Dr. Chris Gilliard

Podcast Description

“When your rights are being dismantled and destroyed, and your personhood isn’t respected, you shouldn’t be civil. You should cause a scene.”

Dr. Chris Gilliard is a writer, professor and speaker. His scholarship concentrates on digital privacy, and the intersections of race, class, and technology. He is an advocate for critical and equity-focused approaches to tech in education. His work has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, EDUCAUSE Review, Fast Company, Vice, and Real Life Magazine.

Transcription

00:30

Kim Crayton: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast, where my guest today is Dr. Chris Gilliard, pronouns he/him. Would you please introduce yourself to the audience, Dr. Gilliard?

Dr. Chris Gilliard: Hi, I am—thanks for having me. Yeah, my name is Dr. Chris Gilliard, and I… I guess I’m not good at self-promoting or talking about myself. So, I do a lot of writing and speaking on privacy and surveillance and platforms and you know, digital equity, things like that.

Kim: All right. So since he has a problem with being, you know, self promoting, this is what this episode is gonna be about: an hour of self promotion. [Dr. Gilliard laughs] So, let’s start as we always do. Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you, sir, causing a scene?

Dr. Gilliard: So, you know, I thought about this, and I think probably the most important thing I could think of was how civility has been used against us historically and currently; the notion that, [laughs] you know…

Kim: I usually do not interrupt people, but folx know how I feel about civility. We actually have a shirt in the community that says “Fuck Civility.” [Laughs]

01:51

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, how it’s been used, you know? I mean, when your rights are being dismantled and destroyed and your personhood isn’t respected, you shouldn’t be civil. You should cause a scene. And, you know, I mean, I do my best. I think the way I try to do it is to tell the truth. I think that there are lots, you know, particularly, I mean, it’s not only tech, but I think tech has its own way of doing this, lying to people all the time, telling mis-truths, half truths, outright lies.

Kim: Mmhm. And under the guise of “we’re doing it to save you.”

Dr. Gilliard: Right! Right! And I think one of the ways they get away with it is that, you know, in group / out group thing. You know, saying who’s in tech, who’s not in tech, who gets to talk; saying that you can’t speak on it because you don’t understand it. And so, to the extent that I do understand it and other people don’t, or I have a degree of insight or time on my hands that other people don’t, I try to just tell the truth about things.

03:07

Kim: OK, so there you mentioned two things that I—well, you mentioned one thing on your Twitter—I wanted to highlight something, talk about something that—well, you mentioned two things, three things. Fuck civility, ’cause I say all the time when I really start unpacking white supremacy and realizing just like walking around in my world, that whiteness is… civility is optional for whiteness, but it’s the expected behavior of people of color and other marginalized groups because it allows us to manage our own behavior so we don’t bother you. We don’t make you uncomfortable—whiteness uncomfortable. We do not cause a scene for whiteness.

When I really started unpacking that how often I let other people pass who should be paying attention, people bumping into you as though you don’t exist, how people just walk around the world and say and do things that we have just been trained not to; it’s just like, “Oh my god!” [Laughs] And then when I connected it… so our parents, our forefathers, taught us these things to save our lives. I totally get—I totally understand that. And for us, it’s been sold as that’s what polite is—particularly in the South. You know, Southern nice: we just smile and we take it in and we just—you could be stomping on our necks and we’re just going to say, “Oh, bless your heart! You didn’t mean it.” And then you start unpacking white supremacy, you’re like, “Oh! Yes, the fuck you did mean that!” [Both laugh] And, if I don’t cause a scene, you will continue to do that and bring friends along with you. That speaks to me.

But I want to talk about, I want you to define—because people always… again, the majority of my followers are white folx. They are my target audience. I recognize I do the work, I understand that I am educating the oppressor while also processing my own oppression. I cannot target marginalized people in the same way because I would have to process their oppression and my oppression and that’s just too much bandwidth for me. So I want to—because white folx, the oppressors, are always acting like they don’t know what the fuck’s going on—could you please define what “in group / out group” is and how that shows up? And also, I want to get into this digital redlining.

05:43

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, so, I mean… whew! I’ll do my best. I mean, I’ll keep it to how I witness it.

Kim: And that’s all it is, is your lived experience.

Dr. Gilliard: I… you know, my doctorate is in English. So I am now…

Kim: Oh, shit, that’s a huge in group / out group issue.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah. So I am…

Kim: Who’s speaking correct English, and yeah… OK. Go ahead, sir.

Dr. Gilliard: Absolutely. But how I’m known most, by most people now who know me—aside from students—is by talking about tech. And, you know, there’s a huge divide about like, “Do you know how to code?” Right? I mean, “Did you go to Stanford?” You know, I mean, on and on. And by seeing you online—and you know of what I speak… [laughs]

Kim: Yes. I’m forever sharing your stuff. Yes. [Dr. Gilliard laughs]

06:41

Dr. Gilliard: And in that way, that’s used as a sort of mallet; hammer; sledgehammer; to say who gets to speak on issues…

Kim: It’s gatekeeping.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, that affects all of us. So if I talk about Amazon, so if I talk about Facebook, or if I talk about digital redlining; when I talk about the way some of these systems work and some of the ways they work against us, some of the ways they were always going to work against us…

Kim: And were designed to work against us.

Dr. Gilliard: Yes, exactly.

07:16

Kim: Let’s talk… I’m interrupting you here because I need people to understand that a lot of—some of the things that we’ve done were not intentional, but because we didn’t have a fucking strategy, they caused harm—but some of the things that we’re dealing with were designed that way.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, absolutely. And that… I mean, I maybe should’ve warned you beforehand: I’m not like a talker. So please, I would much rather have back and forth than me spouting off.

So, I think that’s used to control us, and to allow systems that are actively harming us to keep harming us without us saying anything or havin’ any pushback. You know, think about facial recognition.

Kim: And it’s so funny because the Apple car—Apple Maps car—just came down my road, my street.

Dr. Gilliard: Oh gosh.

Kim: Yeah, I know. [Dr. Gilliard laughs] No, no, no, no, but lemme tell you what I did. I was in my driveway, and I pulled out, because I was like, “Is this autonomous?” So I’m following the damn thing so I can see if it’s autonomous or not. [Both laugh] And it was not; there were two people in the car. [Laughs]

08:30

Dr. Gilliard: And so I think that—I mean, that’s real basic, but I think in the circles about technology, I think it’s a very powerful weapon, which is to say, you know, if you don’t have these credentials that are only available to select few people anyway…

Kim: And that we fuckin’ made up.

Dr. Gilliard: Right. [Kim laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. If you don’t have those, then you’re not allowed to speak on this thing that’s actively crushing you or your community…

Kim: OK, I’m gonna stop you there—I’m lovin’ this.

Dr. Gilliard: …and making society worse.

09:02

Kim: I’m gonna stop you there because you just hit something. So, these gatekeepers—or these in groups—can say who gets to speak on technology. And yet these same individuals have no—absolutely no problem—steppin’ they foot in the areas that they don’t fuckin’ know about, an’ being an expert, and Twitter is great for that. You have a blue check, you have a blue check because you know Angular. That’s what the fucking lane you need to stay in. You do not have a blue check, your opinion is not verified for anything beyond that technology. And we continue to see how people in large platforms gatekeep by having—I’m gonna name his ass ’cause he irritates the shit out of me. His name is Ben Lesh.

He’s one of the people—yeah, he blocked me, fuck y’all—but he blocked me because I’ve had several encounters with this privileged-ass white dude with a huge platform who will make what he considers proclamations about his feelings. “I just don’t understand. I feel very uncomfortable now because I am… I feel anxiety because I don’t know how to speak to people at conferences,” and da da da da da. Well, if you don’t know how to speak to people that conferences, you should not get the fucking platform. You don’t get to make… to experiment on people. And then when people say, “Um… that was inappropriate.” Then you get to whine.

No, Ben. And others. Amie Knight. You don’t get to say, “Oh, I’ve had a great experience in tech. I don’t understand why everybody’s so angry. We just need to all calm down.” When you have a blue check for the shit that you—your technology that you are quote-unquote an “expert” in—you do not get to tell about, with authority, outside of your lived experience. Now you have every right to talk about your lived experience. But once you step outside of technology and you start talking about bullshit, you have every right to expect that somebody’s gonna challenge your ass.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

11:18

Kim: But then they fall back into, “I don’t know what… you’re so angry. Why are you so aggressive? Why can’t we be civil?” Fuck civility! You had no—you had no forethought before you put this on the Internet—to say, “I don’t understand why everybody is having a problem,” or the opposite: “Why am I such a victim now?” And when people push back, then you wanna delete tweets and then come back like, “Oh, nothing happened,” or you wanna block—but I know Ben, you’re still following me, ’cause I see when you pop up on my damn Periscopes, buddy—so you wanna block, but you want to still watch what the fuck I’m doing. That shit has to go.

Dr. Gilliard: Yup.

Kim: When you’re talking, you can’t be a gatekeeper, [Dr. Gilliard laughs] but can’t keep the gate. That’s a… [laughs] I am the gate—I can admit—I am the gatekeeper of #CauseAScene community, because if you come in here with some bullshit—and the most important tenet, or guiding principle we have is: prioritize the most vulnerable—it is my job to ensure that you get your ass handed to you. Other than that, we can have a conversation. But as a gatekeeper, there comes… if you want that role, there’s responsibility to it.

Dr. Gilliard: Right.

Kim: And people don’t want that. They want to just be the, “Oh, let me do whatever the fuck I want to.” But when somebody says, “Oh, no, you need to be held accountable.” “But what about my feelings?” And as I said many times, white folx: particularly Black folx in tech ain’t thinking about or responsible for your damn feelings anymore. It’s time for y’all to get therapy, ’cause we don’t give—we have no fucks to give.

Dr. Gilliard: [Laughs] It’s true.

Kim: So y’all know I talk a lot, but I’m doing this to help a brother out, [Dr. Gilliard laughs] ’cause he said he don’t talk a lot, so…

13:15

Dr. Gilliard: So, I can talk a little bit about digital redlining.

Kim: Yes. What is it, and what does it look like?

Dr. Gilliard: The way I think about it—and I gotta give some props to students, because the way I started to become most aware of this is seeing how it affected students in my classes. So my institution—who I typically don’t name—I mean, it’s easy enough to find out, but I…

Kim: Ah, fuck ’em, go ahead.

Dr. Gilliard:  …don’t wanna call ’em out. [Laughs]

Kim: It’s owned by some white folx. It’s alright, we already know that, we don’t need to center no mo’ whiteness. Keep goin’. [Laughs]

Dr. Gilliard: They were—they had a policy of filtering the internet at a college.

Kim: Wait what?

Dr. Gilliard: They were filtering the Internet, yes. At a college. And it was having some really terrible effects on my students’ ability to do research.

Kim: Give me an example.

14:16

Dr. Gilliard: The example I always use is my students were doing work, doing research, on what at the time was referred to as revenge porn. It’s now called differently, typically it’s referred to as non-consensual intimate imagery. Well, my students were doing work on that. And, you know, it’s a thing that students should be able to research. And they couldn’t find anything because the filter treated their searches as if they were looking for porn. Not like if they were looking for information about research, or you know, information about revenge porn—of which, I mean, there’s legal cases, there are… I mean, there’s a lot of research on that. But when they typed in the term “revenge porn,” they couldn’t find anything, and they came to me and say, “Hey, Professor G, there’s nothing out there on this.” Which I knew to be false, but they’re not experts in that area.

Kim: [Laughs] Exactly. Oh my god, so that’s another red flag. So it’s like for them, the information didn’t exist because they couldn’t access it. So in their heads it does not exist. Oh, my god, keep goin’.

Dr. Gilliard: And you know, this was not only students. I mean, this happened to professors, too, because—again, I mean, and this is not, I don’t mean this to be dismissive in the least—a lot of people, I mean, people’s levels of how the Internet, understand how the Internet works has levels. You know, and there are a lot of professors who, if something doesn’t show up, they think it doesn’t exist. Same as students. And you know it’s worse for students students because—

Kim: Continue that statement because I need to dig into that. That’s some deep shit. Go ‘head.

16:02

Dr. Gilliard: It’s worse for students because we’re asking them often to do research in areas where they’re not experts. So if I go look up a particular thing that I work on a lot, you know, “nothing to hide” theory in privacy or something like that, and I don’t find anything, I know there’s something wrong with the search. Or the engine or the  database or whatever.

Kim: So this is akin to when we back in the day had the encyclopedia on the shelf and what wasn’t in that fucking encyclopedia did not exist.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

Kim: Wow. But we have access to infinite information.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah. And so I started thinking about, you know, and not only that, but you know who gets—I teach at a community college—so who gets to… who has broadband? What kind of broadband do they have?

Kim: Yeah. Who gets to filter? Who gets to decide what the filter is? Who’s to say that college filtering porn—even if it’s recreational porn—is appropriate for college students?

Dr. Gilliard: Right. So, you know…

Kim: Because I can tell you, I worked the K-12 and them high school and middle school students could get around them damn filters and get them some porn on the Internet anytime they wanted to.

17:18

Dr. Gilliard: That’s another issue. And, I have students who work, most of them have jobs. Some of them have several jobs. And so when they’re on campus is when they do their work. So the assumption that they could just get it elsewhere, you know, do it another time or something like that, I think is a really problematic assumption. So I started digging into it and thinking about it and writing about it and, you know…

Kim: You brought up so many blind spots. And this is why we need diversity, people. It’s not… I don’t wanna hear one more white dude complain about he won’t get a damn job in tech. This is, you don’t deserve the job in tech that requires this blind spot to be found. Let’s, let’s be clear about that. That’s what’s shifting. It’s like I said before, who gets to determine what the qualifications for this industry are have changed because the needs have changed. Now you need individuals with lived experiences that you do not have to create products and services that minimize harm and keep you from having a risk management or crisis management issue.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

Kim: And that speaks to that. So it’s…

Dr. Gilliard: Well let me, let me interject one small thing. So, I grew up in Detroit. And so in Detroit… I’m more aware of it in Detroit than in other places.

Kim: OK, OK. Let me be clear. Let’s be clear. Are you in Detroit proper or you in one of the suburbs?

Dr. Gilliard: I grew up in Detroit. [Laughs]

18:58

Kim: OK, there you go. You grew up with the potholes in the street so damn big they could fit a car.

Dr. Gilliard: I grew up in the 313. Like, no doubt about that.

Kim: There you go. OK, OK.

Dr. Gilliard: And it’s, you can still see a lot of the vestiges of redlining. In some ways that it is so clear in ways that it’s maybe not as clear in other cities, in that you can drive down… Yeah, you can drive down one street. So there’s a street called Mack.

Kim: Yeah, Mack. Yep.

Dr. Gilliard: OK, you know Mack, and one side is Detroit, and one side is Grosse Pointe.

Kim: Yes.

Dr. Gilliard: And it’s…

Kim: A totally—it is night and day. It is very… it is so obvious that it could not have been anything but intentional.

Dr. Gilliard: And I grew up close to 8 Mile, so I grew up off of 6 Mile.

Kim: OK, OK.

20:00 

Dr. Gilliard: You know, so two miles. Which has typically again been a kind of delineator for Detroit; Detroit and not Detroit. And so to think about all the ways that government policy—because wealth for so long was dictated by—or not dictated by, but a large way that people built generational wealth in America was through housing. I think that’s a fair thing to say. And because Black folx were denied that, all the ways that that plays out in terms of education, and health, and the kind of food and water you’re able to drink and eat; all those things, because of policy that many people still—in 2020—don’t know was intentional. Right? They don’t know, they’re not aware of that. And I mean, I encourage people, “Go look at the HOLC maps.” You know, there’s…

Kim: What is that?

Dr. Gilliard: The Homeowners Loan Corporation built maps at the behest of the government, made these maps. And you can see, there’s a site called Mapping Inequality, and Mapping Inequality has high-res maps for all these areas. So Detroit, Chicago…

Kim: Baltimore.

Dr. Gilliard: I don’t, I can’t. Yeah.

Kim: Atlanta.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. Yeah, like dozens and dozens of big cities. I encourage you, look at those maps.

Kim: LA.

21:41

Dr. Gilliard: Oh, gosh, yeah. And you wanna talk about LA and Silicon Valley, I mean read “[The] Color of Law,” you know. And so they—and I encourage you to look at those maps and then to think about, you know, and to look at sort of present day maps. You know, where is the incinerator? Who has toxins in their water? Where are the best schools? You know, all those things, and you will see the parallels between then and now. You know, in pretty stark contrast.

[Interlude]

23:14

Dr. Gilliard: …parallels between then and now. You know, in pretty stark contrast.

Kim: It is so funny that you mention this because this is the argument I have with every one of these fake fucking progressive folx when you want to talk about… first of all, I need to implore you to stop tellin’ Black and brown people how to damn vote, or how they should think. We have lived experiences that you do not understand. And if one more white “woke” person tells me how that I am less of a caring person or kind person because I do not prioritize climate change, you can kiss my ass. Because it—climate change—has been in our communities from day one. We know what the hell the problem is. We have—Flint is where it is because of the climate issues.

Where they put—exactly what you said—where they put the landfills are in our communities. Where they put nuclear plants and shit like that is in our communities. You’re only interested now because it’s affecting y’all ass. And I love animals, but every time y’all see a damn something in the ocean with plastic around its neck, you wanna holla. When you see all these things that have been in our communities for so long, now you wanna holla.

What I say though, is climate change is a nice-to-have. For us, getting home safely is a must. And also, if you asses prioritize the most vulnerable and listen to the people in these communities, climate change issues will be taken care of because these people next to these plants and everything, know how best, ’cause they’ve been trying to protect themselves forever from… minimizing their risk.

24:59

And I’m gonna—as soon as I get off here—I am gonna do a live called “Hiring for Your Blind Spots.” You just hit me with that. That’s just like… because this is where we cause harm. As a Black woman I understand, and I am pretty much at the bottom of the barrel. But you know that there’re people who in society are below me, and namely those are trans Black women, Black and brown women. So what I’m gonna do when I wanna have a conversation, or when I wanna learn, I’m gonna follow individuals on Twitter. I’m gonna ask them to come on the show to share their stories.

I’m gonna—and that’s why I loved about the Dwyane Wade family story, Dwyane and Gabrielle Union—when their daughter spoke to them about—or communicated who she was—they went to the people who knew best. They say they went to the whole damn cast of “Pose”, [Dr. Gilliard laughs appreciatively] “Hey, can help y’all us with this?”

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

25:59

Kim: Why can’t… this again speaks to the—in our space—the blind spots. We’re so used to believin’ our own bullshit that if there’s a problem, we don’t go to the experts because again, we have the blue check, we the expert, and we think that covers all kinds of domains and we cause harm.

So yeah, that that’s just sticking in my head because as you’re talking about this redlining—because it’s very obvious in some communities—and Detroit is one that’s still very obvious.

Dr. Gilliard: Mmhm. Yeah.

Kim: A lot of other cities, there’s a lot of gentrification—and there’s some gentrification going on in Detroit—but those lines, that stock line that you said about Mack, is there. And so how is that showing up online?

26:46

Dr. Gilliard: So yeah, so I started referring to this—tech policies, investment decisions, practices that disproportionately harm Black communities, marginalized folx—I refer to it as digital redlining. There’s a lot of ways that it affects, and I…

Kim: Would you call that what your students were experiencing?

Dr. Gilliard: Yes. Now, and I should note that most of my students are not Black. But they—again, so I…

Kim: You’re at community college though; that’s somethin’ different.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, I’m at a community college.

Kim: Yup, that’s the difference. [Laughs]

27:31

Dr. Gilliard: I mean, there’s a way that they were affected that they wouldn’t be if they were at University of Michigan. And it has real… I mean, people won’t wanna—I imagine that people would think this is overblown. But if you think about what access to information… how it can change your life, how it can change your health. The ability… so, like a real quick example: I had a friend who was feeling really ill this weekend, and I said, “Well,”—and she has health insurance—and I said, “Well, if you have MyChart or whatever it is, you know…”—if you have insurance, a lot of places are now offering you a tele-visit—because she didn’t want to leave the house. And she was able to do that and get some medicine and not leave the house. And she’s doing well.

Now, just take that—and that’s for something, maybe she had the flu, maybe she has a cold; she was not feeling well. But she was able to do that small thing because she has health insurance and Internet and somebody who knows the Internet, maybe, or remembered something slightly that she didn’t remember; all those things.

And so that’s where—what in many cases is a minor health issue, but many people are not having minor health issues—and so the ability to see a doctor online in your home could have some real serious—either positive or negative—health outcomes just by the fact that you have not only insurance—I mean, and that’s another conversation [Kim laughs]—but just havin’ broadband, you know. And so all the ways that access to information can affect…

Kim: Shapes.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah!

Kim: And shapes how our perspective on the world is.

29:33

Dr. Gilliard: Right, right! I mean, it’s kind of a cliche going around, but it’s true that a lot of misinformation and disinformation is free right now, and a lot of the good information is behind paywalls. You know? [Laughs]

Kim: Woo! And let’s talk about that because I see that a lot. Exact… oh my word. Yes!

Dr. Gilliard: And so this is true for students too because a lot of people don’t understand how journal access works at institutions and that the more money your institution has, the better journal access they have. So…

Kim: And—I’m gonna add to that—and when you matriculate out that system, you no longer have that [inaudible] access. Because I’m finishing up my doctoral program, and I had to, “Hey, what is the alumni research thing like?” Cause I’m a researcher. I need access to research journals. I’m not paying thousands of dollars for this shit.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah. Yeah.

Kim: Wow!

Dr. Gilliard: And so my students are as intelligent and enterprising as anything. And so, and again, I don’t like to overstate this, but there are ways that they are—denying them access to knowledge is a detriment to society—I’ll just put it that way.

31:04

Kim: No it’s not—that’s not overstating it at all. Because what I just wrote down is why I have argument constantly about equality versus equity.

Dr. Gilliard: Mmhm.

Kim: Because everyone is—so people will say, “They’re going to college.” So that’s equal. But as an equity issue, because they don’t have access to the same information and to gain—which will allow them to gain the same knowledge and skills at the same level as somebody from Stanford or the University of Michigan or Emory or UCLA.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

Kim: Wow! You just blew my fuckin’… OK, you gotta wait, sir, because you just…

Dr. Gilliard: Oh, I’m sorry. [Laughs]

Kim: You just blew my fuckin’ mind! I just like unpacked that right there. This is why—and I want to tease this out a bit, so give me a second—’cause I need to get this for my classroom—so my audience is my class—so I need to tease this out for you people. So this is why, this is another great example of why equality is bullshit.

So, whew… and you talked—let’s go back to this redlining thing. So I know—because Kroger is in Detroit, so OK—Kroger where I am, in the county—there’s a long county, it goes from the north of the city down to the south of the city—and yet for the same county, there’re totally different experiences—Kroger related, let’s talk about Kroger. [Dr. Gilliard laughs]

32:39

The Kroger up north—on the north side of town—would be the Kroger where the athletes and the celebrities live. So I get that they have a different stock of items then the one that’s south, which is in the ‘hood. It’s just in a Black neighbourhood, it’s just the ‘hood. And so, what we’re seeing now is, the Kroger’s on the south end of the town, they’re putting up these plastic bulletproof partitions around certain areas in the store, which they are not doing on the north side of town. And so if you looked at it from what you would think is an objective eye, you’re saying, “Well, they’re doing that for theft prevention,” right?

What I—I need people to go a little deeper than that, because let’s talk about why the differences are so stark from the north side of town to the south side of town in the same fucking county. Because this makes no sense. When you talked about home ownership: this is why certain cities annex themselves off because they don’t want to pay certain—they don’t want their taxes to go to certain communities. But you’re talking about the same county just affluent up north and poor down at the bottom of the county. And the ones up north—and I like people to think about this, because let’s just talk about education-wise, because you’re talking about information and who gets access to information.

Schools are funded by homeowners, via taxes. Well, in the same county, the housing up north is gonna bring in far more taxes than what’s down below, because many of them don’t have houses; they’re living in apartments—multi-person units, however they call that. So they’re not getting the tax base from homeowners. That money goes directly into the school systems. And tell me why the schools in the same county, the ones up north are better funded, better equipped… Same county, and yet those students can have a better public school experience—or, there’s a shitload of private schools up there for them to attend, where down south, that’s all they got, is the free ones, right?

35:23

So then you’re talking about people who are already marginalized and many not working jobs that can make ends meet. Yeah, there’s some people here who just gonna be criminal. I get that. But that’s everywhere. That’s not uniquely in our communities. Although the data—the narrative is such—the data does not prove that out. To me, it’s traumatizing to be a Black person, to go into a fucking grocery store, and there’re plastic partitions over the damn razors, over the condoms.

Dudes, don’t play with me with this bullshit. Y’all write that off on your taxes as losses.  Don’t play with me as if it’s a big like, “oh my god,” it’s personally coming out of your check, or your company. Yes, there is some theft going on. But don’t tell me you not workin’ them numbers at tax time to make that payoff for you. Do not tell me that. So I don’t even get that: as a part of business, you understand that there’s some—there’s gonna be theft as a part of business; that’s an outcome of doing business.

And I know people going to say, “But Kim, that’s wrong.” But that’s bullshit, y’all, because there’s no equity. I could say—if those schools were funded the same way, if those streets were patched up the same way, if all things were equal and that was happening—then yeah, put up the partitions. But because they aren’t it is just… it is redlining; it is discriminatory; and it’s disgusting to me. And I will not, unless I—because I don’t like to use absolutes—unless I have to, I will not be going into Kroger. I’m done.

37:24

Dr. Gilliard: And I don’t know if you did this intentionally, but that leads into another thing that I talk about a lot…

Kim: OK, I’ma fake like I did it intentionally, so go ‘head. [Dr. Gilliard laughs] Go ahead, sir. Yeah, I did that intentionally! [Laughs]

Dr. Gilliard: Well played! Well played! [Both laugh] It’s the surveillance in stores and things like that and the rationales that are used to strip people of their privacy and dignity and to surveil people—you know, accumulate data on them—in the name of safety, or convenience. Because Amazon is pushing this—and it might seem like I’m jumping wildly, but they’re intimately connected.

Kim: No, everything’s connected. So you’re not jumping wildly. I need people to see the connections. Go ‘head.

Dr. Gilliard: Amazon is pushing these—you know, I was just talking about this online today—Amazon is pushing these cashier-less grocery stores. And you probably have also seen that a lot of stores are trying to go cashless. Which is really about—and they even go so far as to make the argument that they don’t want to take cash because it’s more sanitary that way, you know? So given where—our current status—where society is right now, you can see where that will lead. And again, a thing I didn’t know—and so I just say this because I didn’t know this—there is no federal law that says a place has to take cash. Different cities have passed laws mandating that; there’s no federal law that says that.

39:03

Kim: So let’s talk about why is this an important issue to you?

Dr. Gilliard: Because I think that people should be able to go… I believe in obscurity. And so what I mean by that is people should be able to go about their business, and as long as they’re not harming anyone, do things and be obscure to law enforcement, to companies, to other people who don’t know them. Like, I should be able to go about my day, and people who don’t know me, and I’m not botherin’ anybody, like just do my thing. Companies don’t want you to do that. Amazon doesn’t want to do that. Facebook, you name it. Law enforcement does not want you to do that. Eliminating cash is a way of enforcing that.

Kim: Mmhm, so trackin’ yo’ ass. Goddamn!

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, exactly.

Kim: Shit!

Dr. Gilliard: And it’s a method of control. Because then it—and again, I mean—there’s a long list of ways, but just to think about what it means—again, and this is gonna hit on marginalized people more—what it means to track where they are, what they buy, what they eat, who they’re with; you know, all kinds of things that you’ll be able to tell by tracking people’s movements and spending habits.

40:30

Kim: And it also—if you pull that out—it also becomes a barrier or an extra… because most—a lot—of poor people are unbanked. So now ain’t nobody givin’ them no card for free. You can get cash, but no one’s giving you a card that you can recharge or whatever for free.

Dr. Gilliard: And further, this is gonna eliminate a bunch of jobs.

Kim: And we already see that, yeah.

Dr. Gilliard: And so, I mean, these things are all connected. I I think they are.

Kim: No, they are. Definitely.

Dr. Gilliard: And how we go from thinking about redlining to privacy and surveillance and to autonomy and obscurity; I think they’re all connected.

[Interlude]

42:36

Dr. Gilliard: I think they’re all connected.

Kim: I didn’t even… and it’s so funny how everybody is always like pushing, pushing this, pushing cashless, pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing these things, and we’re not… but we’re pushing them out of our convenience and not thinking…. Because I can tell you: when my Amazon package ain’t here in two days—and now they got it at one—I’m like, “Where the fuck is my package?” And then I have to stop and think, what does that take? Because I didn’t tell you when the Apple Map car came by, I was still sittin’ in my car and it came by again. And guess what was right behind it? A Prime Amazon truck.

Dr. Gilliard: [Laughs] Of course. Of course.

Kim: [Laughs] And so it is—when we think about our convenience—it’s incumbent upon us to think about systems and not silos. Because for me to get my package here in a day, that is on another coast, requires some ingenuity on their part, that I don’t see under the hood how people are negatively impacted.

Dr. Gilliard: Right, right.

Kim: Just so I can get… I mean, literally people are going—I know people who will order one… shit, like one seasoning; not trying to pack up a whole bunch of stuff to put in the box. And I’ve done it. And I’ve done it. Like, “Oh, I need this.” Some $4 item, and I pay my—I have Prime—but that doesn’t nearly enough cover the cost of that supply chain.

44:18

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, and I think rendering those things invisible to us is an important part of how it’s done…

Kim: On purpose.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, exactly.

KC: Yes. They cover up all the logistics. Because this is the thing I said before, and I said this in 2018—when did… 2017 or 18 when Amazon bought Whole Foods—I was only excited about—I told people I understood the ramifications of who Amazon was and what they were trying to be—the reason I was kind of excited coming from a business strategy perspective is that for the first time, there was a company big enough to take on Walmart. Because these are not retail companies, these are actually logistics companies. There are companies who have processes, procedures, and policies in place down to the nth degree, that they could pop out Christmas, put in Valentine’s, they could pop out Yom Kippur, put in Kwanza. I mean, they have… [Dr. Gilliard laughs] It’s all about the moving parts for them.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah.

45:30

Kim: And so, what I was excited to see is how that would shake up the Walmart model. And that’s when you saw them closin’ Sam’s Clubs and stuff because they didn’t have to be financially… they didn’t have to reinvent. So a lot of these old big companies don’t have to change anything unless they’re forced to. Won’t change anything unless they’re forced to. Unfortunately though, Amazon—although they forced Walmart to look at their systems and reevaluate and streamline—Walmart’s not trying to get into Ring surveillance. [Both laugh] They’re not doin’—they don’t have AWS. Walmart’s not doing a lot of things that Amazon—when you really think about how they’re having a bigger impact on all the years that IBM was around, I mean, that they were innovating.

Dr. Gilliard: And I don’t think a lot of people know what AWS is, to be honest, you know?

Kim: Well, I’m speaking because this is a technology kind of audience. But yeah, I know my mama don’t know what the fuck it is. [Laughs]

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, and that’s a big reason why Amazon can operate at a loss with the other stuff—until they put you out of business—it’s ’cause they have AWS. I mean, they’re suing the government because they didn’t get their war cloud, you know? [Laughs] I mean, yeah…

47:01

Kim: So, we’ve talked about a lot. [Dr. Gilliard laughs] As I told you we would, because I find it—and that’s why I like to bring academics on; this is why I like to bring Black academics on—is because I like to dispel the myth that only the white narrative is the is the authority on this and that you can’t find these individuals. You’re fucking not looking, because I can find ’em. I mean, what did I do to you? We follow each other, I sent you a DM. I can do it, I’m sure other people could, you know? It’s like, the excuses for causing harm are no longer acceptable.

And we’re talking about perspectives. I mean, you just opened my mind to—and I’m an educator—and you opened my mind up to so… just that whole community college issue and then the not finding the information and assuming it’s not there, not having the experience to know that your critical thinking says, “Hmm, if it’s not there, there’s something wrong with the search,” and not that there’s no information on this thing.

So think about—let’s pull this out. Your students had you to help. Think about those who don’t. Think about… oh, my god, this is… [laughs] my mind is just like, spinning right now, because it’s gonna force me… ’cause I can tell you, I’ve been very much—I’m very flippant at times when I’m like, “Dudes, find it.” [Dr. Gilliard laughs] Now it’s gonna help me evaluate my strategy of asking, “How are you looking?” Adding that into my query.

48:53

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah. And if I could add another thing—I mean, and you mentioned this earlier—so you have strategies if there’s journal access that you don’t have. I have strategies, I mean, I have tons of friends. In my experience, students don’t have that, you know. And they’re not gonna pay for an article—which I encourage them not to, you know—but again, they run into a wall, and then they turn around. And I try and give them some strategies to smash through the wall, climb over it, go around it, whatever. Even if it’s like #ICanHazPDF on Twitter or whatever it is, a lot of them don’t—no one’s giving ’em those strategies because it seems illegitimate to get information other than in the ways you’ve been told you’re supposed to get it.

Kim: Oh, it’s so funny that you just mentioned that, because one of the pushbacks I had constantly when I was in high school level is people invalidating Wikipedia.

Dr. Gilliard: Oh god, yeah.

Kim: Wikipedia has a lot of—for my students, I would advise you to start there. We’re not talking about plagiarizing, but damn if it’s… the resources that are in Wikipedia, the links to real substantive articles? Why would you start from scratch? Why are we—hell, we’re copying and pasting code off Stack Overflow every day—why would we expect students… [Dr. Gilliard laughs] See, but we’re not teaching students how the real world works.

And this is one of the reasons that Stack Overflow gets on my damn nerves is because they don’t take the responsibility of understanding the impact they have on world systems because people are just going in there copying and pasting code without understanding it, and not understanding the bias behind the code and all these other things. They’re not—to me, they have not taken that role, their role in that seriously enough for me at all. And yet we also aren’t teaching students the best how we are in the world. Nobody’s reinventing Angular; shit, use Angular, you know? Or you know, JavaScript, that’s why you have frameworks and all these things, nobody’s reinventing this.

51:08 

But yet we’re asking students to start from scratch every time. And if we’re saying start from scratch every time and they hit a wall, it does not exist. What? Goddamn, dude, just… I wish y’all could see my face. I’m just like… [Both laugh] Oh, wow, oh you just… so you might not be a person who talks a lot, but the things you say, you have really hit me.

Dr. Gilliard: Oh, I I appreciate that. That means a lot to me.

Kim: Yeah, because— and so this is another thing. So my podcast producer, he’s—first of all, he says, “I love when you talk to academics, y’all talk in paragraphs.” [Both laugh] Which I’m sure he means it makes it easier for him to edit, but he is always like, “Oh, my god, did you, the things…” I’m like—and I have ADHD, so I won’t remember the damn conversation until I listen to the podcast episode. Oh, but, wow. This is why I take these notes. And I did bookmark “The Color of Law.” So I’m adding that to the #CauseAScene Amazon wish list for somebody to go on and pick that up for me. But what would you like to say in closing?

52:37

Dr. Gilliard: Ah, I don’t know. I mean, thanks for listening. I mean, I really appreciate this opportunity. You know, I watch you engage, and I admire the way you engage. It takes a lot of courage. And, you know, I know you don’t like, I think you don’t like when people say that, but I’ll take like…

Kim: From a Black man, I’ll take it.

Dr. Gilliard: I risk it and ah, yeah. I mean, I think it is gonna take all of us doing what we gotta do. Because, I mean, yeah, if—I guess that, what that leads me to is, I think there’s a lot of nihilism, you know, a lot of, like, fatalistic or, you know, tech determinism that tells us that where we are is where we have to be.

Kim: I’m so optimistic, because that’s bullshit.

Dr. Gilliard: Yeah, and I know you don’t believe that. You’re fightin’ it, you know, I’m fightin’ it, you know? And I mean, I just encourage people in their way, you know, whatever kind of fighter you are or can be to do that.

53:36

Kim: Yeah and to cause a scene, ’cause… everybody does, I tell people: you can cause a scene in your own way. You’re doing research. You’re informing me—’cause I share many of the articles that you—so everybody can’t be the mic like I am. I recognize that I put myself in a position that takes some hits that other people can’t afford to take hits on.

And so I make that my responsibility. But I’m not doing it alone because I have you and other people behind me feeding me information, and showing me which directions to go in to ask further questions. And that’s why I want to amplify the work that you individuals are doing because you are informing me so I can inform others. And again it talks about strategy. You know, one of the tenants of #CauseAScene is: intention without strategy is chaos. And there’s so much chaos that we experience as people who don’t know that there’s no strategy behind what they do. But it also speaks to a question that someone asked me, a white woman asked me, because she was getting challenged on her activism.

And she’s like, “Has anybody ever said to you that you center yourself in your activism?” I’m like, “No, I’m a Black woman. We don’t have the luxury of centering ourselves.” I recognize that I got here on the shoulders of others. And so I’m gonna also continue to do that and also put others on my shoulder. So, I wanna thank you for allowing me to be on your shoulder.

55:10

Dr. Gilliard: Oh, wow. Wow. OK. Yeah. Wow.

Kim: If you could see his face! [Laughs]

Dr. Gilliard: I mean, I don’t think of it that way, but I will try to accept that compliment. Thank you.

Kim: Oh, that’s so funny, I’m in tears now ’cause your face was so… [Laughs] Thank you for being on the show.

Dr. Gilliard: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Kim: And have a wonderful day.

Dr. Gilliard: All right, you too.

Kim: Thank you. Bye bye.

Dr. Gilliard: Bye.

Dr. Chris Gilliard

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