Futility of “Colorblindness”: Georgetown, D.C., Retailers Use of Smartphone Application Devolves to White=Good, All Others=Bad, Paradigm

Virginia Slave Law, 1705
Virginia Slave Law, 1705

From one of my previous posts on “colorblindness,” which applies to the present post–

The majority culture believes in “colorblindness,” but also believes that the majority of the society (whites) are better than everyone else in the society. Open expression of this idea is not socially acceptable, but the institutions of society are empowered to act solely for the benefit or advantage of the majority white population without apology. Questioning of those white hegemonic institutions is met with defensiveness as well as a blaming of the questioner.

In the Washington Post, there is a story about retailers in Georgetown, D.C., using an smartphone application to communicate with other application users and the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department about persons that have raised their suspicions. Most of those persons rendered as suspicious are Black.

I have several concerns about this application (and its users):

  • Persons are having their pictures taken and published in electronic form and accused of breaking laws with only innuendo, suspicion, and lack of hard facts.
  • Police officers are participants in the application, potentially and likely coloring their views of all nonwhite people, their minds filled with posts of suspicious nonwhite people. (Likewise, this effect can affect the rest of the users of the application.)
  • The application nor its users deal with persistent retail shrink (or inside-job shoplifting). Nothing to date has been able to address it. Focusing on suspicion of a particular race of people (which can be based on biased thoughts) is a harmful and destructive distraction from the real issues of shoplifting and its close relative retail shrink.
  • It appears that Black people are essentially not welcome in a particular portion of the United States (Georgetown, D.C.) based on their race, with participants in interstate commerce. [A tidbit from Georgetown’s history from Wikipedia–“Slave trading in Georgetown began in 1760, when John Beattie established his business on O Street and conducted business at other locations around Wisconsin Avenue. Slave trading continued until the mid-19th century, when it was banned.[25]” See also a column in the Washington PostGeorgetown’s Hidden History by Andrew Stephen.]

Shoplifting is a complex, persistent issue among all human beings; mere reliance on racial bias is unacceptable.