The ‘three black teenagers’ search shows it is society, not Google, that is racist

Google’s search results for the term “racist” on social media have been debunked this year in March. The internet meme, which has been shared over 60,000 times, brought back a video of the search that sparked predictable emotional reactions from people. The search displayed negative images of black teenagers, including mugshots, alongside generic happy images of white teenagers. The search results lacked any explanation for why these negative perceptions of black teenagers could be formed and why there were an excessive number of mugshots. A Twitter user named Alli Kabir posted a video this week showing two specific searches he conducted on Google.

The nature of stock photography and alt tagging, algorithms, and search engine optimization (SEO) makes it difficult for a person to sense if searches are yielding results that would lead to outrage towards Google.

To ensure that their articles and products reach the top of search engine results, companies and websites use SEO. Google, being a search engine, collects data from the internet to provide the most accurate and popular search results. However, Google does not produce or tag its own images. Nevertheless, once you have the knowledge, it allows you to directly express your outrage more accurately.

Stock images and news websites typically provide the images that are displayed for this specific search. Google relies on these alternative tags to deliver you precise results, which are the descriptive terms assigned to an image or article by its creator, namely, a person.

In the face of a barrage of racist tweets, the US clothing brand Old Navy opted to feature an interracial family in its advertising. This decision seems to reflect the prevailing biases of society, suggesting that companies believe white individuals would not purchase their products if they were advertised by black models. The demographic composition of society itself is not inherently racist. However, there is a greater potential for companies to seek out images of smiling white teenagers, resulting in a larger representation of white individuals in these populations. It is worth noting that black individuals constitute 13% of the US population and 3% of the British population. In order to cater to advertising companies, photographers capture generic images of models and then assign relevant tags to these images in the realm of stock photography.

The term “African American/Caucasian adolescent” might be linked to the depiction that accompanies a narrative about a Caucasian or African American adolescent engaging in unlawful activities. These news photographs serve as the origin of numerous “unfavorable” visuals and police photographs that are displayed, and authors will provide a description of the visuals in the caption and alternative text whenever a news website releases an article.

Instead of his mugshot, the media portrayed him with a smiling college photo. Turner has been depicted as the virtuous white swimming star with a promising future ahead of him – except for the moment he decided to attempt to rape an unconscious woman. This narrative was supported by images chosen to depict them with the “young black thug” stereotype. The two black teenagers were portrayed as criminals and their deaths were attributed to themselves. The perception is evident if you compare the media’s portrayal of young black men Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, who were 12 and 17 respectively when they were shot dead, and that of Brock Turner, 20, who has just been convicted of sexual assault. In western countries, one of the fears some seek to exploit is the perception of black men as “dangerous”. News organizations desire page views, and unfortunately many view the promotion of fear as an excellent way to reach a large audience.

These stories are especially intriguing to a news audience – even if unconsciously or unintentionally, a determination has been made that the apprehension of individuals from the black community garners 75% of the news attention. According to a research conducted by the US advocacy organization Color of Change, black individuals make up 51% of those arrested for violent crime in New York City.

Advertising, the press, cinema, and law enforcement exhibit racism in more discreet, deceitful manners. However, it is not comparable to the overt and significant segregation witnessed in the United States prior to the civil rights movement. Society continues to harbor racist tendencies. No, Google does not promote racism.

Google can be considered racist because it reflects the subconscious and institutional prejudices of our society. However, it is important to note that the top search results, which often contain negative images of black teenagers, are not a reflection of the thoughts or intentions of the search engines or their creators. It is necessary for us to acknowledge that search engines and computers do not possess the ability to think or have personal beliefs, and we must accept this fact.

If young black people want to see positive images of themselves, they have to start sharing, reading, searching, and writing. This is not the only way to change the negative perception of black people, especially black teenagers, but it is a way to begin.