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Opinion: November 27, 2019

Plus letters to the editor

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

Black Mirror is frequently described as a show about the dangers of technology, or even as “anti-technology.” But when I interviewed Black Mirror’s creator and writer Charlie Brooker a couple of years ago, he told me: “I don’t think the show is anti-tech any more than The Sixth Sense is anti-ghost. We use technology in the same way that The Twilight Zone used the supernatural or the uncanny. Often in our stories, what’s happening is the technology is amplifying human flaws or human behavior.”

It’s interesting to think about that quote in the context of Wallace Baine’s cover story this week about the scourge of deepfakes. There are some terrifying possibilities for this latest tech boogeyman—I have to admit, there were some in the story I hadn’t even considered, and it wasn’t pleasant to do so—but ultimately I think Brooker’s point applies to this real-life situation, as well: the abuses of this technology are only expressions of our worst impulses, and our actions will shape how it affects our society. Will we work to help those who’ve been targeted by deepfakes, and combat the spread of misinformation? It may be a new platform, but it’s an old, old story.

Also this week, we are on our way to our goal of raising $300,000 for the local nonprofits in Santa Cruz Gives. With 35 days left in the campaign, we’d love to pass it early with time to spare. With Thanksgiving this week, it’s the perfect time to show our gratitude for what we have and do something simple but powerful to help others in our community. I hope you’ll read Lauren Hepler’s story on some of the groups working toward solutions for homelessness, and go to santacruzgives.org to donate to one of our incredible nonprofits. 

Letters to the Editor

On White Fragility

Last spring, I helped create a heartfelt and well-attended Ramadan community dinner acknowledging and celebrating our Muslim friends and neighbors. Partway through dinner, I spontaneously began recognizing the many social justice advocates in attendance. Unexpectedly, my rambling was interrupted by a colleague who later pulled me aside—joined by the only black person present—to confront me with what they pointed out was an unconscious and damaging display of racist behavior: those I had chosen to draw attention to at this rare gathering in honor of our Muslim community were all white (and not to go unnoticed, mostly men). My heart sank at the injustice resulting from my blindness to my own racism. They recommended that I read a book Called White Fragility: Why It is So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.

I am currently reading this eye-opening book in a large study group of white folks intent on understanding our privileged status. We have come to see that growing up in an essentially segregated, white colonialist America, none of us can avoid absorbing racist attitudes and bias. From day one, we are steeped in a white supremacist (in the real sense) perspective: white history, white media images, white governance, white literature, and the privileges, advantages, and safety afforded to white skin in our judicial and educational system.

At the same time, having seen images of lynchings, mob rule, and police brutality, our concept of racism as monstrous and ignorant causes us to vehemently distance ourselves from the fact that we whites have all been socialized to internalize racism. The need to view ourselves as good moral people results in avoidance and defensiveness, and thus tragically our white privilege and unconsciously racist attitudes remain unexamined and unaddressed. 

At a recent City Council meeting, our community witnessed a classic example of white fragility and the inability to discuss racism. Stating that she had read a comment on Drew Glover’s Facebook page accusing her of being racist, Councilwoman Donna Meyers stood up, banged the table, and shouted passionately that she couldn’t be racist because she has been an out lesbian for over 30 years! Surprisingly to my knowledge, neither her shocking outburst or rationale were addressed in the media or amongst the council. (A fact which itself might be viewed as an example of white privilege.)

Our newly elected city council is the first ever black/white integrated council in our history—a milestone of monumental note and consequence. Given what I am learning, it is not surprising that immediately after the election, uncomfortable interactions took place between the mayor and newly elected black council member Glover: Mayor Watkins publicly declared that it “was perceived” that she was being bullied by Glover, and Glover experienced the impact of perceived discrimination when he learned that Martine, inexplicably had not appointed him to any committees.

Having recognized that we all operate with some level of bias and prejudice, and that as long as we can’t acknowledge that within ourselves, the resulting unconscious discrimination will not be addressed, it is my sincere hope that our City Council and staff read White Fragility as part of the recommended mediation/reconciliation work, and embark on anti-racist training to build equity, understanding, respect, and trust for the greater good.

Sheila Carrillo
Santa Cruz

Black Mirror is frequently described as a show about the dangers of technology, or even as “anti-technology.” But when I interviewed Black Mirror’s creator and writer Charlie Brooker a couple of years ago, he told me: “I don’t think the show is anti-tech any more than The Sixth Sense is anti-ghost. We use technology in the same way that The Twilight Zone used the supernatural or the uncanny. Often in our stories, what’s happening is the technology is amplifying human flaws or human behavior.”

It’s interesting to think about that quote in the context of Wallace Baine’s cover story this week about the scourge of deepfakes. There are some terrifying possibilities for this latest tech boogeyman—I have to admit, there were some in the story I hadn’t even considered, and it wasn’t pleasant to do so—but ultimately I think Brooker’s point applies to this real-life situation, as well: the abuses of this technology are only expressions of our worst impulses, and our actions will shape how it affects our society. Will we work to help those who’ve been targeted by deepfakes, and combat the spread of misinformation? It may be a new platform, but it’s an old, old story.

Also this week, we are on our way to our goal of raising $300,000 for the local nonprofits in Santa Cruz Gives. With 35 days left in the campaign, we’d love to pass it early with time to spare. With Thanksgiving this week, it’s the perfect time to show our gratitude for what we have and do something simple but powerful to help others in our community. I hope you’ll read Lauren Hepler’s story on some of the groups working toward solutions for homelessness, and go to santacruzgives.org to donate to one of our incredible nonprofits.

 

STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Diane Rejman

    November 28, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Sheila – excellent letter.

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