Pointers for creating profile-free posts on Nexdoor.com

Introduction 


Neighbors for Racial Justice began when several of us came together because of our concerns about racial profiling on crime alert posts on Nextdoor.com. Nextdoor is a social media platform for neighbors. While most posts are friendly offers of free items or alerts about runaway pets, there are also frequent posts from neighbors reporting crimes or observations of "suspicious" activity.

While some changes have been made to the platform in response to our suggestions, harmful racial profiling still occurs on Nextdoor. In an effort to better educate our neighbors about racial profiling and how it makes us all less safe, N4RJ has been writing a series of "Pointers for creating profile-free posts" and sharing them on Nextdoor.


We invite you to share them as well. The principles apply whether posting on Nextdoor.com, or any other social media platform or neighborhood listserv. Feel free to share them widely.


Note that the links we include to refer back to our previous posts on Nextdoor will only work if you live in our neighborhood and have an account on Nextdoor.com. Instead you may want to link back here, where we will publish our posts, or on our Facebook page .


https://www.facebook.com/neighborsforracialjustice/





Tip #1



Dear Neighbors,


Did you know that Nextdoor has community guidelines that promote safety for all our neighbors by defining and prohibiting racial profiling? Profiling refers to the practice of considering race, among other variables, as a predictor or criteria of criminal behavior.


Unconscious stereotypes and racial bias can skew judgment and mislead us in interpreting and predicting others' behavior in spite of our best intentions.


Example: African American youth, driving by houses slowly, possibly casing. Look out for this car!


Tip: Consider what other reasons someone could be driving by slowly, looking at homes. Could this driver just be looking for a house number?

Racial profiling also includes describing people in vague and general terms, which then cast a wide net over innocent people who fit these loose descriptions.

Example: Tan Honda with paper plates idling near my home, driver claims to be waiting for a friend. Watch out for a teenage Asian male.

Tip: Given such a vague description, do you intend to have the neighborhood scrutinize all Asian teens with suspicion? Not only is it unhelpful, it can be harmful.

In considering these tips, and reviewing Nextdoor's guidelines, we will create a safer, more welcoming and inclusive neighborhood that we all deserve.

Read more about it in Nextdoor's help section:



This is the first in a series of helpful tips brought to you by Neighbors for Racial Justice.

http://www.neighborsforracialjustice.org/


Tip #2



Dear Neighbors,


In May we discussed the definition of racial profiling which refers to the practice of considering race, among other variables, as a predictor or criteria of criminal behavior. It includes describing people in vague and general terms, and results in a cloud of suspicion over innocent people who fit these loose descriptions.


https://oakmore.nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=52975967
This month we shine a light on the harm racial profiling does to individuals. Next month we plan to look at the harm it causes to the community.

Racial profiling forces individuals who have engaged in no wrongdoing to endure the burden of proving their innocence to suspicious neighbors and law enforcement.
Posting vague descriptions on Nextdoor (for instance, black teenage male) promotes suspicion of innocent black teens and puts them in a position of having to defend their right to just be.
Neighbors and visitors of color report being stopped, questioned, and harassed in Oakmore. In some instances they fear physical harm. This leaves neighbors and visitors of color feeling isolated, angry and distrustful of their own community.
Please ponder these questions before hitting "send" on your next post:

  • What harm and frustration might this post cause to an innocent person of color?

  • If you don’t have a full description that points to a specific person(s) when reporting a crime, could posting a vague description lead to the harm of an innocent person?

  • When you walk to the bus or to get a cup of coffee, how many people do you pass who fit that vague description? These are your neighbors.



Tip #3



Dear Neighbors,

This is the third in a series of posts in which we are sharing useful information about racial profiling, how it impacts us, and the harm it creates. In reducing racial profiling in our neighborhoods, we are working towards creating a safe and inclusive community.

We defined racial profiling in May:
https://oakmore.nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=52975967


In June we discussed how racial profiling harms individuals:



But how does racial profiling negatively affect our larger community?


Racial profiling can lead to a sense of isolation and segregation and stand in the way of building rich, vibrant, inclusive communities.

Regardless of our race or background, we’ve all been conditioned to hold beliefs and assumptions about groups of people. Biases cloud our ability to see members of the group as individuals and can distort our view of what is normal, everyday activity versus what is suspicious or potentially criminal. This is not only a potential danger to members of these groups, but can cause us to live in fear and suspicion, creating disharmony in our community.  

Evidence shows that racial profiling as a crime-fighting approach is both ineffective and inefficient. When we engage in racial profiling on a neighborhood level, such as on Nextdoor, we may encourage unwarranted and time-wasting calls to the police. Such calls can divert law enforcement resources and hurt us all. Check how ineffective racial profiling is here:
  
Here are some things to think about:

1) How do negative assumptions about people of color affect who you see as “unsafe” or unwelcome in your neighborhood and city?

2) If you are posting about a crime or safety issue on Nextdoor, how are these negative assumptions impacting the content of your post, and how could this be divisive in your community?



Tip #4




Dear Neighbors,

This summer Neighbors for Racial Justice has been sharing some common-sense tips with our fellow Oaklanders on how to avoid racially profiling one another when we post on Nextdoor, especially in postings about crime and safety. Here are the links to our past posts:

https://oakmore.nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=52975967


This month we would like to offer up a few questions you can ask yourself as you post to Nextdoor in the Crime and Safety section. If you take the time to ponder the answers, we hope it will be helpful to you as you compose your posts.

Did you witness or experience an actual crime, or are you posting about something you deem suspicious?

If you are posting about something you deem suspicious, could the behavior or activity you are reporting be an innocent, everyday activity (walking by, sitting in a car)?

If the behavior could be described as an everyday activity, what about it makes you think it’s suspicious?

Is it the person’s race or appearance that raises your suspicion?

Can you describe this suspicious person in a way that an innocent person will not be mistaken for the person you are describing in your post?

Given that an innocent person can be harmed if mistaken for a suspicious person vaguely described in a post, will you still choose to send that information to your neighbors?



Tip #5


Dear Neighbors,

With this new post in a series discussing racial profiling, Neighbors for Racial Justice invites you to test your own racial and cultural biases. In becoming more aware of our biases, we will create more inclusive, safer, and welcoming neighborhoods, and reduce racial profiling on Nextdoor.

Members of Neighbors for Racial Justice have taken this online test for implicit bias and found the results surprising, interesting, and useful.

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

While we are often urged to “trust our gut” and if we “see something, say something,” there is very little discussion about how our biases influence what we find suspicious.

We all hold biases; it is unavoidable. Having biases doesn’t mean you are racist or a bad person. However, when biases are unconscious, they can lead us to make assumptions about people and situations, and it can be difficult to know how much they are influencing what and who we deem suspicious.

Implicit biases are hard to uncover because they don’t necessarily align with our stated beliefs. They can be negative or positive, but usually favor our own ingroup. When unexamined, our biases can lead to racial profiling and harm to others and ourselves. The good news is they are malleable and can be unlearned.  


Let’s take responsibility and learn about our own biases and how they inform our behavior. As a first step in that direction, we urge you to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test on race.

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

Please feel free to email us your thoughts and reflections upon taking the test. We look forward to hearing from you!

Neighbors4RacialJustice@gmail.com




Tip #6


How do I know if my crime and safety post could cause harm?

Last month Neighbors for Racial Justice asked our neighbors to take the Harvard Implicit Bias test. If you haven’t already, here is the link:


After taking the test, we can use what we’ve learned about our own implicit bias to better understand how our crime reporting posts on Nextdoor may be unintentionally harmful.

Posting in haste on Nextdoor about crime or suspicion increases the chance that we are acting out our biases. The best way to prevent this is to pause before we post, giving ourselves a time-out to consider what we are seeing and how bias may be influencing our reactions.

Even judges struggle with their implicit biases, and tell us that slowing down is absolutely essential when doing their work. Watch this excellent 10-minute video in which judges discuss the importance of acknowledging and combatting their biases:

https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2016/02/hidden_injusticebi.html

Please consider these questions as an anti-bias tool to test messages before posting:

If you are posting about a crime or safety issue on Nextdoor, could negative biases about people of color affect who you see as “unsafe” or unwelcome in your neighborhood and impact the content of your post?

If the behavior you are reporting could simply be an innocent, everyday activity, what about it makes you think it’s suspicious?

Does a person’s race or appearance raise or lower your suspicion?

If you don’t have a full description that points to a specific person(s) when reporting a crime, could posting a vague description lead to the harm of an innocent person?
Given that an innocent person can be harmed if mistaken for a suspicious person vaguely described in a post, will you still choose to send that information to your neighbors?




Tip #7

Dear Neighbors, If you’ve been reading Neighbors for Racial Justice’s suggestions about how to avoid racial profiling when using neighborhood listservs and Nextdoor, you have a good idea about what bias is, how it can lead to racial profiling, and its harmful impact on your neighborhood. You may recognize posts that contain racial profiling, and wonder what you can do to reduce the harm caused by them. Nextdoor has a built-in way for users to report offensive and harmful content. Once reported, the neighborhood “leads” are notified, and they can then remove it if it came from their neighborhood. https://help.nextdoor.com/customer/en/portal/articles/2608932-report-content?b_id=98 Posts or comments which should prompt you to take action may include: * blatant hate speech or discrimination, including insults, threats, or derogatory language; * behavior that describes an everyday activity (driving slowly, making a U-turn) that when paired with race become reports of suspicious activity; * vague descriptions of people who may or may not have been observed committing a crime, so that suspicion is cast over many innocent people fitting that loose description; * suspicion that seems to be raised because of the person’s perceived race or appearance. Here are the steps to take when reporting harmful posts or comments to your lead: 1) Locate the post or reply you want to report in your newsfeed; 2) Click on the "V" to the right of the author’s name in the post or reply comment; 3) A menu will pop up asking, “What is wrong with this comment?” Choose the option, “Uncivil, unneighborly, or offensive”; 4) In the next pop-up menu, choose “Discrimination”; 5) In the next pop-up menu, you can choose racial profiling, unhelpful description, or other discrimination; 6) In the final pop-up menu, you are given a chance to write a note to your neighborhood leads to explain in detail how the post or comment violates Nextdoor’s guidelines; 7) Submit your report. Nextdoor has explicit guidelines to prevent racial profiling, but it still relies on users to speak up when violations occur and on leads to follow the guidelines. Read about those guidelines here: https://help.nextdoor.com/customer/en/portal/articles/2467402#Discrimination As members of the Nextdoor community, we can work together to reduce the harm our bias can cause, keep one another accountable, and create a safer neighborhood for all. If you find yourself wanting guidance on how to handle something you see on Nextdoor, you may reach out to Neighbors for Racial Justice (Neighbors4RacialJustice@gmail.com). You may also contact Nextdoor directly here: https://help.nextdoor.com/customer/en/portal/emails/new


Tip #8


Dear Neighbors,

If you’ve been following Neighbors for Racial Justice’s suggestions on ways to avoid racial profiling, you know that crime and safety posts can unintentionally cause harm by targeting innocent people of color in our neighborhoods. Our past posts are available here:

https://goo.gl/uW9nvh

What are some good alternatives when posting about crime?

Could it be more useful to alert our neighbors to trends in crime rather than to focus on individual suspicions and accounts?

One way to come together as a community is to remind one another of ways to prevent crime in our neighborhoods.

For instance, when laptops are snatched while people are using them in cafes, it may be most useful for your neighbors to know this is happening, and to brainstorm ways to hinder potential criminal acts. Suggestions may include attending your unsecured laptop at all times, and being aware of your surroundings.

Reports we see almost weekly are of smash-and-grabs from parked cars. Letting your neighbors know this happened can be useful if it alerts us to a continuing trend, and reminds us not to leave valuables in our cars. If we all heed this warning, we empower and protect ourselves by taking away a crime of opportunity.

Is it more helpful to remind people that they should secure their laptop to the table, or to throw out vague descriptions that won’t point to a specific person?

Is it more empowering to our neighbors to urge them not to leave briefcases and backpacks in the back seats of their car, or to suggest that we all should live in fear that crime is everywhere?

The primary goal in sharing our experiences of crime with our neighbors is to keep them safe and enable them to avoid the same fate. What information can we share that accomplishes this in a meaningful way?


Tip #9


Dear Neighbors,

Neighbors for Racial Justice has been sharing monthly pointers on how to avoid racial profiling with our Nextdoor community. There are responsible ways to both report crime AND report it in a way that doesn’t cause harm by racial profiling.

We frequently mention implicit bias, and how it informs the way we communicate about crime and safety. For a quick (under 2.5 minutes long) review on implicit bias, please check out this video from the New York Times/POV:

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000004818663/peanut-butter-jelly-and-racism.html

Creating safety in our community includes checking for our bias, which affects ALL of us.  Remembering that bias does not equal racism can make it much easier to look at how our bias impacts our reporting.
If a crime is reportedly committed by a Black male, how do we overcome our learned bias that sees ALL Black males in the neighborhood as suspicious?

If a person suspected of a crime is described as a Latino teen, how do we challenge our acquired bias that connects a Latino teen seen weeks ago to the suspect seen today? Without proof of a direct connection (i.e. same car, etc.), why does our brain want to link the Latino teen from today to the Latino teen seen weeks ago?

When we realize our brains are trained to link random people only because they share a perceived race or heritage, can we make a conscious effort to uncouple those associations?

Our unchecked bias and Nextdoor reporting is causing harm to the community, especially to people of color. To report without perpetuating the harm please:

Acknowledge that you harbor unconscious biases.

Take your time. Before you post, look for triggers and see where stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated.

Practice strategies designed to break your automatic associations that link a negative judgment to behavior that is culturally different from yours.

Check your biases. Unsure of what they are?  Find them with this test:



Tip #10


Dear Neighbors,

Neighbors for Racial Justice invites our community to take a step back for a moment from thinking about ways to alert one another about crime and suspicion, and instead explore building safer communities through community engagement.  

In what ways do you contribute to building a stronger, safer, more vital community?

Here some ideas for creating safer communities which emerged from a recent community discussion:

Smile at people you pass, or offer a greeting, especially to those you have never seen before.

Share your passions and expertise locally in ways that connect you to your neighbors.

Make it a goal to know everyone on your street and learn about your neighbors. What do they need from the community, and what can they contribute?

Instead of watching your neighbors, focus on SEEING them.  

Keep an eye out for one another, but if/when you or your neighbors suspect the wrong person(s) of mischief or crime, be sure to acknowledge the mistake, apologize for the harm, and take steps to avoid repeating the harm it created.

Support public art and neighborhood beautification projects.

Take care of your parks and green spots. Get involved in community gardening.

Support vulnerable neighbors and folks in your community who may need a little extra help. Volunteer in neighborhood soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, or youth organizations.

Coordinate a group run, hike or dog walk with your neighbors.

Organize a neighborhood potluck, BBQ, or block party. Have your neighbors over to share a meal.
Patronize local businesses, become a regular at your nearest coffee shop.

While social networking via our computers can build a certain sense of community, there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions that build safety by allowing us to know our neighbors, and engage and participate in our community.



Tip #11


Dear Neighbors,

What does it mean to report crime while not causing further harm by posting crime alerts that include vague descriptions? Neighbors for Racial Justice invites you to try an exercise using details of a recent ND post.

Sketch the following person:  African American man, dark clothing and hoodie, age 18-24, seen attempting to break into several cars.
Can you identify this exact person and pick him out of a crowd? If not, how is posting the description useful?
If you see a Black man 18-to-24 years old wearing a hoodie in your neighborhood, will you think it is him?
If you’re wrong, how costly is the error for the man fitting this vague description now that he is linked to a crime?
The University of Minnesota made a bold move by announcing the removal of race from descriptions in Crime Alerts when there is "insufficient detail to reasonably aid in identifying a suspect."  When there is an adequate amount of information to help in identifying a suspect who presents risk, race is included. This came after concerns were raised that Crime Alerts including race reinforced stereotypes of Black men as threats and create a hostile campus climate.
We are not suggesting that race is never a useful descriptor, but if the description is otherwise vague and would not point to a specific person then it is only creating harm. If you know without a doubt that there is an adequate amount of information in your description to identify the exact suspect who presents risk, then race can be a meaningful inclusion when describing people in your Crime and Safety posts.