Microsoft Edited Out Black Man From Marketing Photo – How Racist

UPDATED: July 24, 2010

We’re going to throw this story back up at the top for a day or two because we were looking through some back-articles and it appealed to us. No other reason than we thought we did a good job with this one. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t – but we think it’s worth a second (or first) look…

Microsoft Racist Photo

Welcome to Microsoft’s Tribute to Selma, Alabama, 1957

Sure, Microsoft has issued apologies all around after getting caught removing one of those horrid Negro persons from a marketing photo at Microsoft’s Polish website, but we at Barbados Free Press don’t believe the corporation should be let off the hook that easily. A simple apology is not enough. Nowhere near enough. (BBC News: Microsoft in web photo racism row. and Photoshop Disasters: At least they left the Asian Guy in.)

Klu Klux Klan Founding Father Nathan Forrest would have loved Microsoft's marketing people.

Klu Klux Klan Founding Father Nathan Forrest would have loved Microsoft's marketing people.

This business of corporations trashing acceptable values to embrace the racism of foreign clients must stop. We’re not talking about corporations being sensitive to the needs or cultural differences of foreign markets here. In this incident we’re talking out and out Klu Klux Klan racism by some Microsoft employees – and if the truth be known probably a couple of dozen employees who knew or participated to some extent.

There is no doubt that Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest would surely have approved the changes made by Microsoft!

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s “Negro Mart”

“Fresh supplies of likely Young Negroes”

As a plantation owner, slave trader, Confederate soldier and founding father of the Klu Klux Klan, one could say that Nathan Forrest had a certain perspective and worldview when it came to Negros.

Frankly, I see little difference between the values exhibited by Forrest and by Microsoft in this PhotoShop debacle.

Truly, a simple apology from Microsoft is not enough. Even a promise to “educate”, “train” and “monitor” staff so it never happens again is simply not enough. The penalty must not only fit the crime, it must be relative to the offender’s wealth so it does not become a license fee. As an example, the US$65 New York City parking fine would devastate my family’s monthly food budget, but wouldn’t even be noticed by MicroSoft’s Billy Gates.

What would be an appropriate penalty for Microsoft in this case?

Negros Sold On Commission – Highest market price always paid for good stock.

Just so we don’t lose sight of the incredible racism that MUST have driven the Microsoft decision to remove an unwanted race from an advertising photo, let’s further consider the values of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Here is part of the wording from one of Forrest’s business advertisements prior to the American Civil War…

Slave AuctionForrest & Maples

Slave Dealers,

87 Adams Street, Memphis, Tennessee

Have constantly on hand the best selected assortment of FIELD HANDS, HOUSE SERVANTS & MECHANICS, at their Negro Mart, to be found in the city. They are daily receiving from Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, fresh supplies of likely Young Negros.

Negros Sold on Commission, and the highest market price always paid for good stock. Their Jail is capable of containing Three Hundred, and for comfort, neatness and safety, is the best arranged of any in the Union. Persons wishing to purchase, are invited to examine their stock before purchasing elsewhere.

They have on hand at present, Fifty likely young Negroes, comprising Field hands, Mechanics, House and Body Servants, etc.


Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, Ethics, History, Slavery

27 responses to “Microsoft Edited Out Black Man From Marketing Photo – How Racist

  1. Whats the issue?


    When marketing to South Koreans you might want to have most, if not all, South Koreans look like they are buying your product.

    If you are selling to an International market you would want a much more diverse audience.

    If you are the former BLP who played the race card and the electorate at every possible moment, you wouldn’t want to show any whites being photgraphed at public events even though they represent 8 or so per cent of the population of Barbados.

    Marketing firms often put in all women in a photo if they think thats where the advertising dollars are going or young people if their target demographics are teenagers.

    If Poland is 99% white, wouldn’t Microsoft direct its advertising dollars to white people?

    Before you go off the deep end BFP, maybe you could explain why targeting specific markets with specific people is racist and not just sound business practice?

  2. BFP

    You will have to excuse us for being quite sensitive to this issue. You may or may not realise that at BFP we run the rainbow with our colours and shades of skin. Two of us are in a “mixed” marriage and four of us are mixies ourselves to one extent or another. The exclusion of whites and asians (ie: Indian) people from the imagery of government, politics and product marketing in Barbados is well known and we have covered that issue before. Less well known is how Shona and I get “the look” when walking together in the city – primarily from people whose skin is darker than ours.

    Symbolism is important in any campaign, and more important in any sustained campaign as is the quest for equality and colour-blindness. The removal of a black man’s head and replacement with the head of a white is highly symbolic and worthy of comment.

    The fact that they left the Asian (Chinese? Japanese?) guy in there but removed the black man’s head is noteworthy too. Why not replace the Chinese guy’s head with a white as well, or instead?

    All the people in this photo and the photo itself are symbols for MicroSoft. Everything is a symbol of MicroSoft and that is why this act infuriated all of us and especially Cliverton who wrote this piece. (Clive loves hyperbole as if you can’t tell!)


    This whole photo is supposed to be a symbol of Microsoft’s image and what their product can do for you etc etc etc.

    As someone noticed since we put up this article, the photo doesn’t do a lot for the image of Microsoft’s competence.

    1/ The Dell monitor isn’t connected to anything.

    2/ The white laptop? It’s an Apple Macbook! LOL 🙂

    (Tough to see in the low-res photos on our site, but the originals at the photoshop disasters blog is definitely a MacBook.)

  3. Lady Anon

    The gentleman actually has a condition called ReVitaligo, which is the opposite of Vitaligo. (the condition where the pigment is lost).

    Seriously, though. I can appreciate marketing to your audience, but if you are going to change the black man to white, change the colour of his hand as well.

  4. Green Monkey

    Talking about racism, what do you think of the FBI training and funding an agent provocateur to spew hateful racist messages against a black politician?

  5. BFP

    Thanks for that GM and for your email. Clive said he’d look at it this evening and use it in an article on Friday.

    You have to understand Clive’s sense of humour though because he said he was going to tie it in with the story of the FBI informant who invented kwanza. But that’s our Cliverton! 🙂

  6. David Ross

    Not only that but oy! he’s got such a crick in the neck!

    Anyway, that’s Poland for you. Ask ’em some time about how warmly they welcomed the Jews back after WW2.

  7. David Ross

    Cynthia McKinney isn’t just any “black politician”; she’s got quite a reputation over here in the States – some of which is alluded to on the site you link. (Most of our politicians stay far away from, for instance, Gaza.) And to call Hal Turner a publicity hound is an insult to man’s best friend.

    How the FBI got involved in their little domestic tiff, I don’t know. I do know that Turner was a racist showboater long before any government agencies got involved. I’m pretty sure the FBI didn’t pay Turner directly to threaten McKinney but then, the government shouldn’t have been giving scum like that any funding at all beyond the court-appointed attorney he’s getting now.

  8. Facts

    Very good ariticle.

    You are being even-handed and sensitising us to the realities of life

  9. Hants

    This is the year 2009.

    IBM is an American company.

    The President of the USA is black.

    nuff said.

    Good post BFP.

  10. crossroads

    I am sure a lot of our local marketing firms/ businesses on the island generally put a black person in an advertising campaign instead of a white person. For example I have never seen a white person in an Advert for First Caribbean Bank, BNB, BICO, COURTS, as a matter of fact I have in my hand a bank charges pamphlet from Scotia Bank and there ain’t no white people in any of the four photos on it. If this practice is driven by racism it should be addressed, however we should not assume that it is always the motivating factor. Quite frankly I don’t give hoot who they put in their adverts once I get good service.

  11. so boycott Microsoft and lewwe all switch to Linux nuh

  12. According to writer and sociologist Michael Dawson, “the mainstream excuse for big business marketing is that it is simply a mirror that reflects pre-existing popular thoughts and desires. That, of course, is hogwash. Big business marketing is, in fact, a branch of ‘scientific management,’ a.k.a. Taylorism.”

    Dawson further argues that because in North America and the EU “White people remain the largest racial group in the society. 400 years of white supremacy ideology continues to exert influence on their minds. Meanwhile, at least half of whites remain deeply ignorant and unconcerned with this problem. All this means that big business marketing campaigns must avoid poking the racial dog with its sticks. The result? Systematic and intentional stereotyping of non-whites — and especially blacks – in advertising.”

    Case in point, Ed Vorkapich, a long-time Pepsi-Cola advertising director, (cryptic remarks) to a Smithsonian Institution interviewer about the rules of ad-making: He said –

    “You’ve got to be careful that the white guys don’t relate too much to the black girl and that the black guy doesn’t relate too much to the white girls.”

    Dawson opines that “the simple fact of the matter is that, in order to maximize corporate sales, marketing planners must be very careful to keep blacks ‘in their place’ within both marketing campaigns and the marketing-sponsored shows that exist to ‘draw eyeballs.’ Realism and fairness, you see, don’t make money in a society that remains extremely ignorant and unapologetic about its long racist legacies.

    BILL GATES & Microsoft* are simply following an age-old trend. It’s that simple!!!

  13. Thewhiterabbit

    Please all racist people read a real biography of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Slave owner yes, but that was what was done then, he was not in any way different. Confederate officer yes, and a very good one as were many honorable people. Founder of the KKK yes. BUT, the original KKK was a law enforcement group needed in the face of the total anarchy that ensued when northern forces simply abandoned the south with no effective government in place. Nathan Bedford Forrest disassociated himself from the Klan when it evolved into the racist organization that it did. NBF a hero? Definitely not, but the monster that you portray him to be? Equally not. Please just tell the whole story.

  14. Law enforcement groups don’t take on mystical codenames; that’s the sort of nonsense one gets from secret societies. The Klan was, in Forrest’s day, one of the many glorified lynching clubs of that era. At the time the Knights of the White Camellia were more powerful, and more violent but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the Klan.

    I must say, you have some stones to come into a Bajan site and write up apologetics for the f@#$ing Klan. I can’t say I’ve always been as sensitive as I should have been here but, good Lord.

  15. cq8

    Forrest went to war for his values, amongst which were his right to sell “fresh supplies of likely young Negroes.”

    This at a time long past Wilberforce and other Christians who argued and fought to end slavery.

    ’nuff said

  16. The American Civil War was a time of unbelievable anarchy. North pitted against South. Ideology v Religiosity. President Andrew Jackson facing impeachment. Abe Lincoln (like OBAMA*) inheriting a colossal MESS*.

    Nathan Bedford Forrest when confronted by one of his compatriots that the civil war had political implications, he responded: “If we aint fightin’ fer slavery then I’d like to know what we are fightin’ fer.”

    Interesting thought indeed!!!

    American history has given Forrest his place as one of the most visible soldiers of the Civil War era, though uneducated, Forrest attained a number of command successes in the Western theater of the war effort.

    Forrest was however a rough and tumble frontiersman who became a prominent slave trader, an overt racist, and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War.

    John E. Stanchack, an editor of the Civil War Times Illustrated, aptly noted in 1993 – “Everything…about [Forrest] is bent to fit some political or intellectual agenda.”

    Ashdown and Caudill, authors of The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest, write that the story of Forrest “embraces violence, racism, realism, sectionalism, politics, reconciliation, and repentance. It is a story about the fall and redemption of the darker side of the American dream.”

    With these characteristics, it has proven almost impossible for any American to have a neutral view of Forrest, and it is even harder to ignore him.

    Forrest’s image has vacillated from celebrated to reviled, sometimes both at the same time, over the last 150 years, as the numerous and notable aspects of his life and legacy were considered by different people at different times.

    Whatever you think about him – he was unquestionably a sad, pathetic product of his time – caught up in a transcendent historical era of America’s transition from the dark cauldron of racists subhuman hell to the dawning of the defining chapters in the long march which would result in a Black President in the White House.

    The sad irony today is that the demon of racism still lurks ominously in the shadows – waiting for any opportunity to strike when least expected.

  17. 2009

    The picture at the top has Owen Arthur….looking really dapper !

  18. Rickey George

    For what did Microsoft apologize? It was a marketing picture? Yes, I understand.

    Did Microsoft say anything notably different in the 2 ads? If Microsoft changed the original to ADD a black person and remove the Asian would that be good or bad, if the ad was then put out in Burkina Faso?

    Is it not well known that international companies target their messages?

    Does Microsoft rub out its black employees from the payroll and give their pay to whites on staff?

    Should a country try to improve its image, say by adding some different racial or gender touches to photos of Cabinet, even though the population had voted for say 18 black men and 6 black women, so that the world would think the place is diverse?

    I’m confused.

  19. victor

    So why, when you check Bajan schooIbooks are onIy bIack chiIdren depicted in the pictures? Barbados has about the same percentage of white to bIack schooIkids as bIack to white in the UK yet in the UK schooI Iiterature one sees in fact more peopIe of coIour than white peopIe. Check it out on UK govt. education websites. What’s that about?

  20. yatinkiteasy

    Storm in a teacup…..most Polish folk have never seen a black man, except on TV. So the reason is understandable..Still..its so easy to take a photo of three white people around a desk, I dont understand why the AD agency found it necessary to do this photoshop trick…they should be fired for stupidity..(especially changing the face but leaving the hands)

  21. June

    This is incidental. Microsoft founder Bill Gates grants billions (via his foundation) to disease prevention and educational programs in Africa and the Caribbean. What do you wonderful folks contribute?

  22. Its just business. You have to build your adverts to the relation of your target audience. How many blacks in Poland buy microsoft? Probably very little as there are very little blacks in Poland. People can talk chalk and turn it into something its not. Suppose microsoft wanted to sell some product to Nigerian businesses, do you suppose the would use an add with three white people?

  23. Mathilde

    Now please dont get pissed at me, but I read about this in the news and they edited out the man because the ad was appearing in some Nordic country where the target market is 98% caucasian. In advertising you typically target the majority. Thats why here in Barbados you will almost NEVER see a caucasian in one of our ads. I know this because I work in advertising and I am always told to only get ‘black or ethnic’ models for our ads. And in cases where I use a stock photo, I often have to digitally darken the persons skin colour (providing you can’t really see their features).
    This ad would have been bad to run there (Poland or wherever) as the major target for that country (the male businessman) would not have been properly represented. It was run in it’s original form in the USA where African-American businessmen are commonplace.
    It’s not personal. It’s business. I wouldn’t go to China and have hispanic people in my ads. etc etc.
    Hope this deruffles the communal feathers {:-)

  24. This shit is racist
    bim fuh life

  25. Micah

    I had to look twice to see that the Asian guy was Asian, and not just a light-hued colour. I’m really not seeing the big deal about what Microsoft chooses to do with its advertising in a market which is going to consist of predominantly white people, who I am sure would want to see, and respond to, ads which have white or near-white persons in them. Perhaps we can compare the Black Entertainment Television (BET)’s allowance of black African-American musical artists who peddle CDs and digital music using
    videos which consist of long-haired, light-skinned females who would be more accepted by white, and some black, music buyers, rather than using dark, ethnic-looking female video models. It’s all about the market you are trying to sell to.

  26. Up The Mango tree


  27. bajeabroad