Those of you who know me personally know that in another aspect of my life I write about technology. I get to play around with a fair number of gadgets in order to review them and it’s a very cool job, generally. There are very few times when the ABW in me is activated by something that happens in the course of my tech writing, and when it does I’m often conflicted about where I should best express my concerns. Is the issue best discussed on theangryblackwoman.com or on my personal tech blog or even on my work tech blog? This time I’ve opted for ABW not because this issue is particularly anger-making (it’s more annoying), but because I feel like the readers here will discuss it more thoughtfully than those more tech-minded.
A few months back I reviewed a slew of digital picture frames all in a row. I had to set them all up and evaluate whether they made good gifts for grandma and grandpa. All of the frames came with some starter images to show you how the slideshow bit works before you put your images on, which is pretty standard. But as I set each frame up, I started to notice that all of the images that came pre-loaded were of white people. White families, white adults, white kids, white white white1.
Now, I realize that this is not all that different from regular frames (next time you’re in a Target or Wal-Mart or something, go stroll down the frame aisle. If there are pictures of people in them, chances are they are white people) but for some reason this struck me particularly as I was setting up these digital frames. I kept thinking: are there no brown people of any ethnicity available in stock photo bins? Or do they not even think, just choose the first pictures of happy people they see and put them in?
Then again, companies often control every aspect of a product down to the number of water drops on the image of a waterproof phone to ensure it doesn’t seem too waterproof and thus fool customers (yes, this is a real issue that came up once). Hard to believe that the photos pre-loaded on all of these frames weren’t mulled over and specifically chosen by someone.
I was reminded of this again when I posted on my work blog about good family holiday gifts and wanted to mention the frames. I was so sick of only finding images of frames with photos of white people inside that I went and found some brown people and photoshopped them in.
The reason this annoys me yet doesn’t really anger me is that it smacks not of malice or prejudice, but of unconscious privilege and blindness. Do the people who choose the images for the frame ever stop and consider that a Black or Latino or Indian or Native American family might buy the product and might appreciate if the pre-loaded photos maybe looked something like them? It’s a small thing, but would indicate to me that someone at the company was paying attention to the fact that not only white people exist in the world. And since the frame usually comes with 4 – 10 images on it, you can satisfy a whole slew of people by showing families of different races and ethnicities and also just mixed groups of people having fun and being together.
I guess I wish that people were more thoughtful. This is, I’m sure, far too much to ask.
- I can’t be sure if there were only white people across the board because I’ve sent some of the units back, but about the third one I paid close attention and only saw white folks. [↩]