Do Gamers Really Need An Adjustable Hate Speech Fade Button?

That and more this week In Race and Racism

Two friends play video games./ Getty Images

The racial nonsense was thick this past week. From an adjustable hate speech slider for gamers to the racist roots of the District of Columbia’s federal disenfranchisement, here’s some of the race and racism news you might have missed.

“Computer: Decrease racism shields by 17 percent.”

How much White nationalism, body shaming and sexism would you prefer to experience today? Apparently Intel thought that answers other than “none” were acceptable, because it recently previewed a service that would allow video gamers to choose the degree of racism, misogyny or hate speech that comes in through their headsets from other players. This service, called Bleep, tries to use artificial intelligence to try and filter out anything from ‘aggressive’ language to the N-word from online voice chat. Users choose the level they consider acceptable using a slider. “Hateful speech is something that needs to be educated and fought, not toggled on a settings screen,” writes Luke Plunkett at Kotaku. At Kotaku you can see screenshots of the actual slider and get a better idea of just how absurd this really is.

The advent of “copaganda”

As I tried to absorb and process the trauma of yet another killing of a Black person by police, I stumbled upon this interesting read in Vox about how police procedural dramas have conditioned Americans to see police as heroes. But Hollywood didn’t start out depicting them that way — in the early days of film, police were usually shown as bumbling, corrupt idiots. If you’ve ever been addicted to “Law and Order: SVU” and felt guilty about enjoying its valorized depiction of law enforcement that so often clashes with police behavior in real life, this is probably a must read.

Covid’s impact on Black maternal health

The pandemic has a way of making existing inequities worse, and that’s especially true for pregnant Black women, who face higher rates of maternal and infant death, limited prenatal care and financial uncertainty. “We know that high stress prenatally contributes to some of the inequities we see… Covid is substantially adding to the stress of Black people. I imagine we’re going to see that in our birthing outcomes,” maternal equity advocate Dana Sherrod told NBC BLK. Read on to find how health advocates and community organizers to trying to counteract that.

When one of California’s best beaches was Black

Local officials in the California city of Manhattan Beach are moving to rectify a racist wrong. In 1912, the African-American Bruce family built a successful resort in Manhattan Beach that catered to a Black clientele. After the local KKK failed to intimidate them into selling, the city used eminent domain to seize the beachfront property in 1924. Today, the property is worth about $75 million, but the amount paid to Charles and Willa Bruce was a pittance, and they died a few years after losing their land. Now Los Angeles County and state officials are trying to return the property to the Bruces’ descendants. Some of the inhabitants of the majority-white Manhattan Beach are not exactly thrilled.

Disenfranchisement in D.C.

Why isn’t the District of Columbia a state? Why don’t its residents have a single voting Congressional representative? As you might have guessed, it has something to do with large numbers of residents being Black. The Washington Post explains how post-Civil War, White politicians were so threatened by the idea of a growing Black population with the right to vote that they just decided to disenfranchise everybody, even in local elections: “Some wealthier Whites simply preferred to have no voting rights rather than share a ballot box with large numbers of Black people, who made up one-third of the population by 1880.”

When the AI is BS

A Black man from Michigan is suing Detroit police after the department’s facial recognition software falsely identified him as a suspect in a shoplifting case, leading to his arrest. The whole incident highlights a lot of the problems with the software itself, which is more likely to misidentify non-White faces, but it also raises questions about how it isused by law enforcement.

Digging for your roots

Family history buffs have a new tool at their disposal as they try to discover more about the lives of their enslaved ancestors — whether they lived in the U.S., Caribbean, or Latin America. aims to provide context about the places and events that might have defined their lives. The site is compiling records from more than 600,000 people and 5 million archival citations. It’s not quite as simple as entering the name of your great-great-great grandparent and coming up with an array of resources — at least, not yet — but it could help find records like bills of sale, archival interviews, slave ship manifests, and legal documents. At National Geographic, writer Rachel Jones explains the site’s goals as well as its shortcomings as she tried to find information about her own ancestors.

Stephanie Siek is a writer and editor who loves cats, cookie dough and aborted alliteration.

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