Since the advent of computing, big data and algorithms have penetrated virtually every aspect of our social and economic lives. These new data systems have tremendous potential to empower communities of color. Tools like statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowd-sourcing, in the right hands, are powerful instruments for fighting bias, building progressive movements, and promoting civic engagement.
But history tells a different story, one in which data is too often wielded as an instrument of oppression, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice. Redlining was a data-driven enterprise that resulted in the systematic exclusion of Black communities from key financial services. More recent trends like predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending are troubling variations on the same theme. Today, discrimination is a high-tech enterprise.
Through research, advocacy, and movement-building, we are working to support the vital work of grassroots racial justice organizations to challenge discriminatory uses of data and algorithms across systems. With our national network of over 20,000 scientists and activists, we are building a future in which data and technology are forces for good, rather than the instruments of oppression, in Black communities.