On February first, in honor of Black History Month, Apple will release the Apple Black Unity Watch. It’s inspired by the Pan-African flag, constructed in shades of black, green and red. Apple’s Chinese suppliers laser engraved the words “Truth, Power and Solidarity” onto the interior of the stainless steel fastening pin (a.k.a., caseback). Apple will donate an unspecified percentage of the proceeds from Apple Black Unity Watch sales to . . .
Black Lives Matter Support Fund (via the Tides Foundation,) European Network Against Racism, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, Leadership Conference Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. and Souls Grown Deep.
The Black Lives Matter Support Fund is troublesome. Regardless of your take on the BLM movement, some see BLM as a danger to American ideals. By funneling money to the organization Apple runs the risk of alienating millions of potential buyers. More than that, it identifies Apple as a political entity, a company that chooses sides.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for truth, power and solidarity. Solidarity across racial, national, ethnic, cultural, sexual and any other “self identity” category you can name. I completely embrace embracing your whateverness in whatever way you want – as long as you tolerate, accept, support and yes celebrate people who don’t share your affiliation.
On the face of it (so to speak), the Apple Black Unity Watch is part of that celebration. But it opens the door to questions about Apple’s commitment to equality (not equity).
An Apple Watch targeted at and for a particular ethnic group begs the question, what about other self-identified communities? Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, straights, furries, etc. Where do you draw the line?
What about a Jewish Unity Watch? A Hispanic Unity Watch? A LGBTQ+ Unity Watch? Why not? On one hand, an affiliation-targeted Apple Watch celebrates diversity. On the other hand, it encourages division. Not only does its existence separate buyers into subcategories, it does so publicly.
How will a black person view a white person wearing a Apple Black Unity Watch? How would a Hispanic-identified person view a non-Hispanic person wearing a [theoretical] Hispanic Unity Watch? As a supporter of their “cause” or as someone practicing cultural appropriation? Why get into this in the first place?
Rightly or wrongly, before Apple deleted Parler from their App store, consumers considered the world’s most valuable company apolitical. And something more: a corporation that unifies all people inside its walled garden. Even a brief visit to an Apple Store confirms it: their products appeal across all demographic groups.
The technology giant’s decision to throw its entire weight behind Black History Month – App Store, Music, Maps, TV, News, Books, Podcasts, Fitness+ and Watch – hives off one particular group. By doing so Apple marginalizes non-Black consumers (where’s the white hand?), however inadvertently, no matter how laudable their intentions. The Apple Black Unity Watch is the physical embodiment of that marginalization.
Watches created and sold to benefit a particular group (e.g., the Timex + Tom Snyder Gay Pride watch) or charity (e.g., the Oris Carl Brashear) run the risk of being seen as virtue signaling, combined with cynical commercial exploitation. A watch that supports BLM, explicitly entering a highly charged political arena, crosses a new line. To my mind the Apple Black Unity Watch is anything but unifying. It’s divisive. Am I wrong?