Glitches and Ruha Benjamin’s”New Jim Code”

In Race After Technology written by Ruha Benjamin, she explores the idea that racism is not only inherently a human trait, but also exists within our technology as well. She states, “The New Jim Code”: the employment of new technologies that reflect and reproduce existing inequities but that are promoted and perceived as more objective or progressive than the discriminatory systems of a previous era”[i]. Leading to her main argument that new digital technology is used as a new form of racism in society.

In Chapter two, Benjamin gives an example of when a media specialist from Princeton University was driving and following google maps, and she was supposed to turn onto Malcom X Boulevard. However, the google maps narrator said “Malcom Ten Boulevard”[ii]. This leads into a main point she draws on that glitches like, the “Malcom Ten glitch”, are “not an aberration but a form of evidence illuminating underlying flaws in a corrupted system”[iii]. Benjamin, discusses how this is misrecognition of the African-American and urban communities, she sees the glitch as “a form of exclusion and subordination”[iv]. Throughout the history of the United States, the black community has been excluded time and time again. This glitch shows how still even within technology the place of African-Americans in the community is still excluded, and supports Benjamin’s argument that “new technologies reproduce the existing inequities”.

Benjamin finishes the book with talking about how New Jim Code allows racism to be a part of new technology[v]. The glitch is seemingly just one part of the many problems that Benjamin points out that continue to plague our world with racist habits.

[i]  Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (John Wiley & Sons, 2019), 5-6.

[ii] Benjamin. 77.

[iii] Benjamin. 80.

[iv] Benjamin. 79.

[v] Benjamin. 160.

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