Can Software Make You Less Racist?

Sigh, I wasn’t saying that was his argument. I was saying that is how such thinking goes… it’s supposed to be absurd. Only my first paragraph was directed at him.

When I said “There is currently a significant push to marginalize …” I was changing to a related topic. It’s the whole, “oh that reminds me of something related” aspect of conversations. :slight_smile:

I suppose I could have put a stronger segue in, but really, I have no intention of putting words in his mouth, I switched subjects… the only reason I used the word “you” is because I was imagining him reading it, like we’re having a conversation. I wasn’t actually saying we should stop listening to him! I was demonstrating that is where such thinking can lead.

I wasn’t saying those were his ideas, I was explaining the effect that such thinking would have on him.

Yes, I jumped to something much more extreme than what he was advocating. I am aware of that. It’s a change of topic. I saw some similarities and it made me want to talk about something related.

In the same we acknowledge correlations between advanced age and a “regressive” worldview, there exist correlations between race and the likelihood to commit crimes.

The idea that committing murder correlates with race isn’t an opinion; it’s a statistical fact.

Statistics from 2013 reveal that a black was six times more likely than a non­black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race. Statistics relating to other crimes are equally dramatic.

I don’t mean to come across as racist in the same way you’re don’t want to be seen as ageist, but what benefit is there in ignoring the reality of race/crime correlations? In downplaying the importance of these dramatic correlations, aren’t Nextdoor’s policies actually making the community less safe?

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I don’t think that was the point at all. The idea is that you make the non-racial stuff required up-front (like what about the behavior was suspicious). If someone was just coming to post “black guy breathing air on our block”, and they can’t find anything besides the person’s race to explain what was a problem, a certain percentage of them at least will notice that their “report” is clearly BS and not bother posting it, for lack of being able to adequately fill out the required fields.

If they’d simply “made it harder” (eg: a massively PITA captcha) I’d imagine the effect would be different. People would only bother posting anything unless they were scared enough to go through the extra trouble. In that case, I’d expect the relative racial component to stay roughly the same as the number of posts went down (or even increase).

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Thank you for clearing that Up Jeffrey, I am sorry for the misunderstanding on my part.

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There are a number of assumptions underpinning your post which lead it to miss the point entirely.

  1. While white citizens may be reporting supposed crimes based on their own racism, racial profiling is something only security personnel and police officers actually do. The majority of the police murders of black people in this country had nothing to do with witness reporting, but were entirely the prerogative of the police. This app does absolutely nothing to fix this.

  2. From the discomfort you describe about your neighbors, it’s clear you’re presuming that anyone reading also lives in a majority-white neighborhood, which is not where most racial violence occurs. The benefit of this update seems more to be alleviating the guilt of tacit complicity in de facto apartheid as a white person.

  3. The notion that implicit bias is anywhere close to a primary cause of racism is easily falsifiable, as is the fatuous claim that society is less racist than it once was. Empirically, white millennials are actually more racist than the generation before them, a likely cause being the decrease in diversity in schools and neighborhoods since the 60s and the 70s. There’s no way you can acknowledge Ferguson and Baltimore and conclude that now is better than it was in the 60s if you’re actually engaging in historical facts.

The root of racism is complicated, but it’s buried under economic and political structures that software has zero impact on. This kind of back-patting in the tech industry for utopian platitudes is a self-indulgent waste.


In addition to what @T_E_D_ noted, this is only triggered at the time someone pushes a button indicating they want to report a crime or suspicious activity. That’s the key, that’s why this works – because it is triggered at the exact time people are thinking about this stuff. On top of that, it looks to me like the first dialog is a one time only policy notification, so you’d see that once per user. Unless you are “constantly” reporting crimes or suspicious people in the neighborhood, I don’t think anyone would consider this “constantly reinforcing” in normal use.

I understand your point, but I’m not sure you are comparing apples to apples.

What are the odds that a random black person, standing in front of you on your doorstep, and knocking on your door, is going to murder you right now? Now compare that with the odds of a 65 year old person looking at a black person knocking on their door, and harboring racist views toward that person?

One of these things is four orders of magnitude more likely than the other. 10, 100, 1000, 10000. That seems about right.

Also, a murder is a murder. It’s a terrible thing. But it’s incredibly rare relative to the overall population, it affects a small number of people, and it is and a crime that you’ll go to jail for. Homicides are also currently at a 51 year low. Voting based on racist / bigoted opinions, on the other hand, is not rare at all, something we actively encourage in a democratic society, and can lead to systemic injustices that affect millions of fellow citizens.

I disagree. If a person of color is not reported as “suspicious” at all, the police won’t show up. If the police don’t show up, there is no opportunity for the police to accidentally shoot and kill anyone. There was a 50% measured drop in reports with this change, so to say “software has zero impact on” is completely incorrect in this specific case.

I agree with you that the larger problem in the US is how quickly police escalate to guns in handling situations. I would love it if firearms were not the first, second, or even third thing police used to resolve and/or escalate situations.

This could not be further from the truth. and that’s by no means a matter of opinion. Terry stops are a common practice throughout the nation, as ratified by a Supreme Court ruling. The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy in particular is notorious for the amount of harassment black and Latino people receive from the police with absolutely no cause for suspicion. Nobody reported Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sylville Smith, and a long list of others.

But what material impact does this have? Like I said before, police brutality isn’t provoked, but the police also don’t patrol in neighborhoods where most Nextdoor users live. I guess if your endgame is 50% fewer embarrassing calls to the police from your grandparents, it has impact, but what effect this has on institutionalized racial violence is beyond me.

It was an example. That’s why I also added, “Statistics relating to other crimes are equally dramatic.” Why post suspicious activity on Nextdoor at all then? What are the odds any crime will occur? However, since we are discussing that topic, if a black person is knocking on the door, statistics show that the odds on him having criminal intent are several multiples that of a white person knocking. Not just 10% or 20% more. But 5 or 6 times more. The incarceration rates of blacks in state and federal prisons for all crimes is about seven times that of whites. On the other hand, if an Asian was knocking at the door, the odds on him having crime in his heart are far lower than whites.

Once again, I’m simply referencing statistics. Which begs the question. In light of these facts, should anyone fault an older person for harboring sensible fears?

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I may have used sloppy phrasing; you are correct, an individual user is never posting 24/7 and therefore is not receiving “constant” reinforcement.

I understand that this is a just-in-time technique. But what I am also saying is that every interaction is algorithmically monitored, the computer never suspends its “judgment,” no social consequences exist for failing to live up to standards and norms (low expectations), and I perceive very little opportunity or incentive for personal growth.

I’m okay with checklists and safety interlocks because they are very low-level concepts. I balk at hamfisted attempts at instilling complex high-level behavior (e.g. appreciation of racial harmony, politeness), especially if said attempts are more likely to distract from efforts to make real progress.

I honestly like that Nextdoor is using better forms which more closely resemble the 911 dispatcher counterparts; I even acknowledge that using language which focuses on a suspect’s behavior rather than skin can reduce the potential for immediate violence and promote healthier racial attitudes long term. But I don’t think JIT prompting software plays an essential part here.

I’m not sure those statistics mean what you think they mean. In the case of someone knocking on the door (nevermind just walking down the street), even if we go with a 6-fold increase in probability of criminal intent because of skin color, the fear may still not be “sensible” if we’re talking about 6 times [low number].

Your response reminded me of a famous Jesse Jackson quote: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved… After all we have been through. Just to think we can’t walk down our own streets, how humiliating.” Then again, he is 74 years old.

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I think you’re moving the goalposts to the moon with that statement. Nobody here was implying this one change will single-handedly end all racial violence in one swell foop.

Might it cause some people who exhibit racist behavior online to consider their own behavior, and engage in slightly less of it? I think the data shows us, yes, it does.

Yes, but in the same misleading way. Five times a 0.00000035% chance of the individual black person who is knocking on your door committing a crime on your street, is still a vanishingly small chance.

Compare with the nearly 6-in-10 chance – that’s 60% for anyone keeping score at home – that any person age 65 or over will vote against same sex marriage laws.

So I give you those two numbers, 60%, versus 0.00000175%. Is that a huge difference? I’d say it is. Even if we were exceptionally generous and said there was a one-in-a-thousand chance, the difference remains enormous.

The odds that the black person knocking on an old person’s door is happily married and gay is also 0.00000035%. What does that have to do with anything? My point is that the old person isn’t harboring racist views. He knows the facts and is simply a realist.

To me, failure to support same-sex marriage is as inconceivable as failing to support interracial marriage. Which was not that long ago, to the tune of the late 60s and early 70s.

Try five years ago when our President was against gay marriage as was the vast majority of the country. Were all these people racists - since you seem to have now pivoted to equating opposition to same sex marriage and racism - in the same way your proverbial 65 year old is racist?

For thousands of years, the vast majority of humanity opposed gay marriage. I’d wager to bet at least 95%. So I call your 60% and raise you. I give you those two numbers, 95% versus 60%. My point is that all these people weren’t blindly “regressive.” In the same way a 65 year old has valid reasons for racially profiling, I’m sure he’s got valid reasons for opposing gay marriage as well.

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You mention opposition to homosexual marriage as if it’s in the same class as racism, as if every reader must oppose it, and as if people in “flyover country” are irrelevant. I never had any objection to civil unions between persons of any gender; not a problem. Redefining marriage (marriage has been throughout history the union between one man and one woman) is a bit more problematic. But even then, not really all that opposed. I am opposed to the legitimizing effect (one of the main purposes of the movement no doubt).
Why is homosexuality bad? Because the Bible says so. Why should we care what the Bible says? Because Jesus validated it (at least the entire Old Testament; his apostles carried on his teachings in the New). Why should we care what Jesus said? Because of his Resurrection. If he has power over life and death, he cannot be ignored. Any serious-minded person can investigate the truth-claim of the Resurrection. Are there homosexual Christians? Sure, just not ones that act on it. We all have things we prefer but don’t act on. There you go, homosexual reader. I love you, but Jesus cannot be ignored.

Like someone said above, it proves fewer people complete forms that are more difficult. I think you’d need substantially more evidence to qualify it as a success by your own standard.

You really should specify which translation and interpretation you are using. There are many, and some do not agree with your sweeping generalization. Even so, I would say most Christians believe that such acts have nothing to do with being a Christian or not. Your closing statement sounds like you are presenting love and Jesus as opposing forces, why would you do that?

Is the team spirit just another “disastrous idea” like collectivism? I am afraid these two names are just another pair of synonyms, aren’t they?

Just for instance.

I’ve removed some comments about abortion, that has no relevance here and what we’re discussing is controversial enough without adding more needless controversy.

Sure they were – plenty of regressive beliefs were held in the last thousand years. The only constant is, the further back in time you go, the more regressive the belief systems. The very concept of civil rights had to be invented. That’s called progress!

You can look at a person who was born in 1940 (or 1840, or 1740…) and say they were a product of their era, reflecting the norms and values of that era. That’s fair.

But that doesn’t make racism or bigotry acceptable in today’s world.

In the context of a person of color showing up in your neighborhood and immediately assuming they are there to perform a crime, you are probably more likely to be killed in an automobile accident while driving down your street.

There’s a basic misunderstanding of statistics and odds here, fueled by racism. Furthermore, violent crime is at the lowest rates in a decade.

Was Communism progress? Was Facism progress? New “progressive” ideas come and go. Some work, and some go horribly awry. The jury is still out on this one.

Those are ugly words that presuppose malice on the part of the person holding views you find objectionable. Though it’s not a fashionable belief, there are profound differences between races. Differences between men and women are even more profound. Empiricists can’t ignore reality simply because it’s unfashionable.

Following that logic, Nextdoor shouldn’t even allow a user to report suspicious behavior. Hell, nobody should be reporting anything. The odds on crime happening to any one person are so remote, we should disband all the police departments.

But people do report suspicious behavior. Police in my neighborhood ask us to do so. When reporting, should we internally suppress the knowledge that blacks commit crime at a rate seven times higher than whites (and Hispanics don’t fare much better) because someone might view it as racism?

If neighbors hadn’t feared being perceived as racial profilers, the San Bernadino shooting may have been averted.


All translations agree on things that are plain, e.g., homosexuality is an abomination. If most Christians believe that sin has nothing to do with being a Christian then they simply are not Christians. A Christian is a follower of Christ. Christ teaches us better ways than sin. We all sin, but we can’t deny what sin is and still call ourselves a follower. As for last statement, you’re correct; it should read, “Because I love you I’m telling you not to ignore Jesus.”

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