The Monkey In Office
When using clipart in Microsoft Publisher 98 (part of the popular Microsoft Office) a search for the word "monkey" displayed an African-American couple sitting in a playground. Obviously someone eventually filed a lawsuit.
When users type the word "monkey" to obtain a graphic, the program displays an African-American couple sitting on playground equipment, alongside four other images that show various types of monkeys. The suit claims that while the term "monkey bars" is supposed to refer to the playground equipment on which the couple is sitting, the equipment shown in the image "is plainly not 'monkey bars.' "
A rational look at how this happened would lead one to realize it is just a result of the search algorithm used and was not intended in anyway to be racist.
Of course this was all back in mid-1999 - long before the 43rd President of the United States, George Walker Bush, was elected to office. The most common means of poking fun of the 43rd president was to compare him to a monkey. This clear case of disrespect for one of the highest offices in the world was widely found acceptable - in the name of comedy and satire.
This of course makes me very curious. My simple question is this: Can anyone poke fun at the 44rd President of the United States by possibly comparing him to an animal? ... Will it be funny or will it be racist?
me on January 29, 2009 ~ 12:00 AM
it'll be interpreted by most as racist. however iz only so if da viewer equates da use of da animal, monkey, as only applicable to blacks.
Eugene Poole on May 13, 2009 ~ 12:12 PM
There is no way an algorithm can be racist - however, how it's used can be racist. Unless it was done on purpose how can a search on monkey bring up an image of a human being - regardless of color? So we must look at the data and the indexing methods. But, we Americans know that since Africans were brought to America against their will, the Caucasian people have referred to the Africans as 'monkey people'. But, looking at people in general, why aren't Caucasian people referred to as 'monkey people' since they are the most hairy segment of people on earth?