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Race Critical Code Studies reading list from Ruha Benjamin

A reading list on critical race theory and technology that professor Ruha Benjamin recommended in an author talk. This post is a large collection of links and specific quote from the talk.

I recently watched two talks from Ruha Benjamin. I learned about her work from an episode of the Cite Black Women podcast – here is the episode on Apple and on SoundCloud.

I first watched her author talk for the San Francisco public library from 2020 and then her talk for Data & Society from 2019. Both have some of the same content, and some different content. The Data & Society recording has closed captioning and her lecture is 20 minutes at the beginning, the library talk is longer and does not have closed captioning, but it does have more detail and is more for a general audience.

This post contains links to a reading list she recommends, and a quote from her answer to one of the questions that gave me pause.

Race Critical Code Studies Reading List

There was a slide from her presentation for SF Library that had a reading list for “Race Critical Code Studies”, or critical race theory in code and technology. I thought I’d type up the books and research the links for future reference.

Ruha’s books:

Books by others (with some additional links to podcasts with the authors that I found and have not yet listened to):

A few additional resources:

Check out Ruha’s website here and if you use Twitter, you can follow her here.

Something that gave me pause

I also want to write about a couple of things that particularly gave me pause during the Q&As in the author talk linked above.

First, was Ruha’s answer to a question at the end of the library talk, “How much does it help to have racially diverse teams building technology?”. She answers that while diverse teams are necessary, they are not sufficient to address the wider scope of discriminatory design of products:

Diversity of teams is not a panacea; it’s not going to work like magic fairy dust if the culture of organizations doesn’t change and also the larger ecosystem in which technologists and technologies companies operate.

[…]

Diversity can’t be our end-all be-all because power can still continue to operate in very harmful and violent ways within a diverse workforce.

Ruha Benjamin at SF Public Library Author Speaker Series

Ruha then gives a powerful example of this at work, and you can listen to it here – it’s only about five minutes and I found it to be quite eye-opening.