“You do not have permission to view this folder or page.”
One of these days when I get through the list of things I should already have written, I’ll have a slow think about technological access denial messages and all of the system boundaries that they represent.
In many offices, access to information and the ability to determine who knows what means power.
So seeing “Access denied” when you click on a folder in your workplace’s shared drive, nor not having a key to the supplies cupboard is not just an announcement about that folder or the paper towels on the other side of the door.
The denial message (or the locked door you need to ask permission to open) is also an announcement about you and your comparative power within the organization. Someone has determined that you don’t need to know and don’t need to get in a given door at will.
You may or may not be able to appeal that decision.
Part of the work of anti-racist practice, at least as the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond describes it, is to name dominant culture’s violence and exclusion and to make those patterns overt rather than unconscious.
By making the implicit explicit and interrupting the routines built around it, we gain the power to change it.
ProPublica’s latest investigative report on algorithms, “machine bias,” and car insurance is a great example of the first part of that process: making the implicit explicit.
As the report explains, auto insurers in Illinois, California, Missouri, and Texas offer drivers in majority-non-White neighborhoods insurance rates that are much, much higher than comparable drivers in majority White neighborhoods even when White zip codes are more likely to have accidents. In a country where people usually volunteer to live around others like them, a soft form of segregation also emerges from rules like this.
It’s taboo to overtly discriminate on the basis of race, but it’s not taboo to have an algorithm that filters out applicants with a certain income level or credit score or, as in the case of these insurers, zip code. But the net outcomes are the same in other cases.
Many of the disparities in auto insurance prices between minority and white neighborhoods are wider than differences in risk can explain. In some cases, insurers such as Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual were charging premiums that were on average 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs.
Our findings document what consumer advocates have long suspected: Despite laws in almost every state banning discriminatory rate-setting, some minority neighborhoods pay higher auto insurance premiums than do white areas with similar payouts on claims. This disparity may amount to a subtler form of redlining, a term that traditionally refers to denial of services or products to minority areas. And, since minorities tend to lag behind whites in income, they may be hard-pressed to afford the higher payments.” —ProPublica (April 5, 2017)
Check out the numbers for yourself.