Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937
The central argument of How We Became Our Data is that over the past century we have become informational persons whose lives are increasingly conducted through an information politics. This chapter begins with the project of real estate redlining in the United States in the 1930s to tell the story of the production of an informatics of race in the twentieth century that has been used to pursue racism by other, more subtle and insidious, means. During the 1910s and 1920s, the social categorization of race was enrolled in data technologies that to this day always announce our race for us in advance of any arrival. Interrogating the formation of these data technologies offers a way of seeing how sometimes-transformable race was made into ever-obdurate data. Building on recent contributions to the study of racializing technology, especially Simone Browne’s studies of racialized surveillance in light of Michel Foucault’s history of the Panopticon, this chapter offers a detailed inventory of a technology of racialization rooted in data. This critical genealogy excavates the informational conditions that help facilitate the ongoing persistence of race, and hence of racism, in our contemporary data-obsessed moment.
Keywords: Redlining, Informatics of Race, Racial Data, Technological Racism, Formats, Infopolitics, Informational Persons, Genealogy, Critical Theory