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My Problem With Apple’s ‘Your Verse’ IPAD Air Commercial

“Do we cease to exist simply because they refuse to see us?”

As a black man living in North America, I find myself semi-consciously looking for representation of myself in all strati of our everyday existence.  I tend to notice things like commercials/ads that willfully ignore or under represent my community. Now, I know that it’s possible for two right-minded people to view the same thing and come to very different conclusions, so what is written here may not resonate with some readers.

While watching some Olympic coverage this week, I was captivated by Apple’s new IPAD Air commercial, titled ‘Your Verse’, narrated by Robin Williams. The narrative starts out:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute; we read and write poetry because we are members of the HUMAN RACE and the HUMAN RACE is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life…”

This narrative goes on for 1.5 minutes in much the same vein, quoting from Walt Whitman’s plaintive ‘O Me! O Life!’

The narrator’s voice is, at times, grave, passion filled, emotive, gushing, lyrical…all designed to illicit feelings within the viewer. But all I could feel while viewing this commercial was an increasing sense of shock and an intense feeling of ostracization.

The accompanying video depicts various nationalities doing a variety of things, not all relating to the product: Traditional Japanese Dance, Oriental modern day singers, white scientists underwater and gauging waterfalls, helicopter pilots, Indian Bollywood style dance, Indian kids exploring in the woods….even a US College style marching band. But nowhere, in this commercial that speaks so passionately of the human race, identity and contributions to society, etc. is there a solitary black face.

A full minute & a half. And not one black face. Not even in the marching band segment. I encourage you to find it on Youtube and view it for yourself. But if you feel as I do after viewing it and want to voice your displeasure, just know that comments are suppressed, almost as if they thought there could be a backlash.

I had to watch it several times just to be sure. It seems like a lot of effort was made to ensure our exclusion.  We are very conspicuous by our absence.

Not that I need to mention it, but black people are everywhere, making meaningful contributions to the greater society every waking day, in spite of this (as I see it) insipid commercial subtly designed, in part, to give the viewer the impression that we’ve made no significant contributions to society and thus deserving of the exclusion.

Contrary to this disingenuous commercial, we possess a formidable track record of meaningful contributions to society. To be excluded from a commercial like this with its lofty narrative is a grave offense that cannot be overstated.

Someone in a position of authority within Apple approved of this commercial after having viewed it and finding it good.

But why? I wonder if it could be that it’s believed we have no collective conscience so that slights of this nature likely garner no significant notice? Or could it be that our consumerism is taken for granted because we have no cohesive economic base? African Canadians/Americans are one of the largest consumer groups, per capita, in North America, with tremendous buying power but little accord. It’s not a wonder that our spending power is taken for granted. We take it for granted. Why not Apple?

I know several black people who own IPAD Air units. I am not one nor will I be. If the time comes that I need a unit like Apple’s IPAD Air…well, that’s what the competition is for.

Hell, I just might boycott the fruit.


Daniel Hale Williams – African American General Surgeon who performed one of the first successful pericardium (open heart) surgeries and founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the USA

Elijah McCoy – Oil dripping cup for trains. He is the reason the expression ‘The Real McCoy’ exists

Lewis Latimer – Invented the carbon filament for the light bulb and worked in the labs of both Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger – Invented a shoe-making machine that increased shoe production by 90%.

George Washington Carver – Developed peanut butter, peanut oil & 400 other plant products and was born a slave.

Garrett Morgan – Invented the gas mask & the first traffic signal.

Otis Boykin – Invented electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM Computers and the pacemaker.

Dr. Patricia E. Bath – Developed a method of eye surgery that has helped many blind people to see.

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