MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA—On Saturday, in the presence of local dignitaries, the local police department opened up a new substation in the neighborhood of Belle Haven, just a short block down the street from Facebook’s massive corporate headquarters. This is no ordinary police station. Its renovation, rent, and one officer’s salary have been substantially paid for by Facebook, to the tune of $600,000 over the next two years.
This wealthy Silicon Valley city of 32,000 people boasts a median household income of over $113,000. Kepler’s, a well-known independent bookstore, is one of the retail anchors of its downtown corridor. So far this year, the median home sales price in Menlo Park has been $1.5 million.
A major corporation funding a police department—particularly in a well-to-do city like Menlo Park—seems extremely rare in the United States, if unprecedented.
You ever read a news headline where every word before you even read the actual article just gives you a sick sensation right in your soul?
This is a resplendent example of White male privilege: a police funded by the rich for the rich, in one of America’s most gentrified White states, generating an economy that largely serves the interests of White men:
a narrow vision of capitalism once again threatens to leave many Americans behind. Our nation’s failure to achieve equal educational opportunity has exacerbated race-based economic disparities and produced two starkly different American economies.
And while women have made strong gains in professional life, they remain dramatically underrepresented in many of the most profitable sectors. Silicon Valley is hardly the only place where this is evident, but addressing it here is crucial to turning the tide. [My emphasis.]
In March, Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote to tech leaders such as Facebook, Apple, Twitter, HP, and Google:
Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day.
And just to be clear: this unequal distribution and access of technological innovation in Facebook’s case seems to be funding a higher quality police force for elites.
Some people see that technology is value free – as if it simply developed by talented individuals and later adopted by the masses. This view fails to take into account how technology is both shaped by, and shapes, social interaction and how technology reflects social hierarchies. This is an example of how technological progress shapes economic inequality, notions of risk and safety. It doesn’t have to be this way – people make these choices to serve their interests, rather than focusing on collective good.