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 .
- 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.
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:
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?
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)?
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.
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?
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?
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 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?
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:
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.