Technology and development are structured and built under the pervasive influence of white supremacy. white supremacy is not always obvious nor explicit. It is the unmentioned defacto qualifier to the human experience and how it ought to be. It is the anti-collectivist ever present force that, in all things, seeks to first maximize the interests of whiteness. It is often the baseline of thought and standards and the centralization of power that favors western individualistic values. Efforts around ethics, technology and development do little to challenge this hum of society. White supremacy is the context that all technology for “social good” and development will ever be developed and deployed in.
Anti-Blackness is the political and economical dehumanization of the Black body and experience. Anti-Blackness is integral to white supremacy and all forms of exploitation of Africa and the African diaspora. It is the denial and repression of the personhood of the peoples historically from the Africas. It is the unfair and uninvited extraction and subjugation of Black output globally. Anti-Blackness can also exist, and, due to white supremacy, is prone to exist within the communities most directly affected by it. Within Black spaces it manifests itself as the extraction of Black self-worth replaced by a move towards whiteness as the means to gain agency and personhood in an anti-Black world.
Technology and Development in an Anti-Black world for a better world require an inquiry into the nature of power. Every human being has power, dignity and worth. Humans are most notably defined by the ability to exercise free will – the freedom to think and act. Power is the ability to shape or influence the outcome of [one’s] thoughts and actions. If one had the power to achieve and provide for one’s needs entirely through oneself, one might not need society. However, no one is an island – humanity is interconnected and we depend on each other to minimize environmental and humanitarian risks to ourselves. Society is the aggregation of mechanisms that allow for exchanges (or conversion) of power. An equal society is characterized mostly by fair and equal exchanges of power. An unequal society is defined by the opposite. Unequal power exchanges ultimately lead to inequality.
In an anti-Black world, significant exchanges of power favor white supremacy, whiteness and its institutions. Whether it is the societal anti-Black biases that are learned by the algorithms that may automate financial and judicial decision making in the U.S. or the trade deals that have left the Africas largely exporters of natural resources and importers of finished goods, the power exchanges are disproportionately unequal against Black people. It is difficult to imagine a more equal world without the dismantling of white supremacy; whiteness itself is inherently unequal.
Technology built without examining and challenging the dynamics of power will most likely perpetuate the power asymmetries underlying society. If freedom will ring a new hum must resound. A hum that proclaims one’s humanity is developed through the development of the humanity of others. A new ethics that stresses interconnectedness and a deeply shared humanity.
The politics of whiteness must be questioned and directly challenged in order to truly reduce inequality. The development of Black communities globally requires Black people, as experts of their experiences in an anti-Black world, to be critically involved in efforts toward a more equal world. This is an effort other marginalized communities in the developing world must join in a path to restructure unequal relationships between the North and South.