Googling while Black

I google a lot. For work (whether research for an article, a project, a story, a blog, or personal curiousity). And while googling, I am reminded that the default setting of … well, everything – band-aids, ballet tights, Hollywood films, book covers, books, etc. – is (or was, until quite recently, so is) white. Do it now. Search ‘man’, ‘woman’, better yet, ‘beautiful woman’, ‘beautiful man’ – I did it with you and, in order, for me, google images spat out a pic of Jonathan Majors; Kamala Harris; Lupita Nyongo, Priyanka Chopra, and Zoe Kravitz; and… that’s it, as far as people of colour, for my ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘beautiful woman’, ‘beautiful man’ searches, respectively. Every other image was the default. As the links above show, things are changing but there’s clearly still a default where tech, media, publishing, and everything else centers whiteness. Even when I’m googling from the Caribbean (where those algorithms at?).

What prompted this post?

I was posting my story Little Prissy Palmer about a girl who befriends some dogs and, on a whim, googled images of ‘girl with dog’. Google images said, here.

I tried again. ‘Black girl with dog’.

They do exist!

It may not seem like a big deal (and, of course, this example is anecdotal but it is also illustrative). Imagine a more colourful world, you know like the real world, except in this real world, the biggest billboards in all the world wash out all this colour in to nothingness. It exists and yet it’s rarely seen. That’s called erasure, and there’s a huge percentage of the global population experiencing it. In so many spaces; some you might not think about…like the google.

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