Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blackbird: A Racist(?) Web Browser

You couldn't make this stuff up. Oh wait, they did. Web developers have recently unveiled Blackbird, a new web browser that caters to the African American community. Using a FUBU (For Us, By Us) model "Blackbird was developed by a team of African Americans to allow you to connect to what's going on in the African American community." At first glance, I was immediately struck with a cognitive dissonance of epic proportions. On the one hand, I empathize with and understand the development team's ambition: to create an accommodating experience for African American web users. But on the other hand, WHAT... THE... FUCK!?!?

Here are a few of my reactions to Blackbird, the (potentially) racist web browser:

#1: Even web browsers are segregated now? I can already imagine the racial undertones in advertising: "Try Blackbird. It's faster". Oh, wait, they've got these already:

Y'hear that? Yes we can... Get Blackbird? Oh my... Stereotyping at its finest.

#2: Isn't this browser a bit insulting to African Americans? It's as if to say that they can't surf the web like other people. Like somehow they need some additional help to search the internet. And to the African Americans who do lack the skills -- like many members of other communities -- to search the net, won't this browser only make them dependent on Blackbird? What happens if they need to use the internet at work, a library, or anywhere else? I can already imagine some cracka-ass KKK members deeming this new browser "web-affirmative action" or a form of "web-welfare".

#3: Blackbird offers a tool they call "Black Search" which essentially brings up search results that "tailor to African American interests". I installed the browser to test out this feature and the results are quite astounding. I typed in the following in the search box: "Bruce Springsteen". I figured "Hmm... How much 'whiter' can it get?" The second search result was the YouTube link to a Springsteen song titled "Dancing in the Dark". I suppose any search with the word "dark" gets bumped up in the results list. Next, I tried a search for "President Bush". I'm not kidding you here; the first result I got was for a video clip of "President Black Bush", a hilarious skit from Chappelle's Show. Finally, I did a search on "Karl Marx". I was astonished to find that none of my results had anything to do with "Karl Malone". But aside from that, the results weren't too reassuring. Amongst the top results, I found (1) a forum post on AllHipHop.com (very helpful...), (2) a link to a book being sold on Amazon.com which claims that Karl Marx was a racist (if you're wondering, the title of the book is simply "Karl Marx, racist"), and (3) an article titled "Barack Obama, Black Liberation Theology and Karl Marx". I was amused to say the least. Hey, Black Search, I've got some web-slang just for you: FAIL!!1!

#4: I can assure you that as time goes on, just like everything else that African Americans create, White people will latch on to it and claim it as their own. Just wait and see, soon enough a majority of Blackbird's users will be comprised of the "white teenager" demographic. Soon enough.

#5: The BK MC wasn't jokin'! I think he might even be a prophet! Blackbird puts a whole new spin on a particular bar from Talib Kweli's "Supreme, Supreme": "Getting information from the nigga-net/". :P

#6: What's next? Web browsers for Asians, Hispanics? What about a web browser for White people? Oh, wait, that's been taken care of at WhiteBirdBrowser.com, clearly a spoof of Blackbird. The best part about White Bird is that it redirects you to Apple's Safari. lolz

I suppose we can all sleep soundly at night knowing that they didn't name it something like "Brozilla" instead.