Refugees in Sicily: “Seven Minutes” Integration through fashion – Film teaser by our son

Our filmmaker son, Alex, shot this teaser for a short doc he is shooting in Sicily about a refugee from the Ivory Coast, Abdoulaye, and how his love for fashion helps him integrate into the local community.
Hope you enjoy it and find it as interesting as we did:
https://vimeo.com/262167627 Password: Partinico

Articles on racism and discrimination that caught my eye

In terms of articles focussing on racism and discrimination, there was a mix of anecdote-based reports on the presence and impact of visible minorities (Immigration minister says he was target of racial profiling, calls on Liberals to fight racism, ‘We’re not immune’ on the Hill: Sen. Bernard launches Senate debate on anti-Black racism) and evidence (Indigenous, Black children over-represented in foster care and group homes, inquiry says, Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014 – General Social Survey which I look forward to reviewing the data in more detail).

Commentary in favour of the anti-racism consults included Brittany Andrew-Amofah: Keep expectations high for antiracism consultations on the need to ensure meaningful results (some of which Budget 2018 addressed):

The plan to undertake these consultations deserves and requires scrutiny, but not because it may be designed to search for a racism that doesn’t exist (a possibility suggested by Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife during a CPAC interview). We should be scrutinizing the consultations to make sure that meaningful outcomes are actually achieved. We should expect to see, just to name a few examples, a ban on police carding on the federal level; targeted funding to fight Islamophobia and other forms of hate; tougher sentences for hate crimes; increased investments in housing, health and social programs; an accelerated plan for safe drinking water on all reserves; and stronger independent police oversight bodies for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The timing of these consultations is also significant. With a federal election coming in 2019, a tour to study systemic racism could be used as a ploy to engage and garner support from racialized and Indigenous communities, with no intention on acting on the information shared. The Liberals are lucky that much of the research has already been done, but that means we must set high expectations for policy changes following the consultations. If real change does not result, the time spent in consultations will be wasted and another opportunity will be missed.

The contrary argument that greater political power of African Americans is ineffective in improving outcomes is made here (Williams: Black political power means zilch), essentially ignoring the impact that political power had in reducing some institutional barriers and systemic racism:

Jason Riley, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, tells how this surge in political power has had little beneficial impact on the black community.

In a PragerU video, “Blacks in Power Don’t Empower Blacks“, Riley says the conventional wisdom was based on the notion that only black politicians could understand and address the challenges facing blacks. Therefore, electing more black city councilors, mayors, representatives and senators was deemed critical.

…Riley says that the black experience in the U.S. has been very different from that of other racial groups. Blacks were enslaved. After emancipation, they faced legal and extralegal discrimination and oppression. But none of those difficulties undermines the proposition that human capital, in the forms of skills and education, is far more important than political capital.

Riley adds that the formula for prosperity is the same across the human spectrum. Traditional values — such as marriage, stable families, education and hard work — are immeasurably more important than the color of your mayor, police chief, representatives, senators and president.

As Riley argues in his new book — “False Black Power?” — the major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the anti-social, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.

As always, lots of antisemitism-related news, most notably France (‘Ethnic purging’: French stars and dignitaries condemn antisemitism), and the subsequent response by French Muslims (Accused of new anti-Semitism, French Muslims speak out) and Germany, where Rappers defend lyrics deemed anti-Semitic amid award backlash prompting Daniel Barenboim [to] return German music award in anti-Semitism row with the inevitable (?) result that Germany scraps music prize over antisemitism before ‘kippa march’).  As a show of public support, Germans of all faiths [participate] in ‘wear a kippa march’ against anti-Semitism. 

Some refreshing honesty from the former Anti Defamation League Director Abe Foxman (Former ADL Director: Trump has opened the ‘sewers’ of antisemitism.

John Ibbitson provides a thoughtful examination of the Canadian situation:

“The numbers stayed very high and are even up,” he said in an interview. “They’re not up as dramatically as they were last year, but they are higher than they were last year.”

An even bigger worry: While the lesser offence of harassment was the cause of the increase in 2016, in 2017 “the numbers of both violence and vandalism are up. The vandalism number is up quite significantly. It’s a serious proportional increase.”

But Ira Robinson, director of the Concordia University Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, isn’t so sure. His book A History of Antisemitism in Canada, which was published in 2015, concluded that anti-Semitic activity in this country had greatly declined in recent decades. He continues to monitor the situation, and believes there has been no significant increase, despite what B’nai Brith says.

“In terms of the type of stuff that I see, it’s very much the same,” he reports. “There is very little new under the sun.”

Twenty-first-century anti-Semitism is in part a by-product of both right-wing and left-wing populism. Both groups detest globalization, which they blame for lost jobs at home. From there, it is only a small, noxious step to conjure a globalist Jewish conspiracy.

“The negative impacts of globalization are often laid at the feet of Jews and this global Zionist conspiracy,” said Barbara Perry, a sociologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who specializes in hate crimes. “… It’s scarily similar from the left and the right, in that respect.”

Unfortunately, some Muslims harbour anti-Jewish thoughts, an import from their home countries. More often, though, Muslims and Jewish people are equally victims of racial hatred.

There is even an anti-Semitic variant that claims “Jewish privilege” contributes to systemic racism − though there is evidence that anonymous propaganda to that effect comes from the right, disguised as being from the left.

Anti-Semitism sometimes wears the mantle of anti-Zionism. But while criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians is entirely legitimate, the hate-filled rants that often accompany the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) movement, which depicts Israel as an apartheid state, are anti-Semitism cloaked in righteousness.

Too often, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East produce anti-Zionist screeds in Canada that can result in attacks on Jewish people. “Local, national and global effects come into play,” Prof. Perry observed.

If the rise of populism coincides with, and might contribute to, rising anti-Semitism, then the absence of a populist wave in Canada is encouraging. But this country is not immune from such waves. Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto begat Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, his brother, who could well become a populist premier − although I am not suggesting in any way that Mr. Ford harbours racist sentiments of any kind.

But anti-Semitism can just as easily be found on university campuses as at right-wing rallies. It is present on the fringes of social democracy as well as conservatism. Elizabeth May has struggled to expunge it from the Green Party.

These are not harmonious times. Hatred of Jewish people is on the rise. It may be on the rise in Canada as well.

Vigilance.

Source: John Ibbitson: Could anti-Semitism be on the rise in Canada

Lastly,  J.K. Rowling Gave A Master Class In Identifying Anti-Semitism And It Was Magical:

“Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden,” she said. “Antisemites think this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism.”

Rowling’s head-smacking was almost audible as she sorted through responses to that tweet, including one that said arguing against anti-Semitism was “culturally insensitive” to Muslims.

“When you only understand bigotry in terms of ‘pick a team’ and get a mind-boggling response,” she said.

She also reacted with impatience — attaching a GIF of an exasperated Hugh Laurie — when someone argued that Arabs can’t be anti-Semitic because they are Semites. “The ‘Arabs are semitic too’ hot takes have arrived,” she said.

Split hairs. Debate etymology,” she said in a tweet attached to a definition of anti-Semitism as “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” “Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking the actions of another country’s government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify?”

International stories that caught my attention

One of the advantages of having a break from blogging (not tweeting) is that one can gather the various news items and commentary together to have a more complete picture. Here is what caught my eye over the past few weeks.

UK

An interesting looking back at Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, how elements remain today (An Anti-Immigration Speech Divided Britain 50 Years Ago. It Still Echoes Today) and how these perhaps help explain the inexplicable treatment of long-term immigrants and others as exemplified by Windrush immigrants (post World War II immigrants from former British Caribbean colonies).

There was considerable and justifiable on the callousness of UK immigration and citizenship policies, including both news articles and commentary, highlighting some of what I would consider ethical lapses in developing and implementing policy (British Citizen One Day, Illegal Immigrant the Next, UK removed legal protection for Windrush immigrants in 2014, Immigration scandal expected to spread beyond Windrush group,  Woman told she is not British by the Home Office despite living in UK all her life), ‘Not British enough’: ex-high commissioner’s baby denied UK passport in 2011Damian Green ‘dismissed Windrush citizenship pleas’.

Nesrine Malek’s It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants makes perhaps the harshest critique:

If you are angry about the treatment of the Windrush generation it is important to understand that this anger cannot be selective, if there are to be no more violations. There is no cross-party, cross-media support for a different type of immigration policy victim than the Windrush scandal has managed to muster. Not for those who are illegally detained, those on hunger strike in protest against poor conditions. Not for those whose illnesses were treated as lies and to which they later succumbed. Not for the sexually exploitedand not for the children separated from their parents. Not even for those British subjects separated from their families by unreasonably high income visa requirements.

During my own long battle with the Home Office to secure residency, I spent many hours in Croydon. I went on one occasion to withdraw my passport, which had languished unprocessed for months, to travel to see my sick mother. Driven wild with fear that I would not be able to see her if the unthinkable happened, I was ready to risk not being allowed back in the country. The waiting room was a holding pen of quiet individual tragedies, full of people whose personal and professional lives had been thrown into turmoil by loss of documents, technical glitches and glacial incompetence. The cruelty we all experienced was not a bug, it was a feature.

The scandal of the Windrush generation is the kind of thing that happens when this rot sets in so deep that the infrastructure of a civilised society begins to fall apart. The rise in the number of the persecuted is analogous to the doubling in deaths of homeless people. There is only so much austerity an economy can take before the human toll rises. And there is only so much ideological fixation on “sending people home” before we are deporting grandmothers who arrived in this country when they were children.

And make no mistake, it is ideological. The Conservative party has been consistent in its aggressive immigration policy since 2010, when David Cameron decided that a tough stance on immigration was a flagship party offering to its base supporters. No ifs, no buts, he said. Detention, deportation and NHS treatment refusal is the culmination of the party’s most lucid positions. It is not incompetence, it is not even malice. It is an enthusiastic strategy that over the past decade has become a cornerstone, a defining element of Conservative governments. An immigration policy, very much like austerity, unafraid to be brutal if the deserving, whether they are the “indigenous population” of the country or hardworking taxpayers, are to be protected from those who are after a “free ride”.

There has been no bureaucratic snafu. The only miscalculation was that everyone got a little bit cocky, and who can blame them. The error was that the dragnet picked up some people who fall into a popular sympathy sweet spot. The elderly ones who came here from the Commonwealth to rebuild Britain and who even the Daily Mail can look kindly upon. They appeal to a patrician nostalgia and have a humanising narrative that others who come to this country in different circumstances do not enjoy. An apology and exceptions made for Windrush cases alone is not enough. If we are to be content with only this, then the government’s furtive shimmy away from the crime scene will be successful, and the Home Office’s daily violations of human rights will continue. If we are to prevent the assaults against those we can relate to, we must also be angry for those we cannot.

The UK government was forced to reverse its policy given the public backlash.

And a few articles on UK perceptions of multiculturalism: Multiculturalism has failed, believe substantial minority of Britons‘Multiculturalism is defunct’: British Government signals U-turn on 70 years of social policy – Dr. Jenny Taylor.

US

Yet another article on the effect of Trump administration policies on the tech sector (Silicon Valley is fighting a brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose) but with one study suggesting the Valley is not as dependent on immigration as may appear (Shocker: San Francisco Tech Companies Not So Reliant On Immigrants):

A surprising survey by Envoy Global suggests that while San Francisco is not giving up on the H-1B, companies there need it less than they have professed to need it.  Call it an adjustment to the immigration policies of the new President. But despite a historical reliance on highly skilled foreign-born talent, most San Francisco employers say they do not consider sourcing foreign national workers as a top talent acquisition priority.

The San Francisco Insights on Immigration Report, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Envoy, aggregated the responses of 171 San Francisco-based HR professionals and hiring managers regarding global hiring practices. Key takeaways from the survey showed that local companies view hiring foreign talent is still very much a business norm, but today only 8% of San Francisco tech companies say they proactively seek out foreign employees compared with 24% of tech companies in other tech hubs who say they are looking abroad for talent. Some 54% of San Francisco tech companies said sourcing foreign national employees is not very important to their company’s talent acquisition strategy at the moment.

The de-emphasis on immigrant workers this year is the fact that the H-1B application process has become more cumbersome under Trump.  Trump has promised to make it harder for tech firms to hire foreign workers, though the companies all still insist they need them.

In response to changes in immigration regulations, 33% of San Francisco employers say they are hiring fewer foreign nationals compared to 26% of employers nationwide.

A further tightening of citizenship rules for children born abroad and out of wedlock to US parents USCIS tightens rules on US citizenship for children born outside America is being implemented.

Australia

A series of articles based upon the Australian race commissioner’s report on the appalling lack of diversity among Australian leadership (In a Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything‘Dismal’ diversity among Australian business and civic leadersWhy we should look at targets to get more non-Europeans into top jobs: Tim Soutphommasane):

Based on the 2016 Census data on ancestry, we estimate about 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have a non-European background, and 3 per cent have an Indigenous background.

However, our examination of almost 2500 senior leaders in business, politics, government and higher education shows only very limited cultural diversity. Almost 95 per cent of senior leaders at the chief executive or “c-suite” levels have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Of the 372 chief executives and equivalents we identified, 97 per cent have an Anglo-Celtic or European background.

Here’s a breakdown. Within the ASX 200 companies, there appears only to be eight chief executives who have a non-European background – enough to squeeze into a Tarago. Of the 30 members of the federal ministry, there is no one who has a non-European background, and one who has an Indigenous background. It is similarly bleak within the public service, where 99 per cent of the heads of federal and state government departments have an Anglo-Celtic or European background (that’s one of 103). Universities don’t fare much better: just one of the 39 vice-chancellors of Australian universities has a non-European background.

All up there are 11 of the 372 chief executives and equivalents who have a non-European or Indigenous background. A mere cricket team’s worth of diversity.

These are dismal statistics for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism. They challenge our egalitarian self-image. And they challenge our future prosperity as a nation. If we aren’t making the most of our multicultural talents, we may be squandering opportunities.

I often hear from people that it will only be a matter of time before cultural diversity is better represented. We should be encouraged, for example, that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of European backgrounds among senior leaders. Just as it took time before we saw Australian chief executives from Italian or Greek backgrounds, we may have to wait a little longer before we see more from Asian, Middle-Eastern, or African backgrounds.

Time alone may not resolve the problem. Economists at the University of Sydney, in a recent study involving resumes, found those with an Anglo name are three times more likely to be invited for interview, compared to candidates with a Chinese name. (The study also found that those with Chinese names who had an Anglicised first name doubled their chances of receiving a job interview.)

If we are serious about shifting numbers, it may be necessary to consider targets for cultural diversity – if not quotas. Such measures don’t stand in opposition to a principle of merit. After all, meritocracy presumes a level playing field. Yet do we seriously believe that a perfectly level playing field exists, when there is such dramatic under-representation of cultural diversity within leadership positions?

Multiculturalism can be as superficial as food and festivals. But if we’re serious about our diversity, we must be prepared to hold up a mirror to ourselves – and ask if what we see looks right for an egalitarian and multicultural Australia.

Hungary

Lastly, relevant and disturbing commentary on the recent Hungarian election and the country’s descent into autocracy (Hungary Is Winning Its War on Muslim Immigrants: Leonid BershidskyA Democracy Disappears: Andrew Sullivan), with Sullivan noting the parallels with the US under Trump:

The recipe is a familiar one by now. In a society where social mores, especially in the big cities, appear to be changing very fast, there is a classic reaction. More traditional voters in the heartland begin to feel left behind, and their long-held values spurned. At the same time, a wave of unlawful migrants, fleeing terror and deprivation, appear to threaten the demographic and cultural balance still further, and seem to be encouraged by international post-national entities such as the European Union. A leftist ruling party in disarray gives a right-wing demagogue an opening, and he seizes it. And so in 2010, Orbán was able to exploit a political crisis triggered by an imploding and scandal-ridden Socialist government, and, alongside coalition partners, win a supermajority for the right in parliament.

Once in power, that supermajority allowed Orbán to amend the constitution in 2011, reducing the number of seats in the parliament from 386 to 199, gerrymandering them brutally to shore up his party’s standing in future elections, barring gay marriage in perpetuity, and mandating that in election campaigns, state media would take precedence over independent sources. He also forced a wave of early retirements in the judiciary in order to pack the courts with loyalists.

As Mounk notes, Orbán also tapped into deep grievances rooted in Hungary’s loss of territory in the 20th century, by giving the vote to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring Romania and removing it from more culturally progressive expats. But it was in response to the migration crisis in 2015, that Orbán truly galvanized public opinion behind him. Hungary, as Paul Lendvai noted in The Atlantic, had been deluged with asylum claims: 174,000 in 2015 alone, the highest per capita in the EU. Orbán responded by spreading fears of an influx of terrorists and criminals, of a poisoning of Hungarian culture, and expressing visceral nationalist hostility to the diktats of the European Union. Added to all that, of course, was a generous salting of classic central European anti-Semitism. Voters especially in rural areas flocked to him.

He further shifted the public discourse by creating and advancing new media outlets that amplified his propaganda, while attacking, harassing, and undermining all the others. He erected a huge fence to keep Muslim immigrants out, and refused to accept any of the 50,000 refugees the EU wanted to settle in his country. His political allies began to get very rich, as crony capitalism spread. By last year, Orbán had turned George Soros into a version of 1984’s Emmanuel Goldstein — an “enemy of the state” — with billboards and endless speeches, demonizing the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, and vowing to protect the nation from external, malignant forces.

It was a potent formula, especially when backed up by the rigging of the parliamentary seats. Last week, in a surge of voter turnout, Orban won almost 50 percent of the vote, but two-thirds of the seats, giving him another supermajority (this time without coalition partners) in parliament, with further chances to amend the constitution in his favor. His voters in the heartland swamped a majority for the opposition in Budapest. One of two remaining opposition newspapers, Magyar Nemzet, shut down on Wednesday after 80 years in print. Orbán had withdrawn all government advertising in it. Some wonder whether there will ever be a free election again.

If you find many of these themes familiar, you’ve been paying attention. In the middle of a reaction against massive social change and a wave of illegal immigration, a right-wing party decides to huff some populism. A charismatic figure emerges, defined by hostility to immigration, becomes an iconic figure, and even though he doesn’t win a majority of votes, comes to office. His party is further shored up by gerrymandering, giving it a structural advantage in gaining and keeping power, including a seven percentage-point head start in the House of Representatives. That party does what it can to further suppress the vote of its opponents, especially ethnic minorities, and focuses on packing the courts, even rupturing long-standing precedents to deny a president of the opposing party his right to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.

Openly propagandist media companies emerge, fake news surges, while the president uses the powers of his office to attack, delegitimize, and discredit other media sources, even to the point of threatening a company like Amazon. A mighty wall is proposed against immigrants on the border, alongside fears of a mass “invasion” from the South. Social conservatives are embraced tightly. The census is altered to ensure one party’s advantage in future district-drawing. Courts are disparaged and the justice system derided as rigged by political opponents.

The difference, of course, is that Orbán is an experienced politician, and knows exactly what he’s doing. Trump is a fool, an incompetent, and incapable of forming any kind of strategy, or sticking to one. The forces arrayed against the populist right, moreover, are much stronger in the U.S. than in Hungary; our institutions more robust; our culture much more diverse. Our democracy is far, far older.

And yet almost every single trend in Hungary is apparent here as well. The party of the left has deep divisions, and no unifying leader, while the ruling party is a loyalist leader-cult. The president’s party is a machine that refuses to share power, and seeks total control of all branches of government. It is propelled by powerful currents of reaction, seems indifferent to constitutional norms, and dedicated to incendiary but extremely potent populist rhetoric. The president’s supporters now support a purge in the Department of Justice and the FBI, to protect the president from being investigated.

The president himself has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for liberal norms; and despite a chaotic first year and a half, is still supported by a solid and slightly growing 42 percent of the public. Meanwhile, the immigration issue continues to press down, the culture wars are intensifying again, and the broad reasons for Trump’s election in the first place remain in place: soaring social and economic inequality, cultural insecurity, intensifying globalization, and a racially fraught period when white Americans will, for the first time, not form a majority of citizens.

History is not over; and real, profound political choices are here again. My hope is that the descent into illiberalism across the West might shake up the rest of us in defending core liberal democratic principles, wherever they are threatened, bringing us to the ballot box in huge numbers this fall, and abandoning the complacency so many have lapsed into.

Geddes tries to explain former PM Harper’s congratulations to Orban (Why Stephen Harper congratulating Viktor Orbán matters: John Geddes):

Tone matters. If this were only a pro forma note, Harper is more than capable, as anyone who followed him in Canadian politics can attest, of draining any message of liveliness or affect. And, by his own stated standard, he would have had grounds for keeping any hint of enthusiasm out of this one. After all, Harper has said that his aim as IDU chair is partly “ensuring that we address the concerns of frustrated conservatives and that they do not drift to extreme options.”

If we’re talking extreme options, Orban looks like a prime example these days. Numerous credible critics charge that he has coopted Hungary’s courts and schools, skewed its electoral system to his advantage, all while voicing admiration for Turkey and China, and criticizing Western European tolerance for Muslim immigration. Still, political science professor Achim Hurrelmann, director of Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, says Orban’s core message—beyond his destructive domestic tactics—is being heard by conservatives outside Hungary. “[Fidesz] has primarily been anti-migration, emphasizing the Christian roots of Europe, and being very much against diversity,” Hurrelmann told me in an interview. “In that position, they find common ground with some other mainstream conservative parties.”

I can’t guess if Harper’s calculation in issuing that tweet took into account an awareness that Orban, dangerous as he may be, isn’t irrelevant beyond Hungary. Whatever Harper’s reasoning, he has undoubtedly damaged his reputation among many who view Orban with justifiable distaste and alarm. I’m reminded again of the steep learning curve Harper had to climb after barely travelling outside Canada, and concentrating almost entirely on domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, before his 2006 election win. “Since coming to office,” he told Maclean’s in 2011, “the thing that’s probably struck me the most in terms of my previous expectations—I don’t even know what my expectations were—is not just how important foreign affairs/foreign relations is, but, in fact, that it’s become almost everything.”

It’s worth noting that Andrew Scheer seems to be on his own version of that learning curve now. In this recent interview with my colleague Paul Wells, the Conservative leader surprised me by going on at some length about his reasons for supporting Brexit. Scheer spoke about how staying in the EU impinged on British sovereignty and embroiled Britain in the Brussels bureaucracy. He scoffed at “this notion that somehow they would lose access to the European market.” He repeated the debunked canard that EU rules required a certain curvature on bananas.

To my ear, all this pro-Brexit blather was by far the least convincing part of Scheer’s performance in that interesting conversation. Conservatism’s most treacherous currents are global, especially in the age of Donald Trump. In Harper’s congratulatory message to Orban, and Scheer’s laudatory position on Brexit, the difficulty finding a solidly respectable place to stand in that international discourse becomes glaringly obvious. These issues might not seem central to Canadian voters in any federal election, but, as Harper reminded us, they soon are to whoever wins one.

 

Implicit bias, Starbucks and AI

Some of the more interesting articles on these issues over the past few weeks:

Take the horribly complex and difficult task of hiring new employees, make it less transparent, more confusing and remove all accountability. Sound good to you? Of course it does not, but that’s the path many employers are taking by adopting artificial intelligence in the hiring process.

Companies across the nation are now using some rudimentary artificial intelligence, or AI, systems to screen out applicants before interviews commence and for the interviews themselves. As a Guardian article from March explained, many of these companies are having people interview in front of a camera that is connected to AI that analyzes their facial expressions, their voice and more. One of the top recruiting companies doing this, Hirevue, has large customers like Hilton and Unilever. Their AI scores people using thousands of data points and compares it to the scores of the best current employees.

But that can be unintentionally problematic. As Recode pointed out, because most programmers are white men, these AI are actually often trained using white male faces and male voices. That can lead to misperceptions of black faces or female voices, which can lead to the AI making negative judgments about those people. The results could trend sexist or racist, but the employer who is using this AI would be able to shift the blame to a supposedly neutral technology.

Other companies have people do their first interview with an AI chatbot. One popular AI that does this is called Mya, which promises a 70 percent decrease in hiring time. Any number of questions these chatbots could ask could be proxies for race, gender or other factors.

An algorithm that judges resumes or powers a chatbot might factor in how far away someone lives from the office, which may have to do with historically racist housing laws. In that case, the black applicant who lives in the predominantly black neighborhood far away from the office gets rejected. Xerox actually encountered that exact problem years ago.

“You can fire a racist HR person, you might not ever find out your AI has been producing racist or sexist results.”

“If you use data that reflects existing and historical bias, and you ask a mathematical tool to make predictions based on that data, the predictions will reflect that bias,” Rachel Goodman, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, told The Daily Beast. It’s nearly impossible to make an algorithm that won’t produce some kind of bias, because almost every data point that can be connected to another factor like someone’s race or gender. We’ve seen this happening when algorithms are used to determine prison sentences and parole in our justice system.

Source: Your Next Job Interview Could Be with a Racist Bot

Starbucks implicit bias training:

On whether people can learn about their implicit bias and retrain their brains to see others differently, McGill Johnson says it’s possible, but not when it’s done over a short period of time.

“It’s taken centuries for our brains to create these negative schemas about particular groups of people that have been marginalized in society,” she says. “And so it will take a really concerted, intentional effort to develop the counter-stereotypes that are required to move them out of our brains and replace them with others.”

At the workshops she runs, McGill Johnson says she starts with the idea that most people believe that they are fundamentally fair and believe in the egalitarian of all races and genders.

It’s when behaviors such as those that led to the arrest of the two men in Philadelphia arise that people can’t account for the disparity in outcomes between what they say they believe and how they react.

McGill Johnson says that raises the question that maybe the way people practice fairness is flawed.

“We’ve been taught to be colorblind. We’ve been taught that we can be objective when it comes to evaluating people, and the science suggests that sometimes our values aren’t sufficient for us to actually practice those pieces because our brains see race very quickly,” she says.

And what contributes to how brains process race and other identifiers is based on just about every other experience a person has had, watched or read.

“We develop, derive bias from just seeing certain pairings of words together over time. And those bits of information help us navigate our unconscious processes,” she says.

This means that in order to address people’s implicit bias, a lot of fundamental processes in the brain have to be changed.

While Starbucks is addressing a flaw in the company’s previous training, McGill Johnson says it will take more than one afternoon to completely address implicit bias.

“I think at best it will spark curiosity and an awareness that biases do not make us bad people — they actually make us human — but that we do have a capacity to override them,” she says. “And it’s really important for us to build in systems and practices that help us do that.”

Source: A Lesson In How To Overcome Implicit Bias 

Let me be clear. I believe that most Americans today really don’t consciously subscribe to racism or most other overtly bigoted beliefs. Even still, African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites and receive harsher sentences for the same crimes. Women earn less than what men earn for the same work. LGBT youth are disproportionately more likely to be homeless. Unemployment rates for black and Latino Americans are almost double those for whites. If we’re no longer, by and large, overtly bigoted, how do these blatant injustices persist?

A large body of research assigns some of the blame to our unconscious biases—or, as the academic community calls them, “implicit biases”—the attitudes and misperceptions that are baked into our minds due to systemic racism and pervasive stereotyping across society. As products of a sexist society, we all have a bias in favor of men and masculinity and against women and femininity. As products of a racist society, we all have a bias for white people and against people of color. As products of a classist society, we all have a bias for rich people and against poor people. And so on. We don’t consciously hold these beliefs; they’re like deep-down reflexes we’ve habituated to over time. They’re encoded in our brains and, in turn, they play out in ways that then reinforce society-wide bias.

Source: ‘Implicit Bias’ Is Very Real and It Infects Every One of Us: Sally Kohn 

Short videos for the Borders in Globalization Canada-EU project

As part of the EU-Canada Borders in Globalization project, I did these 3 short videos responding to the following questions:

What can Canada learn from the way how Europe deals with the irregular migration

Immigration, Multiculturalism: What works and doesn’t work in Canada

Challenges for the traditional concept of borders

StatsCan – Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2016 – Analytical Note

Given the government’s diversity and inclusion focus, StatsCan has vastly improved the analytical note on hate crimes, including age and gender data on those accused. While personally I prefer longer-term comparisons rather than year-to-year as in the above charts, this analysis is nevertheless helpful (StatsCan summary below):

  • In 2016, police reported 1,409 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate, an increase of 3% or 47 more incidents than reported the previous year. Accounting for the population, this amounted to a rate of 3.9 hate crimes per 100,000 Canadians in 2016.
  • The increase in the total number of incidents was largely attributable to an increase in police-reported hate crimes motivated by hatred of a sexual orientation (+35 incidents) or of a race or ethnicity (+25 incidents). Hate crimes accounted for less than 0.1% of the nearly 1.9 million police-reported crimes in 2016 (excluding traffic offences).
  • Police-reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation rose 25% in 2016 to 176 incidents, compared with 141 incidents in 2015. These incidents accounted for 13% of hate crimes reported in 2016 and 11% of hate crimes reported in 2015.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 4% (from 641 to 666). In all, 48% of all police-reported hate crimes in 2016 were motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity. Much of this increase was a result of more hate crimes targeting South Asians (+24 incidents) and Arabs and West Asians (+20 incidents). Despite posting a decrease in 2016, crimes targeting Black populations remained one of the most common types of hate crimes (15% of all hate crimes).
  • Overall, 33% of hate crimes reported in 2016 were motivated by hatred of religion. Compared with 2015, the number of hate crimes motivated by religion decreased 2% in 2016 (from 469 in 2015 to 460 in 2016). Police-reported crimes motivated by hate against the Jewish population rose from 178 incidents in 2015 to 221 incidents in 2016 (+24%). In contrast, the number of crimes targeting the Catholic population fell from 55 to 27 incidents. Similarly, crimes targeting the Muslim population decreased 13% (from 159 incidents in 2015 to 139 incidents in 2016).
  • The provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, and more specifically Vancouver (+30 incidents), Québec (+29 incidents), and Montréal (+25 incidents), were the census metropolitan areas where hate crimes increased the most in 2016. The increases in Montréal and Québec are associated with a rise in hate crimes targeting the Jewish, Arab and West Asian, and gay and lesbian populations. The increase in Vancouver was primarily explained by a rise in hate crimes against the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian populations.
  • Based on data from police services that reported characteristics of hate crimes, 43% of police-reported hate crimes in 2016 were violent offences. Violent offences included, for example, assault, uttering threats and criminal harassment. Overall, the number of violent hate crimes rose 16% from the previous year (from 487 to 563 violent incidents), driven by increases in common assault, criminal harassment and uttering threats.
    Crimes motivated by hatred of a sexual orientation continued to be among the most violent hate crimes. In 2016, 71% of these types of police-reported hate crimes were violent, compared with 45% of crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity and 27% of hate crimes targeting a religion.
  • Non-violent offences made up 57% of police-reported hate crimes in 2016. Mischief, which includes vandalism and graffiti, was the most commonly reported offence among police-reported hate crimes and accounted for 41% of all hate crime incidents in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016, the total number of non-violent hate crime incidents fell 6%. In 2016, 73% of crimes targeting religion were non-violent. This proportion was 55% for non-violent crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity. Conversely, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were less often non-violent (29%).

via Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2016

StatsCan — Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014

The latest from the General Social Survey which I look forward to reading in detail:

Immigrants and visible minorities less likely to report experiencing violent victimization

According to the most recent data from the General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), immigrants—regardless of citizenship or how long they have resided in Canada—were less likely than the Canadian-born population to report being victims of violent crime. In 2014, immigrants reported experiencing violent victimization—sexual assault, robbery or physical assault—at a rate of 39 incidents per 1,000 population, compared with a rate of 86 incidents per 1,000 people among the Canadian-born population. Similarly, individuals who self-identified as belonging to a visible minority group were less likely than their non-visible minority counterparts to report experiencing violence (55 versus 81 per 1,000 population). In terms of religious affiliation, individuals who reported a religion other than Christianity experienced violent victimization at a rate similar to people affiliated with Christianity (72 versus 67 per 1,000 population), the most commonly reported religious affiliation.

Today, three Juristat articles focusing on the self-reported experiences of violent victimization and discrimination among three populations of interest—immigrants, visible minorities and persons with a religious affiliation—are available. While each article discusses a specific population, they are not mutually exclusive. For example, according to Census of Population data, 65% of immigrants in Canada are visible minorities, 63% of visible minorities are immigrants, and 78% of people affiliated with a religion other than Christianity are visible minorities.

In general, the characteristics of violent incidents did not differ significantly according to immigrant status, visible minority status or religious affiliation. For example, the majority of incidents involved a single offender and, in most cases, the offender was male. Among the immigrant population specifically, recent immigrants (those who immigrated to Canada within the previous 10 years) and established immigrants (those who immigrated 10 or more years prior) reported similar rates of violent victimization. However, recent immigrant victims of violence were significantly more likely to report that the offender was a stranger (83%, compared with 31% of established immigrant victims).

Some populations more likely to report experiencing discrimination

While members of the immigrant and visible minority populations reported relatively low rates of violent victimization compared with their Canadian-born and non-visible minority counterparts, they were significantly more likely to report experiencing some form of discrimination on the basis of, for example, their ethnicity or culture, or race or skin colour.

In 2014, approximately one in six (17%) immigrants reported that they had experienced discrimination in the five years preceding the survey, compared with 12% of the Canadian-born population. More specifically, recent immigrants were more likely to have reported experiencing discrimination than established immigrants (20% versus 16%). More than four in ten (42%) of those recent immigrants who experienced discrimination indicated that it was due to their language, compared with just over one-quarter (27%) of established immigrants.

In terms of visible minority status, one in five (20%) of those who self-identified as a member of a visible minority group reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the preceding five years. This compared with 12% of the non-visible minority population. Among the visible minority population who reported experiencing discrimination, more than three in five (63%) believed that they were discriminated against because of their race or skin colour. Individuals who identified as Arab (29%), Black (27%) or Latin American (26%) were the most likely to report experiencing discrimination.

When it came to religious affiliation, individuals who reported an affiliation with a religion other than Christianity were more likely to report experiencing discrimination on the basis of their religion. More than 1 in 10 (11%) people who were affiliated with a religion other than Christianity reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of their religion, compared with 1% of people affiliated with a Christian religion.

Immigrants and visible minorities report experiencing discrimination at Canadian border

Regardless of immigrant status or visible minority status, Canadians most often reported experiencing discrimination at work, when applying for a job or promotion, or when they were in a store, bank or restaurant. There were no significant differences between immigrants and the Canadian-born population when it came to experiencing discrimination when dealing with the police. However, immigrants were significantly more likely than the Canadian-born population to indicate that they experienced some form of discrimination when crossing the border into Canada (12% versus 4%).

Visible minorities were nearly twice as likely as non-visible minorities to report experiencing discrimination when dealing with the police (13% versus 7%) and three times more likely when crossing the border into Canada (12% versus 4%).

Decline in reported experiences of discrimination among minority populations

Although immigrants and visible minorities were more likely than their Canadian-born and non-visible minority counterparts to report experiencing discrimination, the overall prevalence of perceived discrimination among these populations has declined in recent years. Specifically, among immigrants, the proportion of people who reported experiencing discrimination declined slightly from 19% in 2004 to 17% in 2014. A larger decline was observed within the visible minority population, down from 28% in 2004 to 20% in 2014.

Some groups feel less safe from crime

Most individuals were generally satisfied with their personal safety from crime—regardless of immigrant status, visible minority status or religious affiliation. There were, however, some notable differences in the degree to which people felt safe. For example, immigrants, visible minorities and individuals who were affiliated with a religion other than Christianity felt less safe from crime when home alone at night and when walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark.

via The Daily — Experiences of violent victimization and discrimination reported by minority populations in Canada, 2014

Vacation break

Back end April.

Dr. King Said Segregation Harms Us All. Environmental Research Shows He Was Right.@NYTimes

Speaks for itself:

A half-century ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. To get to the site, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum, you can cross through neighborhoods that are as much as 97 percent black or as much as 93 percent white.

Dr. King preached that segregation was harmful not only to black Americans but also to the nation as a whole. He died before the modern environmental movement, but a growing body of research around pollution and health shows that his belief about segregation hurting everyone extends to the environment as well. Many American cities that are more racially divided have higher levels of pollution than less segregated cities. As a result, both whites and minorities who live in less integrated communities are exposed to higher levels of pollution than those who live in more integrated areas.

“The price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is the price of its own destruction,” Dr. King wrote in a 1962 address, “An Analysis of the Ethical Demands of Integration.” In it, he set out the political, ethical and spiritual reasons he believed that segregation was harmful for all. Some historians say his thoughts are applicable to understanding environmental issues today.

Researchers have known since at least the 1980s that black and Hispanic communities have higher levels of pollution and its associated harmful health effects than white communities, even when controlling for income. Studies show that racial discrimination leads governments and companies to place polluting facilities, like landfills, power plants and truck routes, in black and Hispanic communities. Race is not the only factor in environmental inequality — poorer people experience more pollution than wealthier people. But for blacks, race trumps income. Middle-class blacks experience higher levels of pollution than low-income whites.

Over the past decade, more researchers have focused on the correlation between segregation and broad pollution exposure. Residents of a city like Memphis, they have found, are exposed to more pollution than those living in a city like Tampa, Fla., which is less racially divided.

“Even though white residents in segregated cities were better off than residents of color in those segregated cities, those white residents were worse off than their white counterparts in less segregated cities,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor of environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Studies have found this relationship between segregation and air pollution, water pollution and even noise pollution. A large body of literature shows that high exposure to certain pollution can cause asthma, heart disease and many other negative health effects.

“It’s so much pollution that it led not only to very high exposure to minorities but it actually bounces back to at least some whites,” said Michael Ash, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an author of a study that looked at the impact of segregation on pollution levels.

There are several ways to look at segregation: by isolation, defined as the degree to which ethnic groups are clustered together, or by dissimilarity, defined as how evenly two groups are spread across an area. By either method, pollution is higher in more segregated communities.

The average white person in metropolitan America lives in a neighborhood that is 75 percent white. The average black person lives in a neighborhood that is 35 percent white and 45 percent black. Those numbers have not changed much since 1940.

These studies do not prove that segregation leads to more pollution, or vice versa. But the outcomes showing that all people who live in racially divided communities are exposed to higher levels of pollution probably would not have surprised Dr. King, according to King scholars.

“King thinks that racism divides the people who are most vulnerable and most disempowered for economic and political reasons,” said Brandon M. Terry, an assistant professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard and an editor of a new book on Dr. King’s political theories.

“In a community where there are really stark racial tensions it’s going to be really difficult to organize a large enough group to fight back against exploitative industries or corporations that don’t want to do their fair share to take care of environmental hazards,” Dr. Terry said. “All those people have to do is invoke the idea of a racial interest and they can split those groups quite easily.”

Several studies have shown that unequal societies invest less in environmental policies, monitoring and research.

“In more segregated cities, communities of color and the poor might be less able to have civic engagement power and influence land-use decision making,” said Dr. Morello-Frosch. “They have less ability to resist” when decisions are made about polluting activities, she said.

Dr. King may have foreshadowed this in his 1963 speech in Detroit. “Segregation is a cancer in the body politic,” he said, “which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized.”

via Dr. King Said Segregation Harms Us All. Environmental Research Shows He Was Right. – The New York Times

Should justice be delivered by AI?

Interesting discussion. My understanding is that more legal research is being done by AI and my expectation is that more routine legal work could increasingly be done by AI.

For government, the obvious question is with respect to administrative decisions such as immigration, citizenship, social security etc in routine cases. As the article notes, AI would likely be more consistent than humans, but the algorithms would need to be carefully reviewed given possible programmer biases:

It is conventional wisdom, repeated by authoritative voices such as the former chief justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin, that Canadians face an access-to-justice (A2J) crisis. While artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithm-assisted automated decision-making could play a role in ameliorating the crisis, the contemporary consensus holds that the risks posed by AI mean its use in the justice system should be curtailed. The view is that the types of decisions that have historically been made by judges and state-sanctioned tribunals should be reserved exclusively to human adjudicators, or at the very least be subject to human oversight, although this would limit the advantages of speed and lowered cost that AI might deliver.

But we should be wary of prematurely precluding a role for AI in addressing at least some elements of the A2J crisis. Before we concede that robust deployment of AI in the civil and criminal justice systems is to be avoided, we need to take the public’s views into account. What they have to say may lead us to very different conclusions from those reached by lawyers, judges and scholars.

Though the prospect of walking into a courtroom and being confronted by a robot judge remains the stuff of science fiction, we have entered an era in which informed commentators confidently predict that the foreseeable future will include autonomous artificial intelligences passing bar exams, getting licensed to practice law and, in the words of Matthew and Jean-Gabriel Castel in their  2016 article “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Canadian Law and the Legal Profession,” “perform[ing] most of the routine or ‘dull’ work done by justices of the peace, small claims courts and administrative boards and tribunals.” Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are affected by such work every year.

Influential voices in the AI conversation have strongly cautioned against AI being used in legal proceedings. Where the matter has been addressed by governments, such as in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation or France’s Loi informatique et libertés, that precautionary approach has been rendered as a right for there always to be a “human in the loop”: decisions that affect legal rights are prohibited from being made solely by means of the automated processing of data.

Concerns about the accountability of AI — both generally and specifically in the context of legal decisions — should not be lightly dismissed. There are significant and potentially deleterious implications to replacing human adjudicators with AI. The risks posed by the deployment of AI in the delivery of legal services include nontransparency and concerns about where to locate liability for harms, as well as various forms of bias latent in the data relied on, in the way that algorithms interact with those data and in the way that users interact with the algorithm. Having AI replace human adjudicators may not even be technically possible: some observers such as Frank Pasquale and Eric L. Talley have taken pains to point out that there is an irreducible complexity, dynamism and nonlinearity to law, legal reasoning and moral judgment, which means these matters may not lend themselves to automation.

Real as those technological constraints may be at the moment, they also may be real only forthe moment. Furthermore, while these constraints may apply to some (or even many) instances of adjudication, they don’t — or likely won’t — continue to apply to all of them. Law’s complexity runs along many axes, including applying to many areas of human endeavour and impacting many different aspects of our lives. This requires us to be careful not to treat all interactions with the justice system as equivalent for purposes of AI policy. We might use algorithms to expeditiously resolve, for example, consumer protection complaints or breach of contract disputes, but not matters relating to child custody or criminal offences.

Whether and when we deploy AI in the civil and criminal justice systems are questions that should be answered only after taking into account the views of the people who would be subject to those decisions. The answer to the question of judicial AI doesn’t belong to judges or lawyers, or at least not only to them — it belongs, in large part, to the public. Maintaining public confidence in the institution of the judiciary is a paramount concern for any liberal democratic society. If the courts are creaking under the strain of too many demands, if resolutions to disputes are hobbled by lengthy delays and exorbitant costs, we should be open to the possibility of using AI and algorithms to optimize judicial resources. If and to the extent we can preserve or enhance confidence in the administration of justice through the use of AI, policy-makers should be prepared to do so.

We can reframe the issue as an inquiry into what people look for from judicial decision-making processes. What are the criteria that lead people who are subject to justice system decisions to conclude that the process was “fair” or “just”? As Jay Thornton has noted , scholars in the social psychology of procedural justice, such as Gerald Leventhal and Tom Tyler, have done empirical work that provides exactly this insight into people’s subjective views. People want their justice system to feature such characteristics as consistency, accuracy, correctability, bias suppression, representativeness and ethicality. In Tyler’s formulation, people want a chance to present their side of the story and have it be considered; they want to be assured of the neutrality and trustworthiness of the decision-maker; and they want to be treated in a respectful and dignified manner.

It is not obvious that judicial AI fails to meet those criteria — it is almost certainly the case that on some of the relevant measures, such as consistency, judicial AI might fare better than human adjudicators. (Research has indicated, for example, that judges render more punitive decisions the longer they go without a meal — in other words, a hungry judge is a harsher judge. Whatever else might be said about robot judges, they won’t get hungry. When deciding between human adjudication and AI adjudication, we should also attend to the question of whether existing human-driven processes are performing adequately on the criteria identifiedby Leventhal and Tyler. That is not a theoretical inquiry but an empirical one: it should be assessed by reference to the subjective satisfaction of the parties who are involved in those processes.

There may be certain types or categories of judicial decisions that people would prefer be performed by AI if so doing would result in faster and cheaper decisions. We must also take fully into account the fact that we already calibrate adjudicative processes for solemnity, procedural rigour and cost to reflect conventional views of what kinds of claims or disputes “matter” and to what extent they do so. For example, the rules of evidence that apply in “regular” courts are significantly relaxed (or even obviated) in courts designated as “small claims” (which often aren’t so small: in Ontario, Small Claims Court applies to disputes under $25,000). Some tribunals that make important decisions about the legal rights of parties — such as the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board — do not require their adjudicators to have a law degree. We have been prepared to adjust judicial processes in an effort to make them more efficient, and where technology has been used to improve processes and facilitate dispute resolution, as has been the case with British Columbia’s online Civil Resolution Tribunal, the results appear to have been salutary. The use of AI in the judicial process should be viewed as a point farther down the road on that same journey.

The criminal and civil justice systems do not exist to provide jobs for judges or lawyers. They exist to deliver justice. If justice can be delivered by AI more quickly, at less cost and with no diminishment in public confidence, then the possibilities of judicial AI should be explored and implemented. It may ultimately be the case that confidence in the administration of justice would be compromised by the use of AI — but that is an empirical question, to be determined in consultation with the public. The questions of confidence in the justice system, and of whether to facilitate and deliver justice by means of AI (including the development of a taxonomy of the types of decisions that can or should be made using AI), can only be fully answered by those in whom that confidence resides: the public.

via Should justice be delivered by AI?