Racial Justice

While problems of police brutality and broader challenges of systemic racism are ingrained in the nation’s DNA, more recent phenomena—such as the use of technology to document said violence, the rise of social movements and digital campaigns to advocate for Black lives, and the growth of intersectionality in civil society amongst immigrant rights, queer liberation, and racial justice movements—have catapulted these issues to the fore. 

As we continue the centuries-long journey of tackling racial injustice in the United States, the Carr Center for Human Rights Racial Justice program focuses on reimagining systems, institutions, and movements to promote racial and economic equity for all. The program strengthens discourse connecting domestic civil rights to global human rights frameworks, and brings together faculty, fellows, students, and the broader University community to collaborate.
 

News and Announcements

See all announcements

Upcoming Events

2021 Nov 30

Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America with Dr. Keisha N. Blain

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Location: 

Zoom Webinar

Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America is a manifesto for anyone committed to social justice. Authored by Carr Center Fellow Keisha N. Blain, the book challenges us to listen to a working-poor, Black woman activist with a disability who was an intellectual of the civil rights movement as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice. Dr. Blain will be joined in discussion by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, to demonstrate how...

Read more about Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America with Dr. Keisha N. Blain

Select Publications

Defunding the Police Might Leave Americans More Surveilled and Less Secure

Defunding the Police Might Leave Americans More Surveilled and Less Secure

Full Text

Over the summer, while announcing the disbanding of a controversial plainclothes unit of the New York City Police Department after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea referred to the need for “21st-century policing” that would use a range of technological tools—ShotSpotter (a sensor system that estimates the location of gunfire), video, DNA, and more—instead of “brute force.” Reliance on such technologies could become the norm as calls for police reform—in particular, the defunding of the police—take root around the country. However, making such changes without adequate public oversight could result in Black people being surveilled and controlled even further.

Read the article. 

: Sushma Raman | Aug 25 2020
: Technology in policing might appear more benign than rogue cops or racist judges, but a look at global trends gives pause.
Last updated on 04/13/2021

Mass Incarceration and The Future: An Urgent Need to Address the Human Rights Implications of Criminal Background Checks and the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Mass Incarceration and The Future: An Urgent Need to Address the Human Rights Implications of Criminal Background Checks and the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Abstract:

Between 70 and 100 million Americans—one in three— currently live with a criminal record. This number is expected to rise above 100 million by the year 2030.

The criminal justice system in the U.S. has over-incarcerated its citizen base; we have 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prison population. America became known as the “incarceration nation” because our prison and jail population exploded from less than 200,000 in 1972 to 2.2 million today, which became a social phenomenon known as mass incarceration. And along the way, there was a subsequent boom in querying databases for data on citizens with criminal records.

Once a person comes in contact with the U.S. criminal justice system, they begin to develop an arrest and/or conviction record. This record includes data aggregated from various databases mostly, if not exclusively, administered by affiliated government agencies. As the prison population grew, the number of background check companies rose as well. The industry has grown and continues to do so with very little motivation to wrestle with morality, data integrity standards, or the role of individual rights.

This paper address the urgent need to look towards a future where background screening decisions and artificial intelligence collide.

Read full paper here. 

 

: Teresa Y. Hodge & Laurin Leonard | Jul 17 2020
: Examining a future where background screening decisions and artificial intelligence collide.
Last updated on 08/04/2020

From Rationality to Relationality: Ubuntu as an Ethical and Human Rights Framework for Artificial Intelligence Governance

From Rationality to Relationality: Ubuntu as an Ethical and Human Rights Framework for Artificial Intelligence Governance

Abstract:

What is the measure of personhood and what does it mean for machines to exhibit human-like qualities and abilities? Furthermore, what are the human rights, economic, social, and political implications of using machines that are designed to reproduce human behavior and decision making? The question of personhood is one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy and it is at the core of the questions, and the quest, for an artificial or mechanical personhood. 

The development of artificial intelligence has depended on the traditional Western view of personhood as rationality. However, the traditional view of rationality as the essence of personhood, designating how humans, and now machines, should model and approach the world, has always been marked by contradictions, exclusions, and inequality. It has shaped Western economic structures (capitalism’s free markets built on colonialism’s forced markets), political structures (modernity’s individualism imposed through coloniality), and discriminatory social hierarchies (racism and sexism as institutions embedded in enlightenment-era rationalized social and gender exclusions from full person status and economic, political, and social participation), which in turn shape the data, creation, and function of artificial intelligence. It is therefore unsurprising that the artificial intelligence industry reproduces these dehumanizations. Furthermore, the perceived rationality of machines obscures machine learning’s uncritical imitation of discriminatory patterns within its input data, and minimizes the role systematic inequalities play in harmful artificial intelligence outcomes.

Read the full paper.

: Sabelo Mhlambi | July 8 2020
: Tech Fellow Sabelo Mhlambi explores how the Sub-Saharan African philosophy of ubuntu reconciles ethical limitations of artificial intelligence.
Last updated on 08/04/2020
See all publications