ChrisMaverick dotcom

Casual Racism? There’s an app for that!

rhntnp7syfgvp86lj2ruDear Caucasian Friends,

Have you ever said to yourself “hey, if only there were a map that I could load onto my phone that told me where all the negroes were so that I could walk the streets without ever accidentally running into one. I would feel so much safer!”

Well, THESE PEOPLE have you covered. SketchFactor is an app launching this week that helps you avoid “sketchy” neighborhoods. Or, if you happen to find yourself in a sketchy neighborhood, now you can report it so that other white people… err… concerned citizens don’t find themselves in the same predicament! And it’s uh… totally not racist. Really it isn’t!

Seriously, the single greatest proof of a divine being is that someone had to put these people on the planet Earth just for my personal amusement. Look at those smiles! Dan has this look that says “Look, Allison! With our new app, we can now walk safely down the street and you won’t have to worry about clutching your purse from the coloureds!” (in my imagination, you can totally tell that not only does Dan still use the phrase “the coloureds” but you can hear that he spells it with a U) And Allison is totally thinking “We’re geniuses! Everyone will love this! Let us celebrate with Extra large overpriced coffee with an Italian sounding name and then we shall go home and fornicate missionary style while listening to John Cougar Mellencamp!”

I love their website! Seriously, go there! They apparently did not anticipate the backlash, but they have heard it:

It’s no secret. We’ve seen the negative press.

Setting the record straight: SketchFactor is a tool for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

We have a reporting mechanism for racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it. When people actually download the app, they see that this is truly a tool for everyone.

These hit pieces have attacked the founders personally.

How dare you people!!! You’re making them feel bad! They’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just trying to make the world safe for concerned white people… err… citizens! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves! The app clearly states that it isn’t for reporting black neighborhoods. Just sketchy ones! This is for keeping people away from those unkempt spear-chuckers like Jay-Z (he used to deal the Crack, you know) and the other hippity hop gangsters like him! Well-spoken, upstanding law-abiding and well-meaning negroes like Bryant Gumbel, Colin Powell and OJ Simpson (in my imagination Dan and Allison haven’t read a newspaper since before 1994 and that’s why they couldn’t see this coming) have nothing to fear from them!

So I’d hereby like to announce my own apps that I will be developing as companion apps to SketchFactor:

  • BigScore: This is the opposite of SketchFactor. It tells you where all the NICEST neighborhoods are. This way you know exactly where the richest houses are so you can… uh… move there. Not only is there a map to where the nicest houses are, but there’s an updated floor plan for each home so you can congratulate your neighbors on their remodeling. We also offer schematics for your home security system… you know… in case it breaks and you need to cut the wires and silence it. And for pro users, we have a “the neighbors are out” feature that tells you when  your neighbors are out of town for an extended period of time and where they hide their spare key so you can “pick up their mail” for them.
  • iBarrio: This app directs you to locations where you can procure “discount labor” that specializes in childcare and gardening. There’s a handy currency exchange rate calculator. Right now, it only converts US dollars into Mexican pesos, but I’m sure we’ll add other currencies soon…  some day…
  • JungleFevr: This is a multicultural “social networking app” specifically for users of SketchFactor. It’s sort of like Tindr! Using the same database as SketchFactor, users can find “friends” that they would like to “meet” for discrete “encounters.” Prospective encounters can even be sorted by “inches!” And there’s a “husband mode” that disguises the icon as Candy Crush when an unauthorized user picks up your iPhone.
  • DeSpotify: This simply goes through your phone’s music catalog and replaces all album art featuring black people with lovely pictures of Justin Beiber and Pat Boone!
  • MyBlackFriend: Finally, there’s our crown jewel! This simple but elegant app just adds me, Chris Maverick, to the user’s Facebook friend list and makes sure I always appear first when someone looks at your profile, that way people know you’re totally not racist, because you have one black friend! With an in app purchase, you can upgrade to Pro Status which randomly adds a SECOND black friend to your friend list, because everyone knows nothing is more racist than only having one black friend. Even having zero black friends is less racist than having one black friend.

I need to make a Kickstarter or something.

42 comments for “Casual Racism? There’s an app for that!

  1. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    But is there an app that helps you avoid people who use apps that help you avoid black people?

  2. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Why would you want to avoid them? Look how friendly and happy they look! They’re lovely people. I’m totally going to want to use “BigScore” to find them and “say hello”

  3. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Given how off people self-segregate in this world, I can actually imagine that there might be an audience for an app that helps you do that. But, darnit, if you are going to make a self-segregation app, don’t stop at one little demographic. I want an app that helps me self-segregate as finely as humanly possible.

  4. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    What they really need is just a filter for Google Glass so that they can go everywhere and not see anyone they don’t want to see. That will work great.

  5. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    That’s racist, Bryon ! We should just have google glass filters that just made everyone appear white. You know so they’re all equal and unsketchy!

  6. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    So when I saw this I was all OMG STOP BEING RACIST EVERYONE, but upon reading more, I think it actually just is a app that looks at crime data and lets you know “this is where people get mugged most often”. Yes, I understand that crime is linked to poverty which is often correlated with minority neighborhoods, so I can see how it can be established as “racist app” but….maybe it really wasn’t supposed to be? Or am I being a Pollyanna here?

  7. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Sigh. You do realize that the problem is actually the people claiming this to be racist, right?

  8. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Sarah: You are Pollyanna and I love you for it. 🙂

    At least based on their website it actually doesn’t really “do” either thing… it’s based entirely on user input. You’re supposed to just walk around and report “sketchy” behavior whenever you see it. “Sketchy” is intentionally never defined.

    So actually, if enough people download the app and just walk to white neighborhoods and vote them as sketchy and black neighborhoods and vote them as safe, the app will reflect that.

  9. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Vic: explain?

  10. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    oh. Well why isn’t it just an app that aggregates public crime data? I’ll make that app. Its called “get mugged here” and it will just show you where people get mugged most

  11. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Sarah: Can we call it SmugMug instead? Just so that hilarity ensues?

  12. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Say they release this app. And it is just taken at face value, no bullshit racial overtones like the ones implied in your links.

    Just suppose, that the intention is nothing more than what was stated.

    They get some downloads, maybe some people use it to avoid shitty neighborhoods, and that is that.

    Maybe they expand on the app, they do include crime data somehow, say a social network grows around the usage of the app, and overall people, ALL people who use the app, find themselves to be safer, maybe even more conscious of their surroundings, avoiding stupid shit like being blind drunk in a bad part of town, whatever…

    Say all of that is what happens and that was the intent of the app all along.

    Now lets jump back to reality, where a bunch of snarky douchebags decided to play fast and loose with the spades from the deck of life, and now, no matter what the initial intent, at the very least, for the time being this app is tainted by some narrow minded bullshit with no basis in anything other that perceived intent, drummed up to get more clicks.

    So yeah, for me, that is a problem, seeing how unless someone has some secret manifesto of how all blacks and asians should go back to their own country by the two dorks in that pic, they just had their idea trashed for no good fucking reason.

  13. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    So we’ve discovered that Mav is The Real Racist here.

    That’s good to know, I guess.

  14. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Vic: Ok, sure… in a world where everyone behaves altruistically then the app will be devoid of social prejudices. Of course, in that world we wouldn’t need an app like this anyway because there’d be no crime.

    The problem is the loose definition of sketchy, which we know from sociological data is connotative of racial profiling. If there were crime data included as Sarah suggested, then the community usage wouldn’t matter and it might maybe be useful (and such apps already exist. And are also under scrutiny because they tend to 1-unfairly designate lower income and therefore black neighborhoods, 2-do very little to lower crime anyway… the same is true of the numerous child predator registry apps)

    Your suggestion is like saying “hey, lets make a public internet file sharing system for people to share their user owned content and that will be great” and then arguing “no, there’s no way this is going to be full of porn and pirated movies.”

  15. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    The “problem” is ignoring the stated intent, and insinuating something to be racially motivated without proof.

    That does more to promote racial separation than any app.

    I for one am tired of being told what is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. As if the people claiming things to be offensive know better than everyone else.

  16. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Vic: no… stated intent is irrelevant… this comes up in your arguments a lot…

    I actually completely believe that’s not their intent. I really do. I think they honestly think “this is a good idea, because we will crowd source neighborhood watching.”

    You are correct in assuming that is an altruistic motivation.

    The problem is it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

    Napster and Bit Torrent’s official clients specifically say “by installing this application, you promise to not share any content you don’t have ownership rights to.” The bypass module for my car DVD player specifically says it is “for setting up the stereo in display purposes and not so that you can watch TV while driving.” K2 says “this is incense and should not be smoked.” All of those have altruistic uses, but sociology (and common sense) predicts that far more people will use those products for stealing porn and watching it while driving high on the highway. Because that’s how people work.

    I don’t for even a second think that the makers of SketcFactor said “we need a nigger tracking app. Lets build one. But how can we disguise this so it doesn’t seem racist.” I think they are being 100% honest in their intention.

    The problem is that we don’t live in an altruistic world. We live in a world where racism (and sexis and homophobia, since you brought those up) are structural realities that must be considered.

    I don’t think Mitt Romney had any intention of being racist when he showed up at a delegation of hispanic voters with enough bronzer on to make him look like Al Jolsen. I don’t even think Ted Danson was trying to be racist when he serenaded Whoopi Goldberg (who he was dating at the time) in black face. I don’t think the Washington Redskins are attempting to be racist with their mascot.

    But the perception of the public is far more important in determining racism than the intent of the individual. Hell, most Klansmen aren’t trying to be racist. They’re mostly “sticking up for their own kind.” But the result is much bigger than that.

  17. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    Zillow pretty much is BigScore already…

  18. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Michael: yeah… but it’s missing my very important “premium” features.

  19. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    It’s true. Premium subscription features are totally the route to app store profits these days.

  20. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Great writing, Mav. Well done.

  21. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    The logo for the app is the most unfortunate choice they could have made. It is all too reminiscent of “black people in the dark” cartoons of the 30s or 40s.

  22. avatar
    August 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    James: It totally is. Probably unintentional, but it really does evoke that Darkie Toothpaste vibe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkie_Toothpaste

    (reference mostly for H. Jameel Al Khafiz)

  23. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Doin it to John Cougar Mellencamp. Damn, you just ruined Pink Houses for me…

    • avatar
      mav
      August 9, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Brenadine: But you’re white! So it’s ok!

  24. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 12:36 am

    This is terribly entertaining. Your app ideas are brilliant.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

      Megan: Thank you. So I can expect your support on the kickstarter?

  25. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 1:53 am

    I really love your app ideas. These are great.

    • avatar
      mav
      August 9, 2014 at 2:31 am

      Thanks, Kaitlin. Please send any venture capitalists you meet my way.

  26. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

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  27. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

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  28. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

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  29. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

    ” no… stated intent is irrelevant… this comes up in your arguments a lot…”

    And THAT is why you are part of the problem. Because intent/action, are actually everything when it comes such things.

    It is public perception of a thing that is truly irrelevant. Why? Because it is so easily manipulated and distorted by people who have an agenda based on the separation of our society.

    I am a man. Not a black man, not a mixed race man. Not a straight man. Just a man. And as such, I don’t need someone looking out for me, or leveling the playing field. You know why? Because there is no difference between me an anyone else. I live, I breathe, and eventually I die. Just like everyone else.

    True bigotry and racism are self correcting. And generally, don’t really have anything to do with the color of someones skin, or the preference in who they love. It is about power. Feeling more powerful than the next guy. That is human nature, and no amount of social engineering is going to change that. A racist has only as much power as you give them, and by perpetuating and emphasizing the superficial differences inherent in men, you are giving them a whole hell of a lot.

    “But it’s harder being black/gay/hispanic/female/whatever…” yup, it can be. Just like it is harder coming from a poor family than a rich one. From a solid family unit as opposed to a “broken” home. Being a lamb as opposed to being a wolf. Yup, 100%, it can be harder. But that is life, that is nature. The arrogance of progressive thought, where all people must inevitably end up equal, is truly astounding.

    The one thing that ALL people have in common, they make their own destiny. Some who are born into poverty, or violence rise above, even those who have never had a hard day in their lives. And some don’t.

    People have a choice. How they deal with the life they have, and how they rise or fall regardless of circumstance.

    You have this idea that society can be analyzed. That there is always an explanation based on your interpretation(or those like you) of the “data”.

    It can’t. It can be manipulated, to fit into your definition of what is, based on what you see as lacking, but in reality, every person has their own path to follow, and their reactions will be based more on their immediate needs and desires, than any statistical model or assumption you can make.

    Being offended by something. That is one thing. Attributing negative societal outcomes to said thing because it offends you, that is quite another.

    The article you linked was racist. It made the assumption of sketchy/poor = black. Your post was racist for doing the same thing. You are pushing for separation, not unity. And while society may not be all unicorns and rainbows when it comes to our differences.

    Working towards true equality, by you know, treating everyone as equal, is far more palatable than pointing fingers every time someone does something you can exploit as an act of discrimination.

    By saying intent is irrelevant, you give yourself and the people like you free reign to decide for the rest of us, what is and isn’t acceptable, which based on what I have seen, is not something most people who practice such methodology are even remotely qualified to do.

  30. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

    “You have this idea that society can be analyzed.”

    What an amazing argument to make to a dude who is quite literally in the process of getting a PhD in analyzing society. Too bad about wasting your life, Mav!

    This whole people-who-notice-race-and-racism-are-the-real-racists thing with a side helping of knowledge-is-stupid is just some straight-up Colbert shit, except he’s doing it as a joke.

    And the intent thing is just even more laughable. Stated intent is the only thing that matters! Who cares if I punched you in the face! I said I was trying to swat a fly, and that’s all that matters!

    Jesus, Vic. You’re beyond parody sometimes.

  31. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Vic: Ok, I will grant you, intent isn’t 100% irrelevant. It does mean something. Just not in the instance. And that is exactly because of what Nat said in his punch to the face comment. I usually use the example of “I’m just trying to have a good time. To me a good time is getting drunk off my ass and drag racing with my friends. Good old american fun! The fact that I plowed into a school bus full of nun is irrelevant because that wasn’t my INTENT. All I was intending to was hit 85mph in 100 yards. Why do those nuns not understand that?”

    Even if you are sincerely trying to swat the fly and not punch the guy, the end result is someone got punched in the face. So maybe the puncher intends it. Maybe he doesn’t, but that isn’t much comfort. “Turning the other cheek” is good dogma and all, until you realize that a good amount of the time, the end result is that you get punched in the other cheek.

    I’ve given you plenty of examples where this is already true. Bit torrent. The parking break bypass module. K2 incense. I offer the alternative dogma “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    Your refusal to self-identify as a particular race is fine. Commendable even. The problem is that you don’t live in a bubble. So it isn’t so much that you have the power to stop racism so much as you have the power to refuse to acknowledge it to make your life easier. And that’s fine. But they’re not the same thing. The reality is no matter how you perceive yourself, a significant portion of the world is going to look at you and say “oh look, there’s a black dude.”

    Maybe you’ve lost out on or been granted jobs because of the color of your skin. Not acknowledging that on a personal level is great. But that doesn’t erase it. This is where your argument really gets a little flimsy, because you’re trying to counter that your perception is more important than their intent. Except you’ve already pointed out that you don’t believe in that. You are inadvertently trying to argue on both sides of the table and conflicting with yourself.

    As for sociological analysis. You just made all that up! Yes, society can be analyzed. Again as Nat pointed out… that’s pretty much EXACTLY what I do. In my case, I analyze it through literature and media. But I never said there will always be an explanation. Often there isn’t. You find out if there is or not by analysis. That’s what analysis is. Not just in cultural studies, but in scientific method in general. What you’re doing is akin to saying “you can never prove that the big bang happened. So stop trying. Obviously this must mean that the universe was created by an invisible man in a week.”

    Furthermore, I never said that all people were equal. YOU DID (you said, not a black man, not a mixed man… just a man). I actually believe the exact opposite. Everyone is different, and because everyone is different, some people just happen to be “better” than others. On the great DND character sheet of life most of us average 12s, but some people end up with a bunch of 3s, and a few of the lucky alphas get all 18s! Those are the breaks.

    And you’re right: being, black, gay, female, poor, etc IS harder than being an upper class white male. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. You’re the one refuting it by assuming that everyone has the power to manifest their own destiny and rise above. They don’t. That’s a fairytale. Not everyone can be president.

    You seem to make this assumption that since I study culture, I am trying to change it. I’m not. I didn’t even actually condemn SketchFactor in my essay. I mocked it. There’s totally a difference there. I actually believe that it has every right to exist.

    Academically, what I’m particularly interested in is what the artifacts existence says about the society in which it was produced. This is different than “what the artifact says about the producers” or “how the artifact influences society.” The differences are subtle but important from a cultural studies/sociology/psychology point of view. Most people don’t get them. And I’m certain you’d just try to refute them. But there is a difference. And for the record, you even see the difference inherently, because you’re trying to argue the artifact is a reflection of society (same as me actually) but you think that everyone else believe it is an influencer of society. A lot of people actually do believe that. But you seem to lack the tools to distinguish who does and who doesn’t or to make your argument effectively, which leads you to some really wacky conclusions…. like “intent means everything” which is actually support for the second (and slightly for the third) viewpoint, which you are trying to refute.

    Non-academically, I’m a humorist. I mock shit.

    The problem with your assumption of working towards a society of equality is that you CAN’T do so in a vacuum. It’s fundamentally impossible. Except, you refuse to accept that because that would lend credence to viewpoints that you don’t accept. Namely that there is something to the social sciences which… you know, specifically exist to do this sort of thing.

    Yes, there are agendas and data can be corrupted towards those agendas. Again, this is true in literally every science, social or otherwise. However, in most cases, what actually happens is the scholar bases his viewpoint around the evidence. I believe in evolution. I believe this because the data paints a picture that supports this. I believe in the big bang. I believe this because the data paints a picture that supports this. I believe that matter in our universe is fundamentally composed of 118 elemental structures that can combine into compounds as opposed to four. I believe this because the data paints a picture that supports this.

    It is the same with cultural sciences.

  32. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Communication is a two- way process. Intent of the speaker is one piece of context for that process. Another piece is the cultural context in which the speaker operates. Is the speaker unaware of the possibility of giving offense? Does s/he simply not care? Pretending that the answers to those two questions don’t matter isn’t objectivity or neutrality, it’s just willful ignorance.

  33. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Vic: I think the idea here, which I totally agree with, is that people are racist. To me, it doesn’t matter whether the ppl who created this app had any nefarious motivations. They probably did not (at least explicitly…pretty much -everyone- even self-proclaimed liberals who hate racism show implicit racist attitudes. Tons of research in social psychology shows this). Given this, it is likely that users will rate areas that are identical except for racial composition as “sketchier” when there are more black people. And this hurts these neighborhoods in many ways. For example, local businesses may suffer, property values may fall, wealthier ppl may decide not to move there, etc., which would lead to basically the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer). I would really really prefer that there was no racism, but I think it’s better (though more emotionally painful) to acknowledge the reality of human behavior. And also the reality that the worse off people are, the more unlikely/incapable they are of “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” Only by facing reality can we reduce the further victimization of those who have been dealt a bad hand in life through not fault of their own.

  34. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Oh, jesus, Vic again? He’s become a parody of himself!

  35. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Despotify. I snarfled. Also note the hidden word, despot. Program accordingly.

  36. avatar
    August 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

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