Comments on the crime and safety section of neighborhood watch website Nextdoor.com reveal that racial prejudices still exist, but are rarely spoken out loud. In East Bay Express’ Oct. 7 issue, Sam Levin writes about how Oakland residents in some neighborhoods are using the popular site to report “suspicious activity” by their black neighbors.
On Nextdoor and other online neighborhood groups — including Facebook pages and Yahoo and Google listservs — residents have called Black and Latino men suspicious for being near bus stops, standing in “shadows,” making U-turns, and hanging around outside coffee shops. Residents frequently warn each other to be on the look out for suspects with little more description than “Black” and “wearing a hoodie.”
We discussed the problematic nature of racial profiling on apps, neighborhood bulletin boards and Yahoo groups in the most recent episode of So Well Spoken.
In a post on the Nextdoor blog, Nextdoor.com CEO Nirav Tolia writes:
We are incredibly saddened that some neighbors have used Nextdoor in this way. Simply stated: we consider profiling of any kind to be unacceptable. Our product is about fostering healthy conversations amongst neighbors. We explicitly prohibit profiling in our Guidelines. Further, if we are notified that a member has violated these guidelines, we will take action and prohibit them from using Nextdoor.
Tolia says Nextdoor is investigating better ways to remind members of the guidelines when posting in the Crime and Safety section of the Nextdoor site. They are also looking into training and product feedback.
This issue is nothing new, and it certainly isn’t exclusive to the Oakland Hills.
GhettoTracker invited users to vote which parts of town are “good” and which ones are “ghetto.” The site was taken down and rebranded as Good Part of Town, but that didn’t last too long either.
Sketchfactor was created in a similar vein, although it was geared more toward helping tourists avoid “sketchy” parts of town. The app was shut down earlier this year.
These apps demonstrate that America is nowhere near “postracial” and that the lasting impact of segregation and exclusion is still evident in Oakland, across the Bay Area and throughout the nation.