Paper Example on Race and Technology

Published: 2023-03-30
Paper Example on Race and Technology
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Racism History Technology Social issue
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1587 words
14 min read

The historians of technology have put less effort into elaborating on the relationship between technology and race; however, the relationship can be traced back to the 1800s. Both technology and race have an impact on each other throughout history and even the present day. The positive and negative effects of technology on racial issues can be widely observed. As technology advances, it is to be expected that it will have a significant impact on racism. Technological advancements form essential tools that society is willing to use in addressing the deeply rooted issues related to race and racism.

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Race's Absence within the Study of the History of Technologies

The absence of race in technological history studies can be traced from ages ago, for instance, in 1820, where inventors were recognized for their backgrounds and not abilities, as explained by Lerman (2010). The races regarded as inferior could not have made it in technological history books with such practices. Technological historians could not have known what was under the rag. Scholars conduct studies with evidence and credible sources. Lerman (2010) explains that in the 1820s schools such as Franklin Institute made technological knowledge accessible to its children. Immigrant public schools and private black teachers training schools were not privileged enough for such knowledge. Although the technological knowledge hierarchies were inaccessible to such schools, it did not mean their students did not possess the knowledge of making things and material environment manipulation to achieve a particular goal. However, that was not remarkable enough to go down the history books of technology.

Scholars play a significant role in the study of the history of technology. It is through their literal works, research, and findings that knowledge in technology is expounded. However, they rely on evidence and documentation as sources of their work. Pena (2010) advocates for historians to acknowledge that race and technological history in the US are like two peas in a pod even though history books have omitted race in the development of technology. Historians of technology face a challenge of sources in encouraging race studies in technological history. There is also the tendency of researchers and scholars to fail to see what can be found in the available sources. Scholars cannot interpret what they already have as a means of drawing race out of the archives, and this tendency bars them from entirely, including race into their analyses.

Research processes in the study of technological history have been formed with outstanding innovations, and rarely can they be re-designed for other purposes. Pena (2010) explains that there is difficulty in the procedure of research since archives and methods intended for others in technological history cannot be relied upon to be used for race and technology. The scholarship exists for examining relationships between cultural values, social change and technology. Socio-cultural relations rooted in the technologies have been neglected; hence only a few mechanisms for scholarship production prioritizing race can be noted.

Technology historians argue that large technological systems partly run on political and cultural values. These systems are viewed to have momentum and styles. Lerman (2010) argues that if such arguments are supported, then technologies signified by the keyword technology include past injustices and various exclusions. U.S. history's industrial capitalism development is not fully democratic when it comes to racial and gender analysis. Technological knowledge accessibility created excellent opportunities for various students leaving behind a group of students, and in turn, old power hierarchies were replicated. Technology transfer could rationally refer to physical artifacts and development systems. The ideology behind the technology is harder to renegotiate if it is hidden behind progress.

As an attempt to include race in the history of technology, Pena (2010) advocates for historians and scholars to view race as an epistemology used in producing and consuming technology. With such a concept in mind, it is easy to comprehend the importance of the obvious, that is, people create, maintain, and protect their interests using technology. If race is allowed to represent non-whites, then it is essential to acknowledge that the most potent race created by science and technology is the white race. Pena (2010) also argues that whiteness and racial difference are constructed using technology. White women used artificial sweetener technology in the 1950s to remove sugar calories from desserts and sweet foods (Pena, 2010). The sweeteners were tools for professionalizing domestic food production since the women were able to experiment with a chemical directly.

Black Americans faced segregation that created a gap in science benefits received by both whites and blacks. The blacks and native Americans perceived technology to be more harmful than beneficial. For instance, the Native Americans had their lands transferred to the whites because they were deemed inferior in possession of technical knowledge. Whites, through phrenology, were regarded as more intellectual compared to other races (Pena, 2010). Even with such narratives, race has still not managed to make it as an essential part of technological history. Race's absence is not because material evidence is not enough, but because the focus of the scholars is elsewhere. The focus is on the physical objects of technology and not how these objects contributed to racial discrimination or how racial differences led to the development of these objects. The social and cultural aspects of the history of technology have not been given much importance, hence the reason why race is absent.

The Visibility of People of Color through Technology

Racial discrimination has seen the people of the color resort to all means possible in retaliating and ensuring that their voices are heard and their rights upheld in the United States. For a long time, people of color have been invisible as society turns a blind eye to their suffering. Movements like Black Lives Matter came to be as an attempt of African Americans to make themselves visible; to tell the world that they are human too and their lives matter despite their skin color. Fischer and Mohrman (2017) give an insight into the discrimination of African Americans in the United States through the shooting of a 32-year-old Philando Castile who was a St.Paul Montessori's school lunch supervisor. On July 6, 2016, a police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, shot Castile after pulling him over (Fischer and Mohrman, 2017). This incident is one of many that have occurred in the United States, and it is like a dark shadow hovering around the people of color; hence, they fight back.

Technology is one of many mechanisms that have helped the people of color to stand up for themselves and fight for their rights. With the emergence of smartphones and social media, it is almost impossible for anything to go unnoticed. Social media platforms have made every person a reporter in their manner. Information circulates faster, leading to prompt solutions. Facebook is one such platform, and it has an option to stream live videos, which enables real-time viewing. Fischer and Mohrman (2017) describe how the Castile Shooting went viral as it was happening. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was accompanying him, sought to Facebook Live streaming option, the moment the officer fired the shot. Reynolds knew the situation of the blacks in the U.S; hence, she was quick-witted and used technology as her weapon of defense.

Individuals whose history has witnessed as subjects of racial discrimination; racialized practices of surveillance become empowered to use Sousveillance as an insurgent surveillance from below. Fischer and Mohrman (2017) explain that technology is enabling the people of color to avert the gaze from themselves to the ones above, the institutions. Sousveillance is also helping in preventing the stereotype that black people are thugs. Social justice movements can now challenge racism in the institutions with concrete evidence and the eye of the public as their witness.


Race and technology have an irrefutable relationship, be it in history or the future of technology. Historical studies of technology might not have documented race's involvement and contributions, but it cannot be denied that the two ideologies have come a long way. Technology contributed to racial differences back in the 1950s as the whites were considered superior to the people of color since they possessed technological knowledge. The whites are also a race, and they used technology to preserve and protect their race. Technology advanced as time went by but still maintains a relationship with race for people of color can now use technology to assert their rights.

In the future, whether people from different races keep fighting for supremacy and justice in the future or decide to unite as one, technology is still bound to have a hand in it. Scholars and historians should pay attention and give the race its due place in technological advancement. Technology is one of many mechanisms that have helped people of color to stand up for themselves and fight for their rights. With the emergence of smartphones and social media, it is almost impossible for anything to go unnoticed. Social media platforms have made every person a reporter in their manner. Information circulates faster, leading to prompt solutions. Facebook is one such platform, and it has the option to stream live videos, which enables real-time viewing.


Fischer, M., & Mohrman, K. (2017, March 3). Black deaths matter. Sousveillance and the invisibility of black life. Retrieved from

Lerman, N. E. (2010). Categories of difference, categories of power: bringing gender and race to the history of technology. Technology and Culture, 51(4), 893-918. Retrieved from

Pena, C. (2010). The history of technology, the resistance of archives, and the whiteness of race. Technology and Culture, 51(4), 919-937. Retrieved from

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