KNOW Systemic Racism: Community College Students' Summer at CESTA

Photo By Nicole Coleman

Jonathan Clark







The Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) recently concluded its summer DH internship program with local community colleges, an extension of last year’s pilot, generously funded by the Office of Community Engagement (OCE). Our own Dr. Daniel Bush collaborated with Dr. Falk Cammin, our partner at Foothill College, to design and expand CESTA’s Community College Summer Internship, more than doubling the number of student participants and adding De Anza to the existing partnership with Foothill College. CESTA hosted twelve interns this summer, students whose majors ranged from English to Psychology, Communications, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Engineering. The eight-week summer program provided these student interns with training in Digital Humanities-related skills, such as computational text analysis, spatial analysis, and data visualization, all through hands-on and project-focused research experience. All the students in the program collaborated to advance the exciting new project, KNOW Systematic Racism.


KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR)


The KSR Project is the creation of Felicia Smith, Stanford University’s inaugural Racial Justice and Social Equity Librarian. Felicia pioneered the (KSR) to increase awareness of systemic racism in the Bay Area. KSR galvanizes support from Stanford Libraries, research centers, community activists, investigative journalists, and non-profit organizations that advocate for civil rights. Overall, the aim of KSR is to “humanize the harm” against Black people often made invisible within statistical abstractions, obscure policy-making, and discriminatory legislation.


KSR examines how systemic racism disproportionately segregates Black people from accessing resources and services designed to contribute to upward mobility. Systemic racism directly impacts Black people’s access to quality housing, education, employment, healthcare, nutrition, etc. KSR collects data as evidence-based documentation to illustrate how these disproportions of institutional discrimination inherent within private and public entities.


Summer Interns Work on KSR


Nicole Coleman, SUL Digital Research Architect, led the students in their summer research on the KSR project through mentorship support along with coordination from William Parish, a graduate student in the Stanford history department and a CESTA affiliate. 


As a result of asking some these interns larger overarching questions related to systemic racism in America, the students designed three distinct but collaborative projects. These projects ranged from investigating the military equipment possessed by California law enforcement agencies to a historical study examining the perpetually marginalized Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. Upon completion of these projects, the students presented their results in three striking posters that combined research practices from the humanities, social sciences, and digital library practices. Below, each group discusses their posters and the research behind them.


Student Posters


How Might We Create a Better Understanding of Systematic Racism?



Description: Our project attempts to answer the question, “how might we tell a visual story of the inequalities caused by systemic racism?” We first considered the impact of systemic racism on our own lives, followed by a consideration of how identities and experiences are shaped by systemic racism. Next, we analyzed four datasets related to law enforcement agencies involved in fatal shootings, which led to a better understanding of how statistics fail to support honest discussions of systemic racism. In hopes to catalyze change, we gathered data that captured the essence of stories related to the people most marginalized by systemic racism, which we’d later insert into a “Q&A Bot.” This bot now resides on a digital platform where it is easily accessible to people who want to engage more deeply with the challenges of systemic racism.


Project Participants: Jocelyn Valazquez (undeclared major/De Anza College), Ashley Campbell (English major/Foothill College), Tian Hong Zhu (undeclared major/De Anza College), and Yash Gandhi (Business Administration major/Foothill College).





Researching The Effects of Macro-Scale Policies in Bayview-Hunters Point


Description: Our project illustrates how San Francisco’s real estate policies affect the residents of Bayview-Hunters Point. Our focus was on how redlining economically disconnected Bayview-Hunters Point from other parts of San Francisco. We used maps to better understand how the city’s real estate policies directly correlate to inequalities associated with Bayview Hunters Point’s infrastructural development, demographics, and well-being of residents. Upon looking at the maps and statistics from our project, one will notice that the Bayview-Hunters Point – a neighborhood with the highest density of Black people in San Francisco – suffers from predominantly lower-incomes as well as lower-quality education compared to neighboring portions of the city. For more information on our project, please use the QR code.


Project Participants: Makayla Miller (Psychology & Education majors/Foothill College), and Molara Mabogunje (Communications major/Foothill College).
Racism in California Law





Description: Our project analyzed public documents published by California Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), which resulted in our collecting of more than one terabyte of data from roughly 75 departments. However, this breadth of data-collection only references 76% of studied LEAs that have published military equipment policies and inventory lists. To correct optical character recognition issues, we developed a versatile data-script to analyze the public documents using Python-tesseract and law-BERT. We expect to use our collected data for future analyses of lawsuits and civilian complaints against department militarization, examining department policies that marginalize the lives of specific demographics, as well as identifying discriminatory language discrepancies within department policies.


Project Participants: Mahik Kaur (Computer Science & Electrical Engineering majors/De Anza College), Disha Shidham (Environmental Engineering major/Foothill College), and Kathia Hernandez-de Orta (Psychology major/De Anza College).


Additional Program Participants: Cynthia Smith (undeclared Major/De Anza College), Jeremy Arthur (Chemisty Major/Foothill College), and Alexsa Knight (undeclared major/Foothill College).