Dismantling the Digital Poorhouse

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Photo: Phonlamai Photo / Shutterstock.com
Media Outlet: New America Weekly

MPPF Myacah Sampson wrote a review of National Fellow Virginia Eubanks' new book, Automating Inequality, for New America Weekly and highlighted the FCSP event exploring the book:

Eight years ago I stood in the checkout line of a Walmart in rural New Mexico with my mother. As she swiped her scratched debit card for the third time, a white woman behind us sneered.
“Indian freeloaders. Did her welfare run out?”

The woman had assumed that my mother was using an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card—the debit card on which welfare recipients receive cash assistance, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). Introduced in the 1990s, when credit and debit card use picked up, lawmakers hoped that the EBT card would help recipients of food stamps avoid the derision and outright refusal of service they often faced in grocery stores over attempts to purchase groceries with easily identifiable coupons. As well intentioned as it was, the introduction of this new technology didn’t end the racialized stigma frequently associated with welfare use. Who would’ve thought? 

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Virginia Eubanks is a Class of 2016 & 2017 New America Fellow, who pursued a three-year research study into digital privacy, economic inequality and data-based discrimination.