to try and enact change in any forms against algorithms of oppression. The last two chapters really solidified for me the point of Noble’s research and the immense effect it has on all of society. 

Works Cited: 

Noble, Safiya. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York, New York University Press. 2018. Print.      

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you feel if the company you worked for constantly put your competitors and/or peers identity before yours? What does this do to a person’s emotions? How would you try to make a name for yourself if the company you work for owns everything under your name/identity? How do you feel this is a violation of property? 
  2. Do you agree with Noble’s suggestions on how to “stop” these algorithms of oppression? Why do you think I asked this question with “stop” in quotations? Do you think that it is possible to make progress with the suggestions that Noble explains such as using “alternatives to commercial information platforms”? What do you think we can teach our friends, family, students, and whoever necessary, regarding Noble’s closing chapters?

Hi, my name is Kianna

This is sadly my last year here at SUNY Cortland- such a bummer! My major is Adolescent English Education and I’ve had an amazing experience in the C.U.R.E. education program on campus as well. I am part of the D.R.A.M.A. dance sports team on campus too. I was born and raised in Queens, but I currently live in Quogue, Long Island. I look forward to learning and connecting with all my peers this semester.

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