Is the Medium Algorithm Racist?

Or is it just me?

Roz Warren, Writing Coach

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I’ve been on Medium since 2019, and all I really know about the Medium algorithm is that nobody really knows anything about the Medium algorithm.

The algorithm puts stories in our feeds every day. Of the zillions of new posts that appear on the platform, how does Medium decide what to recommend to you? Nobody knows. All we know is that the platform is continuously feeding us new stories to read.

So here’s my question — is the Medium algorithm racist?

I’m white. It recently occurred to me that virtually all of the posts that Medium has put in my feed for the past 3+ years have been by other white writers. Based on my feed, you’d think there weren’t any Black writers on this platform.

Which just isn’t true. Once I started actively looking for them, I found that there are scads of great Black writers on Medium. And publications that feature them. For the past week, I’ve been reading their work. And I plan to continue.

I’ve read about nannying for caucasian celebrities while being Black in America. And about a black doctor whose white patients refuse to knowledge that she’s a “real doctor.” I read a great profile of Jackie Ormes, the first Black women cartoonist. A fascinating post about how a group of Black women on Twitter feel about interracial dating. And? I learned about what Martin Luther King thought about Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura.

I’ve learned a lot about White Supremacy and institutionalized racism and micro aggressions. And I hope to learn more.

Great writers of color have been on Medium all along. I blame myself for the fact that I didn’t go looking for them sooner. But — why hasn’t Medium been putting their stories in my feed all along? Is Medium racist? Has Medium somehow labeled me a racist and thus kept those voices out of my feed?

I worked at a public library for 21 years. Although the community we served was mostly white, we added lots of books by Black writers and other writers of color to our collection. We didn’t put them in a special section for Black readers. We put them on the browsing shelves with the other books. We assumed that they would be of interest to all of our patrons — and based upon how many white folks checked…

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Roz Warren, Writing Coach

Writing Coach and Editor Roz Warren (roSwarren@gmail.com) will help you improve and publish your work.