Monday, March 30, 2015

What Happened When I Google-Searched Women of Color

[image source]

by Sharon H Chang
for Racism Review ~
March 27, 2015

I decided to run a little Net-search experiment on women of color (WOC) the other day. I think we can all admit that net (re)searching to look at social issue climate is something almost everyone does. In some ways the Internet offers a lot of insight into the public imaginary and what’s going on people’s minds. But we do have to dig. A lot. And even then it’s near impossible to rummage through the multitudes of crap to get to just a fraction of what’s substantial online. That’s where search engines – which employ pretty powerful algorithms for searching the vast endless sea that is web content – become well, kind of irresistible. What happens when I Google this? What happens if I Google that? We really do live in the age of the Googlization of everything, as Siva Vaidhyanathan suggests. So, I wondered, has information about women of color been Googlized, too?

So this particular morning I was thinking about racialized gender bias; how women of color experience sexism if different racist ways. My memories rushed online as I thought back to all the articles and posts I’d read on WOC over the last months. Of course there’d been narrative patterns in what I’d read, but the webbed interconnectivity of those patterns, the outline, wasn’t always something I paid attention to in a big-picture way. And so then of course I couldn’t help it, I thought, “I wonder what happens if I Google labels like ‘Black women,’ ‘Native women,’ ‘Latina women,’ ‘Asian women’ and look at the results aside each other? What will I see?”

All women of color are painfully oppressed but their oppressions are constructed by oppressors in different ways.

First some disclaimers. One, I fully recognize Google’s algorithms tailor to user history so what I got wouldn’t be the same as what you’d get. Two, I acknowledge Net searches are snapshots in time and results change by the probable millisecond so my results should not be understood as static by any means. Three, Google searching is not “formal” social science research so this post should not be taken as hard evidence but transformative discussion. And four, the goal here is not to create a suffer-meter for gauging “who has it worst.” Rather the point is that all women of color are painfully oppressed but their oppressions are constructed by oppressors in different ways.

Disclaimers now disclaimed. Here were the first-page results of my searches:

Friday, March 20, 2015

"What Are You?" That's None of Your Business

by Sharon H Chang

A couple months ago I got cornered big time by a stranger and their "What are you?" mind-meld. The unsolicited probing went on for a while. Honestly something I'm used to. But this time was crazy multidimensional and unique in a way I don't know I've ever experienced. It involved not only me, but my child, and then HER mixed children by comparison. This stranger just couldn't resist wanting to know my and my son's specific mixes, explained her husband was "American," then wondered out loud if her son would one day look like my son and if her daughter would one day look like me. I was declared white-looking while my son was judged Asian-looking. A picture of her own children was then shown proudly with seeming expectation for praise (which I uncomfortably indulged). There was also some lecturing/instruction on how I should feel about my particular Asian heritage (which she shares) and why I should be able to afford visiting my paternal homeland (which I actually can't). Finally, because she felt this exchange had laid the groundwork for connectivity, she asked to exchange info and wanted to set up a play date.