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California State University Los Angeles Sexist Classification of Black Women Discussion

“I felt that there had to be some great resources for young people of color their age, if only I could locate them. I quickly turned to the computer I used for my research (I was pursuing doctoral studies at the time), but I did not let the group of girls gather around me just yet. I opened up Google to enter in search terms that would reflect their interests, demographics, and information needs, but I liked to prescreen and anticipate what could be found on the web, in order to prepare for what might be in store. What came back from that simple, seemingly innocuous search was again nothing short of shocking: with the girls just a few feet away giggling and snorting at their own jokes, I again retrieved a Google Search results page filled with porn when I looked for “black girls.” By then, I thought that my own search history and engagement with a lot of Black feminist texts, videos, and books on my laptop would have shifted the kinds of results I would get. It had not. In intending to help the girls search for information about themselves, I had almost inadvertently exposed them to one of the most graphic and overt illustrations of what the advertisers already thought about them: Black girls were still the fodder of porn sites, dehumanizing them as commodities, as products and as objects of sexual gratification. I closed the laptop and redirected our attention to fun things we might do, such as see a movie down the street. This best information, as listed by rank in the search results, was certainly not the best information for me or for the children I love. For whom, then, was this the best information, and who decides? What were the profit and other motives driving this information to the top of the results? How had the notion of neutrality in information ranking and retrieval gone so sideways as to be perhaps one of the worst examples of racist and sexist classification of Black women in the digital age yet remain so unexamined and without public critique? That moment, I began in earnest a series of research inquiries that are central to this book” (Noble 17-18).


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