A practical example of the social construct of race

Dropdown box asking for my race or ethnicity. The options are Malay, Chinese, Indian, or other.

I've been reading lots of books about race, justice, and history. One of the things which confused me when I started this journey was the notion that race is a construct. But then I started reading about how Blumenbach literally invented the concept of distinct human races. And about how the discredited "Science" of race […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Shakespeare and Immigration - Espinosa & Ruiter

Book cover featuring handwritten words from Shakespeare.

This is selection of essays looking - as the title suggests - at the relationship between Shakespeare and immigration. It's always worth re-examining our relationship with "classic" works. There are some very obvious immigration issues in Shakespeare - and this book does a plausible job of uncovering some of them. It also takes us through […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Ira Aldridge - The African Roscius by Bernth Lindfors

An African American man in a 19th Centrury portrait.

Ira Aldridge -- a black New Yorker -- was one of nineteenth-century Europe's greatest actors. By the time he began touring in Europe he was principally a Shakespearean actor, playing such classic characters as Shylock, Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear. Although his frequent public appearances made him the most visible black man in the […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race - Ayanna Thompson

A young, black actor, dressed in modern military clothing, performs a scene from Shakespeare.

The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race shows teachers and students how and why Shakespeare and race are inseparable. Moving well beyond Othello, the collection invites the reader to understand racialized discourses, rhetoric, and performances in all of Shakespeare's plays, including the comedies and histories. Race is presented through an intersectional approach with chapters that […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: The Power of Privilege - How White People can Challenge Racism by June Sarpong

Book cover.

The death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have made clear to everyone the vicious reality of racism that persists today. Many of those privileged enough to be distanced from racism are now having to come to terms with the fact that they continue to prosper at the detriment of others. Having […]

Continue reading →

What are "unusual characters"

Screenshot of a form validation error - Your first name must have at least two letters and no unusual characters.

The world is a complex place. It is tempting to enforce simplicity upon it to make things easier for computers. Gender is a boolean, no one is older than 99, all text flows left to right, and names are always in English. That makes it nice and easy for us to write computer systems - […]

Continue reading →

Movie Review: Coded Bias

Moview poster with a synthetic white face.

This is an excellent and illuminating documentary of the state of algorithmic bias. If you've read recent books like Algorithms of Oppression and Race After Technology - you probably won't find anything new. But it is nice seeing academics in their natural habitats. It really helps to personalise the problems by placing them in social […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: What White People Can Do Next - From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri

Book cover with pretty flowers on it.

When it comes to racial justice, how do we transform demonstrations of support into real and meaningful change? With intellectual rigour and razor-sharp wit, Emma Dabiri cuts through the haze of online discourse to offer clear advice. This was a refreshing and necessary book to read. Refreshing because so much of the discourse on race […]

Continue reading →

Should ₹ be part of the Latin font subset?

Stock photo of colourful Indian Rupee notes.

Some background reading. Skip if you're familiar with fonts. A font file contains a list of characters (usually letters, numbers, and punctuation) and glyphs (the drawn representation of that character). It is, of course, a lot more complicated than that. Each character has a codepoint which is represented in hexadecimal. For example, U+0057 is the […]

Continue reading →

Book Review: Algorithms of Oppression - Safiya Noble

Book cover showing some distressing Google searches.

Run a Google search for “black girls”—what will you find? “Big Booty” and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in “white girls,” the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about “why black women are so sassy” or “why black […]

Continue reading →