A #racism “compare-and-contrast” tweet was circulating the Twitterverse today: two of Microsoft’s Business Productivity sites, specifically their American/English/default site and their Polish site. Take a look at the screen captures below and see if you can spot the subtle difference.
What is the thinking behind the substitution? Why does Microsoft feel that they can’t have a black person on the front of the Polish edition of their Business Productivity Infrastructure site? And make no mistake about it, it is specifically the black man with whome they appear to have an issue. You don’t see them superimposing some white guy’s head over the asian gentleman!
Granted, Poland isn’t known for being a very ethnically diverse country. Out of Polands population of 38,230,080 (2002 Census), over 96% were reported of Polish nationality while 1.2% were reported as being of nationalities other than Polish—those being of mostly white, eastern European nations including German, Ukrainian, Russia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria. There are also a tiny pockets (less than 2,000 people) of French, American and Vietnamese living there, as well as small ethnic communities of Africans, Palestinians and Arabs. So Poland is a country that is quite predominantly white, so it is understandable why one might be tempted to brush the substitution off with the thought of Microsoft simply marketing to the populace. At first that makes a bit of sense, until you stop and ask why they would replace the black guy but not the asian guy?
Are they playing on the stereotype of asians and technology? Do they think Polish people are uncomfortable with black people? In the end, it doesn’t matter what the reasoning behind the switch. They specifically singled out the black person for no other possible reason than that he was a black person. That is racist. Marketing demographic strategy excuses be damned—it’s racist.
It gets even dumber. Upon closer inspection you will also notice how the black man’s hand has been lightened… in both photos! Again, I have to ask: what is their thinking behind this? Is it intentional? Yes. Is it racist? Yes. Is it a bit bewildering that a corporation the size of Microsoft would be so obvious about it? Yeah, a bit.
Logic and rationality are never traits found in racism or racist attitudes. Irony, however, freaquently is. Few people are aware of this fact—admittedly I wasn’t until just recently—but the architect of the modern-day personal computer, a man known as America’s “High Tech Invisible Man” is an African-American named Dr. Mark Dean. His contribution to the evolution of the PC is by no means minor, yet he remains a footnote in the history of information technology. As Tyrone D. Taborn put it, “Dr. Dean helped start a Digital Revolution that created people like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Dell Computer’s Michael Dell. Millions of jobs in information technology can be traced back directly to Dr. Dean.” A black man can be a leader in the evolution of a technology that has had far reaching effects on our everyday lives, but don’t put one on the front of our website!
Microsoft, we’re calling you out.Tweet