Full Transcript: Tech Attorney And Diversity Strategist Bärí Williams On GHOGH Podcast Part 2

Written by Staff
Bärí Williams
Tech attorney and diversity activist Bärí Williams gives Jamarin Martin her take on reparations. Image: Anita Sanikop

In episode 52 of the GHOGH podcast, Jamarlin Martin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about the growing gap in big tech regulations between the U.S. and E.U., and why Democrats have been slow in bangin’ against Silicon Valley greed compared to Wall Street greed in 2008.

They also discuss reparations and artificial intelligence being weaponized against Black people.

You can listen to the entire conversation right now in the audio player below. If you prefer to listen on your phone, GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin is available wherever you listen to podcasts — including Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, and SoundCloud.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 52: Bärí Williams
Part 2. Jamarlin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about the growing gap in big tech regulations between the U.S. and E.U., and why Democrats have been slow in bangin’ against Silicon Valley greed compared to Wall Street greed in 2008. They also discuss reparations and artificial intelligence being weaponized against Black people.

This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. This is part two of the interview. Let’s GHOGH! Do you think it’s fair for Black folks specifically to say Google, Facebook, the elites in the establishment in Silicon Valley, they have been very, very smart at cultivating their lobbying game in terms of how do we influence regulation to help us scale, help us profit, help us kill the competition, that we are strategically planting people, forming alliances, the Obama administration where we want to keep the regulation down. That’s the corporation. But as you know, it seems like in the United States, regulators have been asleep but regulators in the European Union, they’ve been awake.

Bärí A. Williams: Very awake.

Jamarlin Martin: And so with Cory Booker, some of these Silicon Valley elites, they invested in a company that he created. And then he sold it. There were some scrutiny.

Bärí A. Williams: That Cory Booker created?

Jamarlin Martin: Cory Booker.

Bärí A. Williams: The only thing I remember about that was when he got that hundred million dollars from…

Jamarlin Martin: Zuckerberg.

Bärí A. Williams: Yeah. And then, and everyone’s like, where did it go?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I think that’s a problem in terms of, hey, what did we get for the hundred million dollars.

Bärí A. Williams: Does anybody know? What did they actually get?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I’m not sure. I’m not sure about that.

Bärí A. Williams: I need to go read that. I need to go read that and find the nuance. Because there may be a reason as to why we don’t know.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. But I find it problematic that these elites in Silicon Valley were investing in Cory Booker’s company and then he sells it. Many people felt that, particularly Schmidt at Google, when he was CEO, he was cultivating Cory Booker. They would go to the Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley together and the Silicon Valley establishment love Cory Booker. But when we think of why would all these elites in Silicon Valley all back this particular person as they’re rising up, do they love what he’s saying about helping the people, the most vulnerable, the poor? Or do they love the idea that they can get another man where I believe that Obama was highly linked with the Silicon Valley establishment, but we have to think about the future at this level, and this could be our guy in Washington? What do you think about that criticism of Cory Booker?

02:43 —Bärí A. Williams: I think that that is actually applicable to several people. Cause if you remember before that Mark was backing Chris Christie, so I mean you play both sides, right? I’m going to give $100 million to Newark schools and have Cory figure out how to use it, but I’m also going to throw this fundraiser for Chris Christie. So it’s like, let me hedge my bets.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. They’re playing both sides but in degree though, just based on my research is that they really were backing Cory Booker in terms of more so than than other candidates. Are you concerned about any Silicon Valley relationships with Kamala Harris in terms of, I believe that there’s going to be a lot of occupy Silicon Valley as we go into the election where there’s going to be a lot of political activity against Silicon Valley?

Bärí A. Williams: Yeah. So what you’re going to see in terms of activity in the head up to 2020 is you’re gonna see people talk a lot about privacy. Particularly, so California is Super Tuesday now. And here’s my other thing, on my Kamala versus Cory train, but she doesn’t have to place first in Iowa. She could play second or third in Iowa. You win South Carolina, you head into Super Tuesday, you’ve got California. The delegate count will be too far for anybody to feasibly catch up. So at least that’s how it plays out in my mind.

Jamarlin Martin: You think the map really is in Senator Harris’s favor?

04:11 —Bärí A. Williams: I do. Yeah. I think not just the math, but the map is in her favor. The fact that California got moved up. That’s her home state, that’s an easy get. So unless people are going to also try to come to California and lure people’s votes away from a senator, a sitting senator that we all voted for, that’s hard. So I mean, I think the map works in her favor. A lot of people, disaffected Trump voters, which is Senator Brown’s whole thing and Biden, they can appeal to Joe from Scranton. Fine. Joe from Scranton is not going to give you the delegate count that you need.

Jamarlin Martin: I would agree with that.

Bärí A. Williams: The map isn’t there.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re not concerned. I think Senator Harris beats out Beto. I think she beats out Biden. I think her problem is the left.

Bärí A. Williams: Oh yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: It’s the justice democrats. It’s the Ocasio’s. It’s the more progressive hard left. Who would be the biggest threat from your perspective in terms of predicting how things are going to play off?

Bärí A. Williams: That’s a good question. I dunno. What do you have? Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

Jamarlin Martin: Sanders? I mean he surprised a lot of people.

Bärí A. Williams: No.

Jamarlin Martin: No, that’s not working this time.

Bärí A. Williams: No. And here’s my other thing with this, and I get the, Vermont doesn’t officially have parties. How do you want to be the nominee of a party you won’t even join? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s like, I’m going to be homecoming queen of a high school I don’t go to, no, this isn’t for you,

Jamarlin Martin: Elizabeth Warren. Is she going to be competitive from your perspective?

Bärí A. Williams: I like her. One of the reasons why I do like her, to your point about consumer advocacy, she was very instrumental in having the Consumer Protection Agency created, which Trump of course tried to gut, but she walks the walk. Only problem is she says she was native American and they had a bar card yesterday that I saw the newspaper that from when she registered for the Texas bar in 1976, her race was listed as American Indian. It’s like, that DNA tests said 1 percent.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, I think people can good over that. Of course she apologized. But people want her to come out with a stronger apology. But with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they have a good track record in terms of taking on elites in corporate America. But the problem I see with their message in 2020 is that they’re so focused on Wall Street, but for this generation though, the younger generation, the Ocasio-Cortez, that message is, I would think it would be framed more of tech and Silicon Valley. Wall Street was 2008.

07:05 —Bärí A. Williams: Right, Wall Street, hedge funds. That was all 2008, occupy all that whole bit.

Jamarlin Martin: It’s time to update it.

Bärí A. Williams: Yeah, I mean what it is now is I think people are also realizing particularly around, not all tech but particularly around social media is you are the product and people did not realize that until 2016. And so again, people signed off their privacy rights to get Candy Crush credits and do whatever and nobody paid any attention and didn’t care. And then suddenly something happened. Everyone’s like, oh wait, yeah, where’s my data going? What are you doing with it? Targeted ads. Well, what kind of ads are you targeting and why are you targeting me and how are you targeting me? Then you have other issues around that, that when you let advertisers essentially design who they want to profile, you’re easily running the foul of job discrimination issues because you’re selecting. I want to target this ad to white males from the age of 25 to 35. That’s job discrimination. You could do the same thing with advertising apartments. If you’re targeting certain people, It’s housing discrimination. And if the right parameters are not in place to address those things, it will just run rampant. So you’re now you’re just using technology to further ingrain systemic discrimination into the system.

Jamarlin Martin: How do you think Senator Harris is gonna respond to what they’re calling the ADOS crowd? #ADOS In terms of reparations, when that comes up, Bernie Sanders told the crowd that he didn’t think the country was ready for that. It’s too divisive.. But how do you think Harris would respond?

08:58 —Bärí A. Williams: Well, I think she probably has a nuanced take because both her parents are immigrants, her dad is Jamaican, they had slaves in Jamaica. It’s not a foreign concept. And I think being a child of two immigrants, you kind of get to see what it’s like to be a fish out of water. And I don’t think anyone has ever looked at her and not thought of her as Black, whether that is an American descendant of slaves or an American descendant of Jamaican slaves. So I don’t think the concept is foreign for her. And I think what is interesting about it is how Obama was able to skirt that. And I think what is super interesting to me is how focused that hashtag is, particularly on Twitter now and how people are like, I want to, I want to hear what is the plan for us, from top to bottom with healthcare, with reparations, with education. I want to know what all that is. And people don’t really ask Obama that.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah.

Bärí A. Williams: But what he was able to do was lean on the fact that his wife was an American descendant of slaves. Which helped. Which is so weird to me how it seems to not necessarily benefit Kamala as much, but it benefited Barack is the distance of not being a descendant of slaves because then that kind of gives you the clean, you’re clean, right? Oh, the parents are immigrants. It’s different. We don’t even have to talk about slavery because you’re not related to that. And for whatever reason that isn’t working as well as it did for her. Part of me wonders if that’s also a gender thing. And then part of me also wonders, is it a spouse thing?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So some smart critics that I follow. They said one weakness of Kamala Harris is there’s no Michelle Obama figure symbolically for the Black voter where if we’re going to go on a little bit extra kick on symbolism, to your point, the Michelle Obama was there. This is a woman who’s from the Black community.

Bärí A. Williams: South Side, worked her way up, but then so here at, so then, but Michelle Obama, yes, south side girl descend into slaves. But here you have a woman who if she chose, if she wanted to opt out, she didn’t have to go to Howard. She didn’t have to be in a sorority. Michelle Obama did not go to an HBCU and she is not in a sorority. So I mean it’s like six of one half dozen of the other, right.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re pretty sure the Senator Harris is going to come out against reparations? That question is going to be asked. I would say 99 percent she would come out against that it seems like based on her…

11:48 —Bärí A. Williams: I don’t know. And I think another way that you can think about it is how do create systemic policy that acts as a form of reparations. Yeah. So it may not be a straight up “here’s your $10,000 descendant of slaves check”. But it could be, free college for…

Jamarlin Martin: Or debt relief for…

Bärí A. Williams: Yes. Or it could be because if you serve 10 years on the government, they will forgive your loans, your loan debt. And the catch to that though, is you don’t make a lot of money in the government, so you kind of need them to forgive your loans after those 10 years. So it’s hard. I’ve had friends that have done it and they’re pleased with it. But also if they had worked in the private sector, they would have made a lot more money and they may have paid off the loans before. So it’s, how do you look at it from an educational perspective, from a housing and red-lining perspective, from a gentrification narrative, from debt forgiveness or loan forgiveness or even, how do you look at, this was one of my biggest issues is, just because it’s tax season. And the first thing I think of is like, I’m blessed to be in a tax bracket that they want to take a lot of my money, but they’re not accounting for the fact that I had to go to a lot of schools with a lot of loans in order to get to that tax bracket where you’re taking more money. Yeah. So how do structure that?

Jamarlin Martin: Do you personally support policy on reparations?

Bärí A. Williams: Yeah. My grandparents were sharecroppers with third grade educations. So yes.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. When I’m looking at the situation in Virginia with with black face, and there’s all these issues. America is a racist country. Okay, we get that. We’re going to keep on doing this stuff back and forth. People complaining, protesting all this stuff. But just like when someone is assaulted or someone goes through trauma in terms of war, the Vietnam War, that some of this stuff to work through that trauma you, it’s painful, but America has to go back there. Meaning that, what happened to African slaves, the country can never heal without revisiting that. And part of when you go, I don’t know if a reparations is the first step. I think the first step as the country, you need a president, you need political folks to say this country can never heal and get over racism without going back to the root of the problem. I’m hoping I hear a message close to that from the Democratic side.

14:33 —Bärí A. Williams: I hope so.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re not going to hear that from the Republican side.

Bärí A. Williams: Yeah. Never, unless, the Irish were slaves too. That’s always my favorite response. I’m like, okay.

Jamarlin Martin: I guess the concept of, maybe you’re not structuring just a check, where some folks start buying gold chains.

Bärí A. Williams: You don’t want to make it like a tax refund, right? Yeah. I’m gonna ball out…

Jamarlin Martin: Give all the money back to other folks.

Bärí A. Williams: To Nike or whatever. I was trying to remember, someone was telling me a stat the other day about how long a dollar stays in the Black community and I think it was something like two days. And it’s much longer for folks in the Asian community and even white folks. They circulate their dollars all the time and we’re not very good at that.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. 2008, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, the economy’s collapsing. The United States is fearful that this whole thing can go down. And it was going down when Obama was elected. But these banks, rich folks were bailed out by the government. Hey, we have to bail these people out or it’s going to get worse. Why can’t there be that mentality with the Black men and women here in the United States where, hey, look, we have a serious race problem, almost perfectly reflected by MAGA and Donald Trump were bringing a lot of this stuff to the surface that yes, this country, at least half of them most likely are racist. A debt buying program where at least a component of the reparations, I would think, the auto loans and mortgages and credit card debt.

16:33 —Bärí A. Williams: Yeah, school loans, all of that. I think that’s why I was saying it. It isn’t necessarily just about structuring it as a check. It could be…

Jamarlin Martin: We need a knowledge of self first. Anybody gets a check, you’ve got to go read the autobiography of Malcolm X first before you get your check. You’ve got to read at least 10 books.

Bärí A. Williams: Good luck implementing that. No, I said good luck implementing that. I mean maybe we can get Amazon to give you some Audible credits so you listen to the book on tape. But no, I think it, it could be something where it is a check or at least that’s a portion of it. And then there are other policies or things that you put in place like first time home buyer assistance. You could have like, “Hey, you red-lined my people out of this neighborhood and now I want to buy here. So you’re going to put half down.” Or something like that. Free college or even better free Grad School because college is great and aspirational, but what people get stuck in the trap now where they take out more money is Grad School, whether that’s professional school, medical school, whatever it may be. So having some type of either free Grad School or loan forgiveness for that. I think those things could go a long way.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. And to support what we’re talking about. I talked to a venture capitalist out of Comcast Ventures and he said that the Black entrepreneur that he sees over the past couple of years, almost all the time, they under negotiate. They ask for less than the white entrepreneur for the same thing and he’s looking at deals. That’s not necessarily… How did that get into the culture where we’re under-negotiating mortgages, under-negotiating venture capital deals? Where does that come from?

18:29 —Bärí A. Williams: We’re just happy to be here.

Jamarlin Martin: Who is to blame for that in terms of how you get to that mentality where you’re taking less than your fair share?

Bärí A. Williams: And I tell people this all the time, even just when they’re negotiating personal job offers is, everything is negotiable and do not take the first offer and always ask for more than you actually want or even think that you’re going to get. And then you negotiate down from that. You don’t say, okay, yeah, I want $125,000 in investment. And then they give you that and you’re like, oh, okay. Because you could have asked for more.

Jamarlin Martin: Is that connected to the reparations argument?

Bärí A. Williams: I don’t know if it’s connected to reparations necessarily, but I think there is a mindset in which when you are one of a few or the only in a room, oftentimes you’re just happy to be there. So you don’t want to rock the boat.

Jamarlin Martin: But people have been traumatized…

Bärí A. Williams: I don’t disagree. I do not disagree with that. I think you have to reframe it and it’s hard. It’s hard. One of the things that I appreciate about living in California is the law now is you cannot ask people’s past salary history, which completely changes the playing field because typically we are underpaid because they go off of prior salary history.

Jamarlin Martin: And we are already behind.

Bärí A. Williams: And we’re already behind when we start because we don’t ask for much, people don’t even ask about equity. They don’t negotiate benefits. My thing is, everything is negotiable. Do you want more vacation days? Okay, well if they can’t pay you extra money, ask for more PTO because PTO gets paid out when you leave. Can you give an faster vesting schedule for your equity grant? Those things are all things you can play with. It isn’t just I want to make $20,000 more. That’s shortsighted.

Jamarlin Martin: You’ve been very vocal about bias in artificial intelligence. You were recently at CES. Can you share with our audience briefly about what are some of the risks out there in terms of biases that are being injected in artificial intelligence?

20:35 —Bärí A. Williams: One example I would give, which isn’t necessarily a negative result at this time anyway, but facial technology being used to apprehend suspects. So, considering that some facial recognition technology identified Black people as apes, we see that there are flaws in it, right? But at Dulles Airport they actually apprehended a suspect using facial recognition. Now, sounds like a happy ending, right? Except what happens when you get the wrong person and you get a couple of wrong people. So my concern with it primarily is around using the criminal justice system. So everybody loved the First Step Act that was signed into law a couple of weeks ago. I don’t love it because it uses AI to determine who gets earned credits and the earned credits determine whether you get certain classes or other rehabilitative programming. And if you’re using historical data to fuel that technology, well, we’re already behind again. So is that really fair? My other issue with that is, they use it in predictive policing. So telling how, telling police departments, how many police do you need in this particular neighborhood on this day? And they use somewhat arbitrary measures. So they’re looking at moon phases, team schedules, win-loss schedules of the teams and historical data. So if you’re looking at historical data, you’re also not accounting for gentrification. Some of those neighborhoods are turning over. And so that means that as soon as you get a hint of that, you’re not going to police that area anymore, even though maybe now it’s trending majority white. So you’re not going there anymore. And it’s scary when you also think about that in conjunction with the administration’s rollback of the Obama policies to not use private prisons. And the private prison donor class were huge benefactors to the Trump campaign. So they need to fill those prisons right and make their donors money. And so they’re going to use technology in order to ensure that that happens. And they also rolled back the military grade equipment that Obama was like, “We’re not giving used military equipment to PDs”, and now they are.

Jamarlin Martin: How has this issue, bias in AI and in tech in general, how is it connected to the poor demographic stats in terms of, hey, you know, Black and brown, they’re not really out there in commensurate numbers to their population. They’re way below the population numbers. So they’re not in the room when these products are being built and so whether it’s intentional or not, it could be weaponized. The technology is weaponized against our people. We don’t have any input.

Bärí A. Williams: No. And that goes back to what I was saying in the very beginning, is that if you have homogenous rooms, you’re going to get homogenous results. It’s that simple.

Jamarlin Martin: For the audience, where can people check you out online?

23:39 —Bärí A. Williams: Twitter @BariAWilliams all one word.

Jamarlin Martin: And do you take on a clients or are you all booked up. Do you accept clients? The right clients?

Bärí A. Williams: I have consulted before and I do have two that I work with, but that’s it. I have two kids.

Jamarlin Martin: You’ve got a lot going on.

Bärí A. Williams: I have a whole house, people that want to eat dinner, so.

Jamarlin Martin: Thanks for coming on the show.

Bärí A. Williams: Thanks for having me. Good conversation.

Jamarlin Martin: Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter and also come check us out at Moguldom.com. That’s M O G U L D O M.com. Be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter. You can get the latest information on crypto, tech, economic empowerment and politics. Let’s GHOGH!