Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code
From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.
Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the "New Jim Code," she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.
This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.
Visit the book's free Discussion Guide here.
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About the Author
Ruha Benjamin is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University
"Race After Technology is a brilliant, beautifully argued, engagingly written, and groundbreaking work. Ruha Benjamin is that rare scholar whose sophisticated understanding of science and technology is matched by her deep knowledge of race and racialization. Here she guides us into fresh terrain for understanding and tackling the persistence of racial inequality. This book should be read by everyone committed to creating a more just world."
Imani Perry, Princeton University, author of Vexy Thing and Looking for Lorraine
"Race After Technology is essential reading, decoding as it does the ever-expanding and morphing technologies that have infiltrated our everyday lives and our most powerful institutions. These digital tools predictably replicate and deepen racial hierarchies -- all too often strengthening rather than undermining pervasive systems of racial and social control."
Michelle Alexander, Union Theological Seminary, author of The New Jim Crow
"Benjamin's work is ideal for anyone who is unafraid to look at the historical intersections of racial injustice, technology, and where these topics inform possible solutions for the future."
"[I]mpactfully written, well researched and refreshingly clear [...] Simply said, Race After Technology will become a staple in contemporary critical thinking at a time when it is most needed."
Marx and Philosophy
"Shines light on an important issue"
"Ruha Benjamin contributes to our understanding of the dangers of racism in the 21st century in her illuminating account of how racism and inequality underpin new technologies. Benjamin reminds us that racism is everywhere - and by its very nature not only seeps into technological advances but is part of how they are designed."
Times Higher Education
"What sets her [book] apart is not her lucid, clear and engaging writing style but rather her broad empirical scope which covers examples from digital security and surveillance infrastructures right through to search engines and AI-powered beauty apps. They are exemplify what Benjamin calls the new Jim Code."
Ethnic and Racial Studies