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Microsoft: not racist

Steve BallmerI understand that it's a sensitive issue, and some idiot should have thought twice before editing a white man's head to replace a black man's head in an advertising photo, but that doesn't make Microsoft racist.

Hot news: this happens all the time. It's just usually done better, or ideally, an entirely different picture is selected. And it happens here at home, too.

A few months ago, standing in a bank branch, a friend of mine says he saw two versions of the same advert - each slightly different. One included a Latina woman, the other an Asian woman, completely swapped - whole body - one for the other. Does this make the bank racist? Of course not.

We live in a multicultural business environment that literally spans the globe. Companies know they need to present familiar faces to customers, to embrace multi-ethnicity, not reject it. My picture isn't likely to appear in an advert aimed at black South Africans. So what?

Microsoft Photoshop blunder

Someone thought a black person wasn't right for the Polish version of the advert. We only know this because it was handled so poorly. But if a different original were selected, would anyone have complained that black people were being excluded? I think not.

I'm reminded of a video I saw many years ago that was produced by HP. No one seemed to notice that while the cast was multi-ethnic, all the Asians were engineers. Who were saving the others from their mistakes, I should add. Not racist, maybe a bit stereotypical, but not hatefully so.

Microsoft was wise to apologise for this screw-up. Its internal photo-use policies will doubtless be updated to tell people not to replace one ethnicity with another using Photoshop.

But, truth be known, this seems to happen all the time, Microsoft is not the only offender, and it doesn't make Microsoft racist. Just occasionally stupid, but didn't we know that already?

(You can read reaction to the offending picture on the Photoshop Disasters site.)

See also:

New Adobe site offers free Photoshop advice

How to make simple edits in Photoshop Express

BBC investigates Nintendo DS for 'racism'

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