Week 2: Baldwin and Noble’s Look Into Systems of Power

In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin asserts that the “white world” has formulated a mythology revolving America. Yet this mythology is one whose falseness the Black man is aware of although his countrymen (white world) has yet to come to that realization. For his (white) identity is embedded in that mythology and consequently so are their notions of blackness and to reveal it as such, to admit the mythology is just that, that it is a lie, a falsehood, to renege on what they have defined as blackness would be to give way to the factors with which they conceptualize whiteness. To expose it all as a lie would be to destroy the very foundations of the white identity. It would be an erasure of America and consequently of whiteness. Yet Baldwin seems to suggest that only this would allow for Blacks to emerge from the state of invisibility that they have been condemned to and therefore provide for a mutual state of freedom. Yet the erasure of this mythology is therefore highly problematic for whites for once they are devoid of this binary and the mythology of what America is, with this mirror that reflects only the self and no other what would be seen? I think both Baldwins and Noble’s works speak to issues of representation and the manner in which mythologies are created to serve one group. The systems that create them then gain and maintain power by marginalizing others and Noble demonstrates the manner in which our current society contributes to that. Noble’s research on Google demonstrated how it facilitates and allows its biased searches to be thought of as neutral and how this perpetuates negative representations and essentially the silencing of Black women.

America much like the internet or Google, has made commodities out of the black body so much so that their defining features and characteristics revolve around notions that uphold and perpetuate those falsified and negative definitions of blackness. The supposed neutrality of technology can also be thought of as part of the mythology that surrounds the internet. It was hailed as a space of neutrality that would facilitate a new age of acceptance and understanding yet as Noble has demonstrated it is anything but that. In so the interests of large corporations, such as the Porn industry, are reflected in searches that involve Black women. This conversion of Black women into girls who have been coded as a sexual objects is mistakenly believed to be a result that reflects the unbiased response of an algorithm;the truth is that financial gain on behalf of the Porn industry is truly what is generating said results. These results and the misconception or the mythology of the commercial search engines- Google, then work to misrepresent Black women, objectifying them and I would venture to say perpetuating notions that predate the institution of slavery. What came to my mind when Professor Noble spoke was the manner in which sexuality became an easy way in which to dehumanize, oppress and essentially work towards conceptualizing as an “other”, different racial/ethnic groups. The stereotypical depiction of the Black woman as a Jezebel for example, reduced them to a body and largely rendered them invisible. I would venture to say that the biases of Google similarly aid in marginalizing Black women. Here we can see how our post civil rights society, who sometimes boasts of progress by claiming colorblindness, continues to propel negative definitions of blackness. In so both Nobel and Baldwin call for an acknowledgement from these systems and an erasure of the mythology that aids in perpetuating said notions.

LC Terms: History of the Americas, United States local history, Historiography, Afro Americans , Status and development since emancipation, Political history, Slavery in the United States, Twentieth Century
B) My suggested terms: Counter History, White definitions of Blackness, Racism, Oppressive systems of Power.
Terms that I believe match those in my suggested list: Psychoanalysis and racism, white supremacy movements—United States, Technology and women, Race 

One comment on “Week 2: Baldwin and Noble’s Look Into Systems of Power
  1. Mayra,
    I agree with your breakdown of this issues within the Google mindset of the world, especially America, and the connection of Nobel to Baldwin in terms of “the other” is an excellent way to distinguish what is truly going on in our society.
    To add a point of interest that shows this sexualized perpetuation in another way, one that is not bought and paid for by the porn industry (I would assume/hope), is the self perpetuation that many women (of any race) have participated in: the sexy selfie.
    On Instagram and Facebook the plethora of sexual images that these women produce for the public (I.e. their followers) are the exact images that can be used against this argument that Google’s “biased algorithms alone” make up the basis of this issue.
    What their algorithm does create, and what women (and yes, men too, I’m looking at you sexy man bun posters) is a sense of self that must be shared, but that sense has to be sexy/sexual/sexualized, and that selfie has to appeal to the public, which only consumes sexual images, because other women (and men) have produced sexual images, and the cycle spirals downward from there.
    We have seen fads of the Internet rise and fall for the last twenty five years of its existence in the general public, but a continuous one is the sexual image of the body (as exemplified in Noble’s porn discussions). But since the invention of the digital camera (bathroom selfies, ladies?) the Internet has been a playground of one -up-manship of women displaying themselves for the highest bidder, in this case, views, clickes, “likes”, “winks” or whatever other form of “wealth” they wished to accrue with their image.
    Ultimately, this is a status competition that people are participating in on the Internet, one that is perpetuating and perpetuated by the sexualized images that we ourselves are pushing and consuming through flooding the Internet with our selfies of sexual bodies, which is an ideology, as Nobel has argued, that is defined by the porn industry being able to push their search results to the top. While Noble argued the reality of those searches is not an algorithm based on “popularity”, I would argue that the perpetuation through the sexy selfie is precisely due to the desire of popularity on the Internet, their sexy 15 minutes of fame.

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