An Open Letter to Intel

Debbie says:

It isn’t often that I feel that my skills at cutting sarcasm aren’t up to the job, but this is one such situation. This letter has been sent directly to Intel at their “ask a company question” site. I encourage you to send your own.

I’ve included the offending ad in this post, but way down. If you read the beginning of the letter and decide you don’t want to see the image, just scroll down slowly and stop at the end of the letter.


Dear Intel,

Perhaps you find it comforting and rewarding to portray the contemporary workplace as indistinguishable from the plantations in the American South before the Civil War.

Perhaps you find it gratifying to show us six muscular dark-skinned men, naked to the waist, bowing their heads to a white man in a business shirt. Images of the slave markets where humans were bought and sold with less consideration than cattle got in those times are distressingly rare in the 21st century. Perhaps you believe that you are demonstrating courage and nerve when you 1) impress upon every wage-earner how terrible their lives are, and 2) fulfill the fantasies of managers that someday they may get the obedience (and obeisance) of slaves from their staff. Perhaps you are proud of accomplishing both of these things while also heaping coals of fire on the heads of every descendant of slaves who might see your advertisement.

I spent some time this afternoon on your website, and very easily found the moral justification for your advertising theme:

At Intel, corporate responsibility means doing what is right. Respecting people and the world around us. It’s how we do business.

Again, perhaps it was your intent to respect the white man at the expense of the black men, the manager at the expense of the employees. What’s more, perhaps you are proud of giving a contemporary boost to the racist history and underpinnings of this nation.

The diversity of our employees is the ingredient for success that sets Intel apart. Our employees are located all over the world and represent a variety of different backgrounds, yet each person has one thing in common—a commitment to creating market-driving products and technology designed to make a difference.

The perspectives, abilities and experiences of our workforce are key to the success of our company and fundamental to our role as a technology leader. Through their innovative thoughts and actions, our employees, based in over 40 countries, have proven that it is possible to impact and change the way that people live and work around the world.

Perhaps the diversity of your employees is wider than the diversity of the slave-employees in your advertising, who appear to me as clones. While I confess I do not understand the value of the perspective of employees whose faces are all turned to the floor, I am confident that you were thinking of this corporate policy when you designed the advertisement.

Perhaps Intel is looking forward to a new era of chattel slavery, with white men owning the output and energy of black men. Or perhaps you just believe that the world is a better place when our microprocessors bow down to us as slaves.

In any event, I hope you are as proud of this advertisement and the message it sends about your products as you deserve.


Debbie Notkin*
*white, in a management position, and with some say in IT purchases

Intel slave market ad

Very very wry thanks to epi_lj for the pointer.

Intel, racism, advertising, slavery, corporate responsibility, Body Impolitic

8 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Intel

  1. I’m not sure there is any possible way anybody could be sufficiently sarcastic to address this staggeringly racist ad. Dean Swift woulf throw down his pen in despair.

    My guess is that Intel will point out, with an air of injured innocence, that the employees are supposed to be track stars preparing to start a race. I mean, start running. But they’re not quite in the proper position in the starting blocks, and their bowed heads are clearly subservient, submissive. Compare them with this Annie Liebovitz image of Carl Lewis painted like a cheetah. (I assume that’s paint.) There’s not a nerve in his body that isn’t alive, vibrant, aware, and strong — and aimed at the finish line. Even in the cheetah paint, he is clearly human and autonomous.

    Search on “starting block” on Jupiter images, and you get 30 pages of powerful images. Oddly enough, in these pictures the runners keep their heads up while in the starting blocks. That’s also what I observed in years of watching track and field (my high school’s big sports events).

    In these six cloned employees, I don’t see Carl Lewis’s individuality, nor any of the ferocious concentration and intense competitiveness of a real athlete waiting for the gun. In fact, I can’t even see that they have eyes or mouths. No eyes to see injustice, weep for sorrow, or flash with anger. No mouths to speak uncomfortable truths or eat the master’s food. A masterly Photoshop job.

    Their posture and their curious lack of individual expression puts all the emphasis on their buff, gleaming bodies corded with muscle. That’s all they have been reduced to: perfect physical specimens under the control of an idiotically grinning white man. The soft-bellied, narrow-shouldered manager in his crumpled khakis is an icon of smug privilege, because he controls these slaves.

    He can’t be that good a manager, though, because if they do take off in a sprint, they’ll smash head-first into each other. Not a great way to win a corporate race. Funny how that word keeps coming up.

  2. Um, so the manager who is the target of this ad will order his slavish employees to rush forward, staring at the floor instead of where they are going, thereby smashing into one another and falling in a most unproductive heap on the floor!

    Not only does this ad explain why my computer (with Intel inside) crashes so often, it also explains some of the rotten tech support I get, presumably from the slaves, picking themselves up off the floor to answer the phone and then returning to their designated mode of operation–ramming head-first into one another and falling back on the floor again.

  3. I just finished the third volume of Timmi Duchamp’s Mar’quessan Cycle, and this ad, coming right after the books, makes me think that the utter contempt her executive class shows for anyone outside it is fully grown right now and not 70 years in our future. The fact that this is supposedly about corporate responsibility and respecting the diversity of their employees makes it even more offensive.

  4. Interesting – don’t watch much telly these days so I would never have seen it. I imagine everyone’s familiar with the Nobel Prize, but there’s also the ‘Ig’nobel Prize. I think this might be a new contender.
    Best wishes

  5. What makes that image particularly disturbing to me is that the black men aren’t even individual. They’re all the same image, just used in different sizes and adjusted for lighting and perspective; slight variations have been photoshopped in to make it slightly less blatant, but even in the relatively small size that you’ve posted here, they’re all the same freaking guy. They are not even given the privilege of individuality, effectively made faceless.

    This is just absolutely disgusting.

  6. The mental suggestion that we are meant to conjure–namely, that black sprinters are necessarily associated with the abilty to rapidly process information, is indeed amusing.

  7. The preceding comment is from a white supremacy site. The URL and identifiers have been deleted. Readers should be aware that white supremacists search the net for posts like this and leave their information behind.

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