As I write this, I search for the right words, and ways to connect these words to actions. That video of George Floyd being killed in a broad daylight by a policeman, employed and sworn to protect him, haunts us. It comes right after a careless dog-owner called the cops on Chris Cooper, whose only crime was being black in a public park. An insult that could have just as easily resulted in another black man’s death.
Death and insults; we live in a society starkly divided in its basic guarantee of life and liberty to its black American citizens. Outrage does not capture the sense of wrong here, nor does sadness. We reiterate the call by Chancellor Khosla in rejecting this continuing dehumanization of fellow Black Americans. Melody Cooper, sister of Chris Cooper, writes, “Stand with us. Bear witness. Continue the discussion and support legal action. Refuse to accept racism in your midst, even in small ways—call out a cruel joke or rude behavior.”
We can do more than just reject racism. As an organization, we can leverage the skills and resources at our disposal to turn ideas into action. We believe data science can serve as a powerful tool for transparency and support for systemic change. Our advisor, DJ Patil, writes, it can expose inequality and injustice while providing data-driven solutions for change such as data-driven justice, monitoring policing and use of force, and removing the reliance and adoption of racist and biased algorithms from our criminal justice system.
In that spirit, we are setting a task force with Professor Brad Voytek to develop ideas and proposals on how best to leverage our resources to launch projects that educate us, improve diversity and representation in data science, and to engage the community and government leaders on how data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are used to improve lives, and how they are misused to propagate and amplify bias, racism, and division.
In the meantime, on behalf of HDSI faculty, staff, students, industry and community partners, kindly allow me to express our solidarity and support for members of our community who have been and continue to be hurt by these events and the continuing injustices. We stand with you and refuse to accept the status quo.
Distinguished Professor, HDSI Founding Director