In an old skit from Writer and Comedian, George Carlin, he talks about how the world has become one big technological “club” and if a person was not a member of “Big Business” or part of a “Mega-Corporation” that person was not part of the “club”. In fact, most Americans don’t qualify to become part of the “club” Carlin spoke about. Only about one percent of the entire American population actually qualifies to be a part of the “club”. It’s this one percent that control just about everything Americans hold dear as well as coordinating all of the nefarious ideas Ruja Benjamin was talking about in her piece, “Catching Our Breath: Critical Race STS and the Carceral Imagination”. The problem that must first be overcome in discussing this piece is the idea of Critical Race Theory. What is Critical Race Theory? The best and most simple answer to explain critical race theory that I could find appeared in the New York Post on February 3, 2021 and was written by Max Eden: “Critical race theory … holds that all whites are oppressors, that America is an inherently racist country and that for nonwhite people to be ‘liberated’ or for white people to be ‘anti-racist,’ we must interpret human affairs through the lens of identity politics and pursue left-wing causes.” Much of what George Carlin was talking about ties in with this idea. Carlin spoke about the Club and how it controls the technology all Americans use. Unfortunately, with the rise in popularity without full knowledge of what the term Critical Race Theory means, Big Business takes advantage of the lack of knowledge – something both Carlin and Benjamin talk about – and has various types of artificial Intelligence looking for ways to exploit minorities for financial gain. It’s this method of exploitation that keeps people caged…of sorts.
According to the University of Michigan’s Carceral State Project (2018-19 Symposium), “the term carceral state often calls to mind institutions of confinement like jails, detention centers, prisons, but… it also comprises a wide range of policies, practices, and institutions that scrutinize individuals and communities both before and after their contact with the criminal justice system.” So Big Business isn’t necessarily keeping people locked in cages or throwing “the little guy” in jail, what they are doing is limiting information and stealing information at the same time that keeps groups of people limited in what they can and cannot accomplish. Ruja Benjamin sums this up when she says, “the suffocating tentacles of the carceral state embrace schools, hospitals, and other institutions that seek to control poor and racialized people.” The Carceral State, in my opinion developed after studying the ideas of Critical Race and Postcolonialism as well as taking an in-depth look at Ruja Benjamin’s piece is an artificial intellengence that seeks to oppress groups of people while allowing them to believe what they are receiving is all for individual betterment and betterment of the world in near proximity. This connects directly with the ideas from previous studies that show mankind has now become a society that cares little for others. “Black people routinely are either degraded in popular representations of progress or completely written out of futuristic visions.” Two weeks prior in class, we were presented with the ideas that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will one day come to control mankind overtly and covertly. The Carceral State presented by Ruja Benjamin shows how the covert operation has already begun. Awareness must be raised. While this AI is quite intelligent, it is far from sentient. The AI of the Carceral State is not yet capable of acting on its own. This ripple effect of negativity and holding groups of people back can be slowed.
Ruja Benjamin also mentions ideas of postcolonialism in her piece. I have recently begun a phenomenological study on the topic of postcolonialism that will also have measurements founded in the use of Grounded Theory. My own research shows that the very reason that colonization is shown with such violence and negativity in the media and in education is because there are no other positive examples in human history. This is also where much bigotry stems from. If writers and scholars forget that aspect, materials become unrelatable to target audiences and then the hope of any messages against discrimination being relayed are lost. This is also where the carceral State comes in to oppress.
To counter this notion and unescapable connection towards negativity, Ruja Benjamin states, “When scholars set out to study the values, assumptions, and desires that shape science and technology, we must also remain attentive to the racial anxieties and fears that shape the design of technoscience.” The anxieties spoken upon are from history itself and a desire to avoid repetition – especially the negative aspects of it. Ruja Benjamin refers to “algorithmic discrimination”. It is the latest form of discrimination where technology that is supposed to help and make the world better in fact does more damage to the targeted demographics than good. George Carlin spoke on this phenomenon when he said, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Algorithmic discrimination is what happens when studies are done on “values” and then the information gleaned from the study is used in both positive and negative ways. Ruja Benjamin referred to this idea when she spoke about happenings in the health insurance industry against minorities. Only continued awareness can stem the tide.
Ruja Benjamin lays out ideas as to how we can stop the damage and reverse the tide of negativity. “As I have argued elsewhere, we can conceptualize race itself as a kind of technology, one that creates parallel social universes and premature death, and which requires routine maintenance and upgrade.” If we are to fix any and all types of discrimination society must remember “competing imaginaries can very well coexist.”