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by Rodney O. Lain

The Macintosh Is Still The 'Repressed Minority' Of The Computer Industry -- So What?
September 28th 2000

WARNING!!!!: The following column makes extensive use of what we in the modern and politically correct world call the "N-word" in comparing the status of the Mac platform in the computing industry to that of a repressed minority in society. If you are offended by this word, don't read this column.

We support our contributing editors' right to free speech, but we are also sensitive to the social mores of our readers.

Bryan Chaffin
Mac Observer

See, boy, your problem is you don't know how to deal with the white man. See, I know how to deal with 'im. Tha's the reason I'm in the position I'm in today.

Richard Pryor, imitating a wino giving race-relations advice to a junkie :-)

"Nigger, your breed ain't exegetical."
"Cracker, your breed ain't metaphysical."

Pondy Woods

By virtue of another irony, racism (like sexism) becomes an increasingly influential social phenomenon as societies approach the contemporary ideal of democracy.

Tzvetan Todorov, "'Race,' Writing and Culture"

So, what you're trying to tell me is that I'm still a slave. No matter how much money I got, I still ain't [expletive deleted].

Dr. Dre, a sample included in the song "The day the nigga's took over," from the album "The Chronic"

I read with considerable interest -- and a very small measure of surprise -- the latest round of commentary on Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP. By now, I expect no less than gushing praise of all things Microsoft, regardless of the veracity of the claims being made.

As a seasoned Mac bigot, I don't even let that type of media slant get to me anymore -- and yes, it is slant.

Maybe I'm growing old, maybe I'm growing conservative, but it takes more and more of an effort to jerk my knee in reaction to anything that slams my favorite computing platform, either directly or indirectly, which is this case. Ditto for any encounters I have with racism or racial insensitivities.

This is a tertiary effect from the latest stretch of highway traveled in my on-going journey to rid myself of lifelong racial prejudices. I suggest you take a ride down this road, too.

"Mac Like Me"
I think the biggest step towards facing, admitting and combating my racist mentality was moving to Minnesota. I spent a good portion of my life in the South, or "da Souf," as I'm fond of saying. It was… an experience, I shall say. I recall attending a Louisiana university 1990, the year that David Duke began his run for governor of Louisiana, and almost won. I remember the unwritten, Southern social mores. I recalled the constant state of anger in which lived from facing the mountain of racial slights that grew from each day's worth of offensive mole hills. (I won't recount any details; it's not my purpose today.)

As a child, I spent much time wondering what caused ostensibly nice white people to react to me thusly with an uncomfortable regularity, especially more visible during extended periods of interracial interaction. If they are as racially superior as some claim, I argued inwardly, why spend so much time trying to point out to me, via their actions, that I am so inferior? If they are superior to me, it would be self evident. To do otherwise is akin to a Mensa spending an inordinate amount of effort to prove his intellectual superiority to an infant.

Moving to Minnesota was a godsend, because I was forced to face many things within myself, as well as within those around me. "They," I discovered, aren't as "racist" as I once thought, and I, surprisingly, am far more racist than I ever imagined. Hence, I spent less time pondering white racism and its cure, and more time discovering and uncovering the black strain that I carried and infected others with. I discovered that as long as I strive to get beyond race and get people to know me as the humane and witty person I see myself to be, I am waging a one-man, winning war on racial ignorance and bigotry. I have three ways in which I wage this war, depending upon the "battlefield."

I've always drawn a direct parallel between racism and "platform bigotry," always being quick to underscore the Wintel world as the big, digital "whitey," while ignoring the black/Mac part of the equation. But, times, they are a changin' (and becoming more enlightened), and so am I…

Integrationalism and Assimilationalism vs. Nationalism
I believe that we need all three of the above, but I believe that an admission must be made at the outset: the Macintosh was, is, and will always be a minority in the computer industry, without a doubt. I've often made the tongue-in-cheek claim that the Mac is the "nigger" of the computer industry. I still hold to this claim. I still say that many American minorities are relegated to second-class status in the minds of many living in the cultural majority. Likewise, I still say that the Mac is a equally rejected minority (Proof: God knows I've drawn laughter and caustic derision from coworkers after suggesting a Mac solution to a computing problem -- I don't do it any more). But, our tools in combating this "racism" must change.

There must be a three-pronged approach to stamping out stereotypes and attitudes of "Mac inferiority."

Integrationalism: More cases must be made to show and prove that the Mac can be a good corporate citizen. OS X's Samba support is a leap in this direction, but we should consider that just a good start. Apple must continue to make the Mac have even more out-of-the-box compatibility with the "white people" of the computing community. We need to be careful that we don't fall into constantly blaming the majority for our plight, without working to improve our lot.

Assimilationalism: sometimes, we have to swallow the pride and either replace parts of cultural heritage with the mainstream's, or learn to appreciate both in the same body. This can apply to racial instances and things computing. The Mac, in many ways, will acquire many PC characteristics over time, as a natural result of computer revolution (Roger Born has made an excellent argument about this with his essay "Will Apple Survive?"). One day we will realize that the Mac and PC need each other to survive, just like whites and nonwhites will discover one day.

Nationalism: I believe in maintaining and celebrating one's culture. I enjoy this Macintosh thing: the T-shirts, the stores, Expos, the computers. It's worth protecting and upholding.

Conclusion: Making us all just get along
Is the Mac community a culture? It's debatable. But I do know this: there is nothing wrong with defending your culture/hobby/pastime when it is being denigrated, destroyed and devalued. Assimilation, integration, and nationalism are equally valid responses to this cultural threat, but I hope that the people acting out those three ideals will realize that there is a bigger picture. What is that bigger picture? I'll leave that to you to find out. I will say, though, that it involves getting beyond being easily offended whenever your group is the target of some kind of prejudice. React against it, sure, but remember the big picture. For the Mac world, the big picture is that the Mac needs to remain viable. That's more important that splitting hairs vis-á-vis anti-Mac news articles and web sites.

Whenever someone speaks negatively about your group, look at that as nothing but a reminder that the war on ignorance isn't over.

If you let it get to you, the war is already over and you are already out of action, an irrecoverable casualty.

Rodney O. Lain is wondering if he has offended everyone with his writing; if he hasn't, try, try again. When he isn't attempting to foment a race riot, he is a columnist for The Mac Observer, with his "iBrotha," as well as the occasional editorial. He lives in Minnesota, which is two percent black.

Your comments are welcomed.

Rodney O. Lain is a junior manager at a major corporation. He enjoys public speaking, mentoring minority college students, and helping community multicultural-awareness efforts. He also "preaches the Gospel" at a Minneapolis Micro Center -- he's the bald black guy. Rodney "drives" a G4 Cube and a PowerBook G3. After enjoying a popular run at Mac, "iBrotha" was axed, to readers' dismay. Back by popular demand, it now runs exclusively at Mac Observer every other Friday, replacing "Rodney's Soapbox."

[Editor's Note: Rodney O.Lain passed away in June, 2002.]

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