African-Canadian at center of Microsoft race blunder

Last week the blogsphere was all atwitter with news that software giant Microsoft had digitally “whitened” a black man in one of its ad campaigns, apparently in a bid to reach consumers in Poland where the homogeneous population is 97 per cent white. Besides Twitter and the usual social media hotspots, the story made mainstream news around the world with reports from London’s The Times to CNN to The Toronto Star, forcing Microsoft to publicly apologize for “a marketing mistake” through its Twitter page.

ad shot, before and after

The Zoomer-age black man at the center of the storm shrugs it off, however, noting “I wasn’t offended at all. I thought it was much ado about nothing.”

“I was actually with a friend at the time, looking at the BBC (web site)” recalls 74 year old Canadian model Rudy Richards. “My wife saw the picture and said ‘that looks like you’. Suddenly… the whole Microsoft thing came up.”

“My head was replaced by a Pole,” Richards chuckled.

Unfazed, the Vancouver-based former artist/dancer-turned-model sees nothing wrong with the ethnic Photoshopping of Microsoft ads, explaining “if you’re dealing with a predominantly white society… a market you want to sell a product to, you don’t use a black face if black faces are not there.”

“If someone was selling a product in Nigeria, they might want to replace the white face with a black face if they were selling djembes” he added.

While Richards, a longtime Microsoft user, says he wasn’t offended by the digital whitewash, he was “surprised by the incompetence”, noting the photo editing omitted his hand. “I think Microsoft should really be getting after the person who did such a lousy job. I think the people in Poland should be offended that Microsoft did just a lousy job.”

Despite the post-racial image conveyed worldwide by the historic election of the first US black president, Richards opines “people think because Obama has been elected, conditions might improve in some way. It really has nothing to do with life. If they really want to spend time on something that is black and white, go to Darfur. I want to see them talk about the genocide that is happening in Darfur or what’s happening in the Congo. Something that is of substance.”

For the record, Microsoft has not apologized to Richards directly but would probably do well to ship a free copy of Windows 7.