As a black person who's been around countless metropolitan areas, such as Newark, N.J.; Baltimore; and Southeast D.C., the only places I tend to avoid now are where a plethora of Confederate flags and KKK meetings are being held. And in my current state of residence, those are in abundance.
But I doubt that those are the areas the makers of the new SketchFactor app would deem "sketchy."
SketchFactor, the brainchild of two white millennials, Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, allows people to rate the "sketchiness" of certain areas in major cities. McGuire came up with the idea after she relocated to the Washington, D.C., area, and found herself lost in the sea of “Chocolate City.”
The app, which launches today, asks people to submit their own sketchy stories to its website, but it seems that the two creators are now successfully being trolled, given this posting:
I walked into my building and just before I entered the elevator, a super sketchy person entered my elevator. I've been in this complex since 1972 and these strange people keep showing up in my complex. They are walking strange dogs, have lots of facial hair, and look unwashed. They are opening up bistros in neighborhoods, drinking craft beer and looking like the homeless folks I used to encounter in NYC in the 80's. I think this is SUPER SKETCHY. At best, it is ANNOYING AS HELL. Especially since my neighborhood is being overwhelmed with these…people who would never think to cross into this neighborhood 10 years ago. I also smell a conspiracy. What should I do?
Here's the problem with this app. I can see it now: White people not used to the "ungentrified" (that's probably not a word) areas of the gentrified neighborhoods they have flocked to will now go on a "rating profiling" spree, pointing out every little incident of blackness they notice. Welcome to the millennial version of racial profiling.
But wait: The app's founders said they didn't build the app as a way to be an undercover racist. "We understand that people will see this issue," McGuire said in an interview with Crains. "And even though Dan and I are admittedly both young, white people, the app is not built for us as young, white people. As far as we're concerned, racial profiling is 'sketchy,' and we are trying to empower users to report incidents of racism against them and define their own experience of the streets."
I'm glad to see that McGuire didn't let the rough streets of Washington, D.C., deter her from wanting to help out when it comes to racial profiling.
But that's OK. I'm going to use this app.
I'm going to download it and head to Bed-Stuy, Harlem and probably parts of D.C. and rate every last sketchy-looking hipster who is benefiting from the new resources that the original residents can't even afford anymore. And that's what I call sketchy.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.