Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The interwebs were abuzz Monday after the sensitive few caught sight of these shackle adorned sneakers. On first thought I felt some kind of way. Not necessarily a "that's racist" kind of way, but just some kind of way. But then my "let's not overreact" self said "Self, what's the difference between these shackled sneakers and the brown and cream shackle stilettos in your closet?" So I took this picture to pose the question, what makes my stiletto more chic than this Adidas? A shackle is a shackle so either everybody gets mad about wearing new fangled slave wear or we all shut up and enjoy the old evolution of fashion.
Fashion is always pushing the edge of what is acceptable against what is controversial. Many times we don't notice. Say for instance what makes these chunky cuff like bangles different from the shackles used to transport slaves? What makes a choker different from a coffle? A loin cloth different from khaki poom poom shorts? What differentiates natural hair wearers from pickaninnies, the light skinned among us from house slaves and us ebony and onyx skinned creatures different from field niggers?
While the Jeremy Scott designed Adidas may have been too much for some to handle. I'm sure many sneaker heads caught sight of these Lakers loving kicks and said "Ooh that's fresh." Racism is so ingrained in American culture anything that appears racially sketch is met with degradation instead of applause for creativity.
Granted there are times when fashion editors cross the line. For example, Rihanna, The Ultimate NiggaBitch. Too far over. Slavery: The Game. Too far over. Slave Earrings. Too far over.
But just because the word "slave" precedes another part of a phrase does not mean the slave descriptor is racist. Case in point, Brittany Spears, "I'm a Slave 4 U," or fashion slave or whatever you feel you would slave for.
In order to deal with actual and effectual racism Black people and White people alike need to get off this trip that everything mildly offensive is racism or race baiting. A comment or critique can be made with racial undertones without actually being racist.
I understand we are having a difficult time navigating this period of American history where race is at the forefront of citizens' minds because the man we call President just happens to be of a race not typically elected President. I understand we are having a difficult time navigating this period of American history where race still stokes fear in some, hatred in others, and is the subject of several top news stories of the day. Despite the difficulty if we don't stop discussing the frivolous over the substantive we will subject ourselves to a level of ignorance not seen in a group since it was imposed on actual slaves.
If there is ever any hope of one day being truly post-racial (most likely not in this life time) then everyone must make a concerted effort to know what racism is and is not. One can't be racist and the other haute couture. The Adidas slave shackle shoe, though it will never be made for public wear, is a teachable moment of how to deal with feelings in the face of non racist idioms. Ignore your first thought. Ignore the id and reach for the super ego of reason. Without it Blacks and Whites will continue to fight an uphill battle without arms against images that anger us even though they may be a simple expression of "whimsical creativity."
1. Are the Adidas racist?
2. Would you have worn them if they were released?
3. Why do people over react all the time on the slightest mention, hint, or allusion to race?