Euro-North American traditions have for centuries developed creation myths that have justified racist and patriarchal power structures. From attributing divine will for the domination of the non-western world, rationalization and the racialization of science, to the supposed neutrality of algorithms, and continued coloniality delivered through the guise of modernity, creation myths serve as the social and unspiritual ethics of how the distribution of power ought to be. Indeed creation myths are used to justify the allocation of power. From within the constraints and depths of these myths, whose egalitarian promises of equality are doomed to remain evasive and illusive, humanity is led to draw from empty promises its experience and destiny. These racist, colonial, patriarchal myths are really the same outmoded myth of white supremacy told in different ways, sometimes explicitly, other times implicitly, but adapted for each social epoch.
The most destructive, prominent and yet inconspicuous creation myth is certainly that of western exceptionalism. It has created a white Euro-North American centric narrative that, for centuries, has discredited and excluded global contributions of non-western societies. This individualistic narrative, truly owing itself to a sense of white insecurity, a fear of the other and a fear to be without, claims exclusive rights to all manner of human progress. This myth is an illusion, sustained through the exportation of the West’s problems to its marginalized within its borders and to the global south trapped in its global reach. The disenfranchised throughout all ages of Euro-North American expansion have carried the weight of so-called civilization, progress and modernity. These ideas of civilization, progress and modernity have been in reality stripped of their greater meaning and interconnectedness, depreciating these ideals to a state that allows for their explotation for individualistic gains.
In its earlier forms, western exceptionalism, read “white supremacy”, usurped the Christian faith and the nature of God, to justify and veil its greed and dehumanization of the other. History presents the image of a supreme being whose disposition, would, through the western world’s divine mandate, be reflected in the conquests and plunder of regions populated by non-white people. The Christian doctrine of humans being made in the image of God has in practice been the other way around: God made in human likeness – effectively God in the likeness of whiteness.
The manufacturing of God’s oneness with whiteness, a relationship of convenience as Western philosophy would later “kill” God, would serve as western society’s moral and ideological foundation for its domination and commercializationof humans and nature.
Whiteness’ proximity to God, and therefore whiteness’ implied proximity to wisdom, justice, and fairness, was used to justify a paternal relationship between white and non-white people. Distance from whiteness implied a distance or departure from wisdom, morality and the ability to govern one’s own affairs. Eventually this relationship evolved as reliance on faith and religion declined in favor of rationalization and the scientific revolution, while still upholding whiteness’ role as the standard moral arbitrator.
Western philosophy “killed” God in the favor of science but in the process racialized science and rationality to justify and continue western hegemony over non-white people. The rationality of non-western philosophy, in particular African ways of knowing, thinking, feeling and being, was ignored and accredited to superstition, intuition and closeness to nature. Only the objective rationality of western thought was considered truly reflective of philosophy.
Rationality in the west, allowed for the individualization of humans and nature and a reduction of their complexity and interrelatedness which would optimize the process of the commodification of humans and nature. The natural world was subjected to individualistic systems of power that would result in the commodification of land and humans through capitalistic and colonial institutions. The objectification of nature, reality, and the refusal to acknowledge it as a spiritual whole whose parts are inextricably interrelated, has impeded civilization.
In the present age, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used as the moral arbitrator of society, and the institutions largely advancing its ethics are incredibly non-representative of diverse human and interrelated human experience. AI is dominated by white institutions, elite, wealthy, and often heralded as the prime answer to social problems. Through “intelligent” machines whose decisions and ways surpass human comprehension and explainability, and, through the datafication of humans, nature, can discern and predict human action and intent, therefore being justified to mediate human affairs, a white serving creation myth emerges. It’s a myth that alleges the supremacy and impartiality of algorithms, an implied morality, while in actuality automating social biases that favor whiteness and marginalize non-white people.
The urgency to meaningfully address algorithmic injustices especially as they disproportionately negatively affect marginalized communities is missing just as much as the urgency to diversify the thought leaders and institutions shaping the discourse on ethics of AI and its governance is missing. This is a widespread societal issue whose matrix of domination, as emphasized by black feminist epistemology, posits an intersectionality of oppression, the intersection of race and gender for example, which cannot be solved by artificial inclusion efforts that do not diversify leadership, funding, and all other areas were power is concentrated. The marginalized and the oppressed need to be included in the highest decision making as they are uniquely qualified experts of their own experiences and can best articulate the oppression that exists and are best to judge the efforts in its eradication.
The voices of the marginalized matter tremendously and they should be included in the discourse and decision making.
It is time we call out these creations myths for what they really are – narratives that, behind a web of complexity, really intersectionality, only serve to preserve and perpetuate the existing inequalities often at the expense of non-white people. These creation myths whose effects unsurprisingly end up racist, misogynistic, and colonial are exactly just that: racist, misogynistic and colonial in their design. The effects are as intended. They are the result of an ethics whose provisions allow for the centralization of power void of ethical (communal) duty; This is an ethics that is fundamentally ill-equipped to challenge the unjust distribution of power.
These creation myths must end if we are to create a reality that truly benefits all. All humans of conscious must answer humanity’s call to work in removing inequality in all its forms and the myths that perpetuate it. Well intentioned people and institutions must understand there are many experts from marginalized communities who are both willing and able to articulate their experiences and provided with the necessary support can lead a path forward. The homogeniety of expertise must by challenged as simply a myth. The epistemicides of the marginalized must be redressed.
Society must retrain itself to recognize alternative ways of doing, knowing and being. The disenfranchised communities must realize their own strength in working with each other and leverage a network effect that will build better futures for all. Indeed expertise of the marginalized may look different than the expertise shared by the current ruling class yet it is an invaluable contribution to the human experience and should not be dismissed but embraced for the strength that it is. The myth ends when we acknowledge in words and deeds that there is no progress without including the expertise of the marginalized leading the conversation on dismantling inequality.
- Fanon, Philcox, Sartre, Bhabha, Philcox, Richard, Sartre, Jean-Paul, & Bhabha, Homi K. (2004). The wretched of the earth (1st ed.). New York: Grove Press : Distributed by Group West.
- Being Human: Ethics, Environment, and Our Place in the World Peterson, A. L.(2001). Being Human: Ethics, Environment, and Our Place in the World. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from Project MUSE database.
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