Last night, out of the blue while lying in bed I thought of Kozmo, the internet-based delivery service that I knew from Seattle in about 1999 or 2000. That was right after I moved here, my second ex-wife and I had just moved into our first place in Wedgwood, high up on 35th Ave NE overlooking the Cascades and Lake Washington. We ordered from Kozmo a lot. We joked about them a ton after they disappeared. They flew too close to the sun, we said.
Just now, out of the blue, she messaged me. My ex. She apologized for the random question, then asked if I remembered that weird delivery service that started when we first moved here? What was it called? she asked. She said it’s been bugging her all day after it popped into her head last night while she was lying in bed.
That was weird. It prompted me to look up Kozmo on wikipedia to refresh my memory a bit, and see what became of them. In the History section of the wiki entry is this paragraph:
The company was the subject of an April 2000 report by MSNBC.com reporters Brock Meeks and Elliot Zaret claiming that Kozmo was redlining sections of the cities it served that were populated primarily by African Americans. Kozmo denied that race played any part in its decision on what zip codes to deliver to, asserting that they choose market areas based primarily on Internet penetration rates. The Equal Rights Center (ERC), the Washington, DC-based civil rights group referenced in the article, pursued the company about the allegations. Later in the year, the ERC announced a joint initiative with Kozmo and stated that “Kozmo’s initial service area was not motivated by racial discrimination,” and Kozmo committed $125,000 toward increased Internet availability for underserved communities.
What a relevant story still today. I need to know more about this aspect of the Kozmo story. Whether or not Kozmo was redlining, or just blindly chasing data and how that determination was handled publicly and privately would be a very clear story about what institutionalized racism is and how it works.
I remember when this story was in the news in 2000 and how it struck me then. It strikes me differently now, in 2018, so many things are different now, including me.