Nelson Mandela on

Nelson Mandela’s passing at age ninety-five is being honored everywhere, including the Apple home page.

Nelson Mandela on

This is going to seem churlish of me, but I can’t help but think that it would be more in keeping with Mandela’s legacy if, rather than waiting until a truly great black man dies to put his image on their home page, Apple could routinely allow a worthy living black man to appear on this page:

Apple Executives


  1. John: that’s not what I’m saying at all. To me, it’s obtuse to suggest that there is no compromise between zero black executives throughout the company’s history and a policy of just hiring to “fulfill some PC quota.”

  2. I have followed your blog for several years and always appreciate your writing and opinion, but this is ridiculous. Whoever is on that page most certainly deserves to be there on the basis of merit and performance. I can think of plenty organizations in which this might apply, but Apple isn’t one of them. This is nonsense. I know that you worked at NYT but give me a break. Anyone who achieves that level of success in an organization like Apple did so on their ability to do the job. The fact that there’s no black person on that page simply means that none of the people who performed well enough or worked hard enough for that job happened to be black,, and that’s it. Save the PC bs please.

  3. Patrick: I’m sorry you feel that way, and I’m aware that a lot of people would agree with your point of view. It was probably disingenuous of me to post this so hastily, without a lengthy explanation.

    What I mean is not that Apple should hire some black people for the sake of having black people. Rather, Apple, which is by some measures the most successful company in the world, should not just blindly accept the fact that the people who are qualified to be on their executive team just happen to be entirely white. Rather, I hope that they would have the wherewithal to invest in more aggressive diversity initiatives and create conditions which would allow black people — or any underrepresented minority — to attain executive positions at the company through merit.

    My reasoning is that it simply can’t be true that, given fully equal opportunity, that there are absolutely no black men or women in the first world who are qualified to be part of this executive team. That defies logic.

  4. A more diverse executive team, both racial and gender wise, would be an improvement, no question.

    That said, it’s worth considering the effect of Obama’s ethnicity on the presidency and US policy. It is undoubtedly great that we finally elected a non-white person, but the policies and governance of his administration overall are not, for the most part, significantly different from his white predecessors.

    To remotely approach honoring Mandela’s accomplishments, we obviously have to go beyond surface level differences like skin color. Like someone who’s not an Ivy League-ish-middle-class type person, for a change. That’s not so easy. All that said, and putting aside Apple’s dependence on overworked-underpaid people, a more ethnically diverse executive team is a fine place to start.

  5. Khoi didn’t say these men aren’t qualified to do their jobs. If you’ve read this blog before, then you’d know that he isn’t a narrow minded thinker at all. So you should understand that a statement like the one he made in this post is not simply, Apple needs to hire some black execs because they are black.

    The perception of Silicon Valley is that it is largely white males (some might say a fraternity), so if Apple hires a black executive it would make a tremendous difference if they found a qualified black person. And I’d hope that other start ups and established companies follow suit.

    People get up in arms when race is talked about in this way. Is it because we are supposed to assume that our favorite companies have the best hiring practices in place when vetting higher ups? Because they have a gay man in the mix? What’s wrong with advocating for a qualified black person to be on this page?

  6. OR! What about just advocating for the best qualified PERSON to be on that page? I don’t see Apple’s executive page as a whole page of “white guys” but rather a whole page of tremendously talented people.

    What you don’t get is this: when you focus on a descriptor to fill a void or make it more “even” it takes the focus of the individual. The focus they’ve earned. Then what happens is this: Apple goes and finds a ________ person, talented or not, and hires them, and instead of everyone seeing the Individual and their individual talent for all it’s worth, they say, “Hey, let’s check the ‘black’ box off now! What’s next?” while poor Mr/Mrs Whatever is saying, “hey, screw that I’m black, gay, female, etc, etc….*I* worked my butt off to get here!”

    I mean, thanks goodness Tim Cook has his “gay shirt” on or else how could I be extra-proud of Tim and his accomplishments without the extra designator.

    So sad. When it comes to focusing on a group, the individual always loses. In this case, what they earned through their own hard effort.

  7. Sorry to inform you, but there’s no “black shirt” to wear, no “woman” flag to wave.

    I wouldn’t encourage anyone to hire anyone who isn’t qualified, but I won’t apologize for wanting a black person to fill the role if they qualify and show themselves as capable. Call me biased or prejudice, but there’s obviously a trail to be blazed here, so yes I’m advocating for the “descriptor” in this case. And I don’t think its very sad at all – I think it’s great to see someone who looks familiar in leadership positions such as these. Because the general assumption by the public is that these people are qualified and deserving of their position.

  8. By the way, some commenters who disagree with me have been trying to post comments anonymously, with fake email addresses. I’m happy to allow dissenting views to be posted here, but not by cowards who are unwilling to use legitimate names or email addresses.

  9. I agree completely that these Apple home page ‘takeovers’ read as calculated.

    They attempt pretty strongly to present themselves as a progressive, humanitarian emphasis in line with liberal values—raising environmental standards/recyclability of their products, the Chinese-working-conditions fiascos, Product RED promos, Jony Ive auctions, gay marriage support—all to lots of media coverage. Ditto Mandela.

    .. but their executive board makeup doesn’t really live up to that image, does it? That disconnect stands out pretty sharply.

  10. I think that your hearts in the right place on this one, I just don’t think something as arbitrary as race, gender, or religion is worth serious discussion when we are in 2013 and talking about one of the largest and most powerful companies’ execs. Their selection had better be placed solely on the fruits of their labors, and nothing more, else I wouldn’t forsee them continuing to flourish. I also agree with other posts.. Having a gay CEO is far more open minded than having African American personnel. I look forward to the day that race won’t even be brought up as an issue, because, as we all know (hopefully), we are all the same. Perhaps I’m naive, but I’d like to think we alI already know that. And I did have to google churlish.

  11. Seems like the typical comments whenever this topic gets brought up. People speak of qualified individuals taking a spot in big name companies and everyone screams affirmative action. A lot of about and team pages read that way, sadly. I take a mental note of it and try to run through why it may be. Perhaps as non-white guys we take note of things like this more often than not.

    Wrote this twice as I’m writing from my phone and messed up so sorry if its a double post.

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