Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Low Level Racism

Bill Gates doesn't care about black people.

Some of y'all are shaking your heads. After all, Gates has spent millions in Africa and here in America helping poor black folks have better lives. Of course he cares about black people.

My bad. I should have said "Bill Gates doesn't care about black people when it comes to making money." Don't believe me, well check this out.

Honestly, I'm just kidding about Mr. Gates. I have no idea how he feels about "the blacks." However, that link shows that some folks at his company clearly do not believe that black people have the proper skin color for selling technology. The link takes you to a poorly Photoshopped picture where a black man was removed from the shot and a white man placed there in his stead. It's pretty funny because it's so horribly inept.

Truthfully, as the title of my blog suggests, this is pretty low-level racism. Just like the recent reports of entities Photoshopping black people into photos to promote diversity that doesn't exist, the idea of taking black folks out of pictures is pretty ho-hum. On the "WTF Meter," it barely registers a 2 on scale of 1 to 10.

But, that doesn't mean it's not important. Really, while most people are laughing at the fact that whoever changed the picture didn't even bother to change the color of the guy's hands, I'm wondering what it means that a black guy was removed and an Asian guy and woman retained.

It's an interesting commentary on the power of racial stereotypes in my opinion. Apparently, Asians are assumed to be good at technology no matter where you live, and white women are competent as well. But, if you have a black guy, you might want to replace him with a white guy as soon as possible.

It's not surprising that these stereotypes persist, but it is saddening. Honestly, I don't see a real way to convince folks that most of the horrible things they believe about black folks are in fact lies. Sure, some of us are lazy and incompetent, but the idea that these characteristics are more prevalent in our community than others is just idiotic. Yet, people continue to believe this.

This picture is just one more small example of how ingrained racism is in the world. It's a small example, but a telling one. It shines a light on the reality of our current world, and the view isn't pretty.

Even if it is low level stuff.



Darth Whitey said...

Two important points:

1) Bill Gates is no longer doing anything whatsoever with Microsoft, he has handed the reins over to Steve Ballmer. He now works full time on his foundation. And even if he were the CEO, you could hardly blame him for this.

2) This is an ad for Poland. They don't have any black people in Poland, and the few they do have are subjected to racism the likes of which you have never seen. There was a Nigerian born soccer player on their national team a few years ago, and at their _home_ games the crowd would make monkey noises and throw bananas onto the field every time.

I doubt that an ad targeted for the Nigerian IT market would have a white guy front and center of the ad. Just sayin'.

Clumsy is what it was.

Imhotep said...

Big Man, Microsoft doing their part to reinforcing white supremacy. Did you notice that all in the altered frame were made lighter in color. The Asian guy became lighter, the white lady became whiter, and the Black guy became white! The indignities never cease.

I would think Microsoft is one of those international brand that needs no introduction, and they should certainly be able to sell their product based on reputation. MS should not need to make Black people disappear or become invisible in order to sell some fucking software.

If microsoft thinks that a Black man in a marketing piece is going to cost them market share in Poland, then they clearly have decided to place profits above principals, and it’s not like MS is hurting for cash. And to genuflect to the Poles, WTF! The last time that Poland was in the news, was when Hitler occupied Warsaw. I'm thinking Poland need microsoft, more that Microsoft needs Poland.

Darth said, "This is an ad for Poland. They don't have any black people in Poland, and the few they do have are subjected to racism the likes of which you have never seen." ………….OK, So should MS be an enabler to Poland's racism?

Darth said “I doubt that an ad targeted for the Nigerian IT market would have a white guy front and center of the ad. Just sayin'.” ………… So you know, Europeans will use a white guy front and center to sell to Nigerians and other Africans, can you say Jesus Christ. Just sayin!

Big Man said...


The Bill Gates comment was supposed to be sarcastic. I didn't know he was no longer involved in the company, but I did know he had nothing to do with what happened.

If Microsoft wanted to market something to white people using only white people, they should have taken another picture. Companies have different adverstisments for different markets all the time. What they shouldn't have done was Photoshop a white face over a black head.

And, are you seriously arguing that there are tons of Asian people in Poland? Cause if they're aren't, how do you explain them leaving the Asian dude in the photo, unless you go back to racial stereotypes.

LisaMJ said...

I think Microsoft was insulting the Poles. Also, I read an article on the Nigerian born soccer player on the BBC website and they said he felt his reception has generally been positive. There are also African students there and there is an African-born black man who is a naturalized Polish citizen who is running for an MP position in the European Parliament. So there must be some other black folk there. I also think it is weird that they kept the Asian dude. Very weird, and dumb.

Darth Whitey said...

Like I said, the advertising guy was clumsy. I agree about the Asian person being left in does suggest stereotypes being used to further their message.

Asian says good at math and computers. That's who the IT big whigs in eastern Europe want to hire. They don't want 2Pac, and that's about all they know about black people from industrialized nations.

If you don't believe me, search for a Hungarian rapper who calls himself "Speak". He's white but his lyrics are hilariously clumsy attempts to emulate his favorite American rappers. Very very funny, I love it.

I am biased when I interview potential peers for software development positions. If the name on the resume says Henry Chow I develop unconscious expectations in line with every Asian person.

Although it's never happened, I have to admit I'd have an odd feeling if the name was La'Tron Jenkins or some such. I'd give him the same rigorous interview as the Asian kid, but my expectations would be different. Sorry. I think I'd even go so far as to let him slide a little more but at the same time I'd be afraid that if he sucked it's be impossible to fire him like I could easily do with whites or Asians.

A geeky demeanor for white kids helps too. The less hip the better. Big spectacles and awkward body language are a plus. I'd hire Erkel if he could code heh.

BTW, old news by now, but a followup:

That's right, I have been sent here to act as a check on allegations of racism. heh. I am here to keep this blog from degenerating into a black panthers rally hah! I kid, I kid. Big Man is reasonable but sometimes I feel like he puts these unsubstantiated "feelers" out there designed to let commenters run wild with unfounded allegations.

Big Man said...


I'm not putting out feelers, just speaking truth.

Your comments have validated the point of this piece. Was this Earth-shattering news? Nope.

But, as you admitted, this change was made because of stereotypes about what black people are good at, and what we suck at. The perception is that if you're black, you probably aren't good at technology, but you can sure dunk well.

This is a problem. The sooner the same people who want to be treated as individuals start extending that courtesy to others, the sooner the problem will be rectified.

On the gender issue, this chick has already been examined to determine if she is a man.

The test they are talking about doing now will examine her body at the genetic level to tell if she has some sort of genetic advantage. This isn't a checking for a penis, this is setting an arbitrary guideline for what is considered female regardless of a person's sex organs.

Totally different issue than what you posted.

Deacon Blue said...

Microsoft couldn't afford to just get a different image with people who look more "Polish"?


Things are THAT tight that they have to resort to Photoshop?

Man, oh man.

And the original picture was already cheesy enough. These are the folks who control most of the world's PCs??????

Black Diaspora said...

@Darth: "Although it's never happened, I have to admit I'd have an odd feeling if the name was La'Tron Jenkins or some such."

Tell me, you're jesting? Before even interviewing La'Tron (Where did you get that name?), you'd have a visceral reaction!

No wonder stereotypes persist!

I would think that you would have been excited as hell. What will this black fellow bring that perhaps the others have failed to bring.

There're some pretty creative, and savvy brothers out there, and blacks have made substantial contributions to the inventive resevoir of this nation.

And based on the statements you've made, I don't think you'll let him "slide," or be reticent to dump him if he "sucked."

Frankly, Big Man, I think the black guy and the white guy have been Photoshopped on someone elses body.

Neither head sits comfortably on that smallish body.

MODI said...

I don't think that it matters where this lands on the race Richter scale. In the end, the photo is a another vehicle to discuss how we think about race. And I think that this is one of the great values of this blog, and distinguishes itself from many other blogs. BM takes great care into asking others to think and provides that forum for discussion. The level of the injustice is often incidental to moving the dialogue forward.

What we do know 100% is that if "James" and "Jamal" submit the same exact resume for almost ANY job, employment research tells us that James is far more likely to get that follow-up call. (in fact, I'm pretty sure you had a post on this too BM)

How we think on stereotypes has consequences and any story that promotes discussion is a good one IMHO.

A personal endnote: When I was in college, I remember taking a test for a subject I had not studied in favor of fun and partying (could have been any number of tests during my freshman or sophomore year). So it was multiple choice and I strategically sat near a Chinese guy so that I could cheat off of his paper. My angle, vision, and execution were perfect.

...and I failed the exam!!!

Big Man said...


Funny anecdote.

I know personally I've been guilty of believing stereotypes and letting them affect my actions.

That's why I'm so suspicicious of people who openly admit they believe stereotypes, but then pretend that their beliefs don't influence their actions.

I have yet to meet a human who can have real beliefs that don't affect their actions.

Raving Black Lunatic