Penny Nance: Shame on Google for dissolving its AI council over African-American leader Kay Coles James

Women across the political perspective applauded recently when Kay Coles James, the first woman and the first African-American to lead the conservative and respected Heritage Foundation, was chosen to join Google’s new external advisory council to in part discuss the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Our joy lasted barely a week when, in reaction to internal pressure from incensed employees, she was ousted via the dissolution of the council.

As shocking as this may be, it is illustrative of the culture at Google, where over 1,000 Google employees took the time to sign a petition calling for James’ removal. Leaked email exchanges reported by Breitbart News show employees accused her of “transphobia” and “homophobia.” They accused her of viewing the LGBT community as “subhuman” and in support of “exterminationist” views.

GOOGLE DISSOLVES AI ADVISORY BOARD AMID EMPLOYEE PROTEST

The exposé showed one of the most outspoken critics to be well-known AI researcher, and head of two projects at Google, Meredith Whittaker. Whittaker described Kay James as an “outspoken bigot.”

Of course, neither Whittaker nor any of these people know Kay James. A cursory read of her book "Never Forget," or better yet five minutes in the same room with her, and they would know these claims are both patently false and downright ridiculous.

Her views and the positions taken by the Heritage Foundation fall squarely within the mainstream of public discourse and debate. To say she can't have those views is condescending and ignorant, not to mention discriminatory. Why not just post a sign on the Google homepage that reads: “Woke Only.”

The truth is that 69-year-old Kay James is a civil rights hero and her personal story should be celebrated. In 1961 at age 12, she was one of the first African-American students integrated into the Richmond, Virginia school system.

As a very young woman, she chose to break racial barriers by entering junior high school while white people yelled at her. With blood running down her legs from the pinpricks of other students, she walked the halls with her head held high.

Her inspiring grace and dignity come from her core values and a secure knowledge that she is made in God’s image. She continues to exhibit that same courage, grace and dignity at every turn.

As an adult, Kay James served in top leadership positions in the administrations of two presidents and was a Cabinet secretary to the Governor of Virginia. She is a wife and the mother of three children, including an unconditionally loved gay son, and the grandmother of five. I serve under her able chairmanship on the bi-partisan Women’s Centennial Suffragist Commission, and I have been honored to call her friend for many years.

She also founded the Gloucester Institute, which cultivates and supports college-age leaders in the African-American community. This is who the unhinged employees at Google are so scared of?

Whittaker et al. play at working toward diversity while Kay James has actually sacrificed for it. Their sophomoric naiveté would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.

Likewise, Google's actions betray a disturbing lack of maturity on top of its rank hypocrisy. If Google is all about connecting information with people, its employees should embrace people with different viewpoints instead of trying to shut them up and shut them down. This is a contradiction that needs to be resolved if Google is to be trusted by all of its users.

The Google employees say they're advocating for diversity, when in truth if you don't believe the way they do, no matter your race or sex, you're to be ostracized, belittled, bullied and demonized. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where people could be more hypocritical. 

The logical conclusion of Google’s new litmus test is that conservatives have no place in leadership. If Kay James is disqualified, then no person with traditional Christian views on marriage may participate at a leadership level at Google and perhaps not fully in the rank and file.

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Drumming Kay James out of Google, and the bullying tactics used against her should make us wonder about the safety of our data. Let’s remember these same people have access to information about our whole lives.  As the leader of a conservative woman’s organization, this fans concerns we had already been having regarding the integrity of our search-engine results.

What Google is really saying with these actions is that they cannot be trusted. Its top leadership only respects users and customers who think one way, who think their way. That's the opposite of diversity. Shame on Google and shame on us if we ignore it.

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