In a video recorded by a reporter for the Detroit News, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D.-Mich.) told James Craig, the chief of the Detroit Police Department, that “non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same” and that because of this the department’s analysts who review videos using facial recognition software “need to be African Americans.”
The Detroit News published the video and a news story about Tlaib’s remarks on Oct. 1 under the headline: “Tlaib: Use only blacks as Detroit’s facial recognition analysts.”
Tlaib made her statement to the police chief while he was giving her a tour of his department’s “Real Time Crime” center, which monitors video cameras around the city.
The police chief, acknowledging that facial recognition technology is not 100 percent accurate, told Tlaib that a “match” by the software is “a tool only” that the police use in pursuing a case.
“We know that, going into this, that the computer is not at 100 percent. We know that,” the chief tells Tlaib on the Detriot News video.
Tlaib says: “So, that’s only just one, not the main element.”
The chief responds: ‘It’s a tool. A match is a tool, only.”
Tlaib says: “No, my questions is: Is this solely what’s used to prosecute somebody?”
The chief: “No. Absolutely not. Never. Never. That’s one thing--I’m glad you asked that. It’s a great question.”
A moment later, Tlaib said to the chief: “And you know what, and also, analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not. Because let me tell you—No, it happens all the time, it’s true. I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same. I’ve seen it even on the House floor, people calling Elijah Cummings John Lewis and John Lewis Elijah Cummings, and they are totally different people. I’m just saying. I see it all the time, and I love them because they, like, go along with it.”
The chief responded: “Well, I trust people who are trained.”
Tlaib: “I know. I know”
The chief: “Regardless of race, regardless of their gender. It is about the training.”
Tlaib: “But it does make a huge difference.”
The day after the Detroit News published this story, it ran an editorial titled: “Rashida Tlaib should wake up.”
“It’s almost too rich that the congresswoman who was a target of one of Donald Trump’s most offensive tweets has followed him down the racist rabbit hole,” said the editorial.
The editorial quoted Detroit Police Chief Craig criticizing what Tlaib said to him when he gave her the tour.
“Later, Craig called Tlaib’s stereotyping for what it is,” the Detroit news editorial said. “‘[T]o say people should be barred from working somewhere because of their skin color? That’s racist.’”
On Oct. 4, the Detroit News published a commentary by Tlaib responding to its editorial.
“My comments weren’t racist, out of order, or ‘inappropriate,’” Tlaib said in her commentary. “It is inappropriate to implement a broken, flawed and racist technology that doesn’t recognize black and brown faces in a city that is over 80 percent black.”
Tlaib then sent out a tweet with her commentary from the Detroit and followed that up with two other tweets.
“While the continued fascination with my every word is flattering, it will not get me to back away from the truth,” Tlaib said in the tweet that included a link to her Detroit News commentary. “
“I know it makes people uncomfortable when I speak the truth,” she said in the third tweet.