Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rethinking black folks' fears of technology: Notes from Adam Banks's CLA presentation

Bill Clinton and Al Gore offering an apology in 1997 for the Tuskegee Experiment (1932 - 1972). 

Yesterday, on April 13, at the College Language Association conference, scholar Adam Banks did a lil run on the need for us to reconsider some of our perhaps overly simplified labels of too many black folks being fearful about technology. A lot of us sometimes write black folks off for failing to engage technology, saying that issues like older age contribute to the fearfulness of dealing with things new. But not so fast, said Banks.

What about the Tuskegee Experiment? What about Henrietta Lacks? What about the instances of all the hip kids migrating from one platform to a newer one before the other folks have time to adapt to the presumably old one? These kinds of issues, Banks noted, mean that we can not easily dismiss black folks as being scared for pointless reasons.

Some of the fears or least the distrust that African Americans have concerning technology and science are rooted in distinct histories and collective experiences. Banks implicitly suggested that we should do a better job of making ourselves aware of some of those histories and experiences. Doing so might lead us to think about the fears and trepidations differently, at least be a little more sympathetic.

The other more direct recommendation that he made and the one that has had my mind running was that we should figure out how to make our consciousness of those fears central to the planning and implementation of projects as opposed to simply burying that knowledge in the footnotes or never acknowledging it.

I've been writing a lil series about fear of language since last semester, talking about some of the instances where we might consider how struggles, anxieties, and barriers concerning words and writing might prompt feelings of apprehension at the least. What I heard from Adam Banks gives me reason to further expand the work.

Digital Humanities at CLA 2013  

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