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Technological Elites, the Meritocracy, and Postracial Myths in Silicon Valley

  • Author(s): Noble, Safiya
  • Roberts, Sarah
  • Editor(s): Mukherjee, Roopali
  • Banet-Weiser, Sarah
  • Gray, Herman
  • et al.
Abstract

Among modern digital technology elites, myths of meritocracy and intellectual prowess are used as racial and gender markers of white male supremacy that disproportionately consolidate resources away from people of color, particularly African Americans, Latino/as and Native Americans. Investments in meritocratic myths suppress interrogations of racism and discrimination even as the products of digital elites are infused with racial, class, and gender markers. Longstanding struggles for social, political, and economic inclusion for African Americans, women, and other legally protected classes have been predicated upon the recognition of systemic exclusion, forced labor, and structural disenfranchisement, and commitments to US public policies like affirmative action have, likewise, been fundamental to political reforms geared to economic opportunity and participation. The rise of the digital technocracy has, in many ways, been antithetical to these sustained efforts to recognize race and gender as salient factors structuring technocratic opportunity and inclusion. This chapter explores some of the ways in which discourses of Silicon Valley technocratic elites bolster investments in post-racialism as a pretext for re-consolidations of capital, in opposition to public policy commitments to end discriminatory labor practices. Through a careful analysis of the rise of digital technology companies, and a discussion of how technology elites work to mask everything from algorithmic to genetic inscriptions of race embedded in their products, we show how digital elites elide responsibility for their post-racial re-inscriptions of racial visibilities (and invisibilities). Using historical and critical discourse analysis, the chapter reveals how myths of a digital meritocracy premised on a technocratic colorblindness emerge key to perpetuating gender and racial exclusions.

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