Virginia Heffernan, writing for Wired, has published an “ideas” piece for the March 2022 issue that calls out the Tesla bot as “a racist phenomenon dating back to the 18th century.”
I couldn’t agree more, and in fact am quoted in the article.
At least one observer, Davi Ottenheimer, a digital ethics expert, likened the robot’s appearance and loose-limbed dance number at the unveiling to a minstrel show. [Edward Jones-Imhotep, a historian of science and technology at the University of Toronto] concurs: “Musk’s presentation seems doubly regressive … It obviously evokes minstrelsy and blackface. And in doing so it also returns the Black android to some of its late 19th-century forms under the guise of progress.”
At 5′8″ and 125 pounds—programmed to be “friendly” and built so you can “overpower it,” in Musk’s words—the Tesla bot, Ottenheimer proposed, seemed to express a white male fantasy of being waited on by an uncomplaining and entirely controllable Black woman whom he can dominate without conscience.
I have been pleased lately to hear so many people say they’ve seen my name in this article. However, I never spoke with the author.
She is making a reference to an August 2021 blog post I wrote called “Tesla’s Blackface Robot: Promoting Slavery As Fantasy“,
which unfortunately didn’t get a link from Wired now shows a direct link from Wired.