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How Google Took on Racial Justice for Mother's Day

Photograph by Youtube

Late last year, Google dropped its whole "Don't Be Evil" motto. But the values behind the saying appear to be baked into the culture anyway, as seen in the way the company is leveraging the power of its platform to put certain issues in the spotlight. Lately, that issue has been criminal justice reform and racial justice.

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Since November of last year, Google.org has given grants of around $3 million to community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area that are taking on systemic racism in America's criminal justice, prison and educational systems. Just this weekend, the search engine giant teamed up with similar organizations around the country in a "Love Letters" campaign, which videoed Mother's Day messages for kids of incarcerated women. The moving video messages not only connected these kids with their missing moms, but also was an effort to raise awareness around the real and human toll of mass incarceration.

There are at least 2.7 million children in the U.S. who have a parent in prison, USA Today reports. Black kids are 7.5 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent. Often, these prisoners are first-time, non-violent offenders.

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In the Mother's Day message videos, children talked about what they miss about their moms. Many wished they could get hugs and show them new things they've learned, like how to ride a bike or skate. A new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that children whose parents are in prison suffer the same levels of stress as kids in abusive homes or where there is domestic violence or divorce.

The videos are heart-wrenching and a reminder that mass imprisonment has consequences that reach beyond one person's punishment—it's punishment for a family and community.

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"This is an opportunity for us to bear witness to those who are rarely given a voice and it's an opportunity to use our platform to have our larger community bear witness," Malika Saada Saar, public policy and government relations senior counsel at Google, told reporters about the program. "Most of the women behind bars were mothers and they were mothers to very young children and there was just so much grief. They didn't know where their children were all the time. They rarely had the chance to see their children. At the time I was a new mother, and I was very shaken by that experience."

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