A Final Thought: Facebook thinks I'm black


By Mitch Allen

With all of the recent reporting about the inappropriate sharing of our Facebook data, I decided to find out what advertising categories the company has placed me in based on how I use the site. 

This information is buried so it takes a few clicks to get to it. Here’s how:

• From the mobile app: Click the menu button which shows up as three little horizontal bars at the bottom of the page. Scroll down and click “Settings.” In the pop-up menu, select “Account Settings.” Now, scroll down to the bottom and click “Ads” then “Your Information.” Scroll to the bottom and select “Review and Manage Your Categories” (it’s greyed out and a little hard to see).

• From a desktop computer: Click the menu icon which appears as a tiny upside-down triangle at the far right of the top toolbar then click “Settings.” Among the selections at the far left, click “Ads” then “Your Information.” You’ll be given two choices. Click the greyed out one called “Your Categories.”

Voila. These are the advertising categories Facebook has placed you in so that companies may target their messages to you. 

According to my categories, I’m a parent who lives away from his hometown and who is an early adopter of technology. I own an iPhone 6 Plus and I’m an engaged shopper. When it comes to U.S. politics, I’m a moderate and my “multicultural affinity” is African American. 

They got it all right except for two things: I’m not an engaged shopper (I buy virtually nothing online) and I’m not black.

I’m a white dude. (By the way, if you don’t see a multi-cultural affinity, Facebook hasn’t characterized you as an “African American, Hispanic American or Asian American.”)

To Facebook’s credit, I can see why they pegged me as being interested in ads targeting African Americans. I’m a board member of a local non-profit mentoring organization which helps urban male adolescents break the cycle of poverty and find a healthy place in school, community and society. 

Serving on the organization’s marketing committee, I’m also an administrator of the group’s Facebook page, and I read a good deal of content related to finding solutions for the devastating effects of racism and discrimination.

Back in the late 1990s when I was with the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, I served on the Newspaper Association of America’s Diversity Committee. One of our major efforts was a mentoring program designed to develop diverse talent in America’s newsrooms, but it was too little too late. 

By the turn of the millennium, most young, talented journalists of color stopped banging their heads against the stone walls of the newspaper industry’s ivory towers and either became bloggers in their own right or went to work for digital news outlets who eagerly embraced them.

The rest is history.

Speaking of racial identity, those who read my March column may recall that I have been waiting for my Ancestry.com DNA results. They came in. 

As suspected, I am 84% English/Irish/Scottish, yet, alas,  the family lore of having a Native American ancestor goes unresolved. That’s because the remaining 16% was labeled “low-confidence,” but was suggested to be from other parts of Europe, including 7% from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Genealogically speaking, 7% is a huge number, which means for it to be true a relatively recent ancestor would have had to have been a full-blown Spaniard. 

That is, unless the old tale of my great-great-great grandfather “going out west and falling for a Native American princess” isn’t true and instead he fell for a Hispanic woman, the descendant of, say, an Aztec princess and a Spanish conquistador?

More likely, however, the unknown 16% is made up of peasants from other parts of Europe who lived in small huts made of straw and animal dung.

But regardless of what Facebook, Ancestry.com or anyone else has to say about my racial heritage or yours, we are all children of the same parents—whether you believe they lived in the Garden of Eden, Mesopotamia or the African Savannahs. 

We are all cousins. We are all family.


Categories: Smart Living