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iWeekend: (Malcolm) OS X T-shirts and Mistaken ID

Rodney O. Lain - 2000.02.21

This article was originally published on The, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 2000 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible). Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

Too black, too strong.
 - Malcolm X

I'm tired. I've been black all day.
 - T-shirt seen at the Million Man March

I guess I could sue Apple for emotional duress.

My story begins last month at Macworld San Francisco. I was walking around the show floor, seeing if I could score any more goodies before heading home. It was the last day of the expo. I was in the Apple section - rows of iMacs and iBooks, connected via AirPort to the Internet. To my right, I see two Apple reps on the stage, talking up OS X with PowerPoint presentations and rah-rah cheerleading.

I hadn't seen the presentation in its entirety, so I mosey on up to the stage for a closer look-see.

"We want to show you why its good to attend our presentations on the last day of the Expo," one of the two reps said. While he talked, the other one went behind the curtain, pulling out two or three big, cardboard boxes. He pulls a T-shirt out of the box, and unfolds it to show us a big "Aqua"-colored "X" on the front. It was an OS X shirt. On the back is the text, in small print: "Coming to a Macintosh near you," along with the black Apple logo and "Think Different."

You'd think this was a bread line during the Depression. Immediately, I'm pressed body-to-body by throngs of Mac addicts jockeying for a T-shirt. They were a bunch of weirdoes, doing all of that for a measly T-shirt. Only fools would run over one another to get something so meaningless

What's that? Hell, yeah, I got a T-shirt. What, you think I'm a fool or something?

I tried to get two, to no avail.

I didn't think anything about that shirt until today, over a month later

Back of the Bus, Please

Today (Sunday), I was on my way home from St. Cloud, Minnesota, after a night of Mac-ing out with a fellow Mac lover. I have on my OS X shirt, bopping my head to the sounds of George Clintons "Do Fries Go With That Shake?" That's a song from the 1980s, back when they knew what a lyric was. I go into a fugue state, going through the motions of driving without much thought.

I'm shaken out of my reverie by the flashing lights behind me. State Trooper. 70 mph speed zone. Clocked at 80 mph.

"Do you know how fast you were going? You seemed to be in a hurry."

"Yeah, unfortunately, I know exactly how fast I was going. Sorry about that."

"You had any tickets before?"

Its been a while."

"Could I see your license and proof of insurance?"

"Well, I just bought this car, and all I have is this note from my insurance agency."

Time passes.

"I'm gonna give you a citation here. You were going 82, but I'm going to write it at the 80 mark, since its a lower ticket that way."

"Where do I go to pay the ticket?"

"I'm gonna tell ya," he says, implying that I should shut up.

He goes through his spiel.

"I notice that you don't have your license plates on your Mitsubishi Montero."

"Yeah, they've ordered the plates, and I'm told they'll be in by Feb. 24."

"You want to get those right away," he says, looking down at my T-shirt.

"Do they normally give me a better proof of insurance?" I ask.

"I'm gonna tell ya."

Okay. Shutting up...

Oh. A thought hits me. I wonder if he thinks that my shirt is a "Malcolm X" shirt, and I'm one of those raised-clenched-fist, dashiki-wearing muthas. I don't know why I'm so self conscious about this shirt

Later that day, we head out to see a matinee, "Pitch Black." Its a so-so flick, although the ending is pretty contrived. Decent enough plot, though. Don't make a sequel, folks at the studio. Its not worth it - unless you can fit in a cameo appearance by Dr. Evil.

We leave the movie to find some dinner. I suggest going to Applebee's, a local restaurant chain south of our home in a Saint Paul suburb named Apple Valley. We enter and stand by the "wait to be seated" sign for about 20 minutes. No one comes to seat us. I look at my wife. I look down at the "X" on my T-shirt. I look around, trying to catch a waitress or a waiters eye.

No such luck.

We leave unceremoniously, headed to a restaurant next door. This time, we go up to the counter to order. The guys behind the counter tell us that we can be seated and someone will be there to serve us. We look around. The place is kinda empty, so we figure it wont be long till were served.

We head to the no-smoking section. We sit there for 15 minutes. I vow to myself not to get mad if we have to wait. My wife, the long-suffering one between us, is the first to say something.

"Shouldn't they have served us by now?"

"I guess so. That's not the problem, though. My guess is that we moved too far south of the Twin Cities: you know that the farther from the city you live, the less welcome our kind is. Personally, I don't think they serve niggers down here in Apple Valley."

She shoots me a dirty look; she hates it when I curse and act racist. But she doesn't disagree with me...

But she agrees with my suggestion to go home and heat up some leftover burgers that I grilled earlier in the day.

I look down at my shirt and feel more conscious of my blackness than I've been in a while.


Am I Black/Mac Enough for Ya?

I wonder if Apple is aware of the problems they've caused for black Mac lovers like myself? I stifle a wry grin, as I think of the many white Mac users who will wear this same shirt in public and receive looks from the rednecks in their midst who will think they're making some nigger-lovin' statement by wearing a shirt emblazoned with the symbol of that trouble-maker Malcolm Little.

As we walk past people, I try to walk slowly enough for them to see the back of my shirt. Its a Macintosh shirt, dammit!

We head home. I take off the T-shirt and mull over the days events.

That's a new experience for me: my Mac makes me feel black. Maybe that's why I'm feeling blue. Black and blue. Bondi blue.

Maybe the Macintosh really is the nigger of the computer industry. A colored computer for colored people. I wonder why more "people of color" don't use the Mac.

We all sit at the back of the bus. At least, armed with iBooks and iMacs, we'll be doing it with style.


(This column is dedicated to the hate mailer who wrote me, saying that my writing is proof positive that affirmative action is "inherently wrong" - whatever he meant by that. Hey, buddy, I've got a [Malcolm] OS X shirt with your name on it. Wear it with pride... my brotha :)

- Rodney O'Neal Lain

Rodney O. Lain is The iMac's Associate Editor. A former professor, he lives in St. Paul, MN, where he is a freelance writer and a supervisor at a major US corporation. He enjoys comic books and pencil drawing. He adores Mike Royko, Zora Hurston, Lewis Grizzard, Maya Angelou, John Byrne, bell hooks, Frank Miller and Henry Louis Gates. He also writes for Low End Mac, Applelinks and My Mac Magazine. When no one's looking, he rants and raves on his home page Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow.

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