Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Is It The Shoes?

Finally succumbing after a brave battle with insanity, someone at Addidas came up with what I can only describe as a crime against footwear - the "JS Roundhouse Mids." Because these shoes were supposedly "so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles," they were slated to come with (and I kid you not) "prison orange shackles to wrap around your ankles," connected to the shoes by just as garishly prison orange plastic chains. I can only imagine that the members of the focus group that Addidas convinced to give them the thumbs up on these are now in rehab. And the shoes themselves will likely never hit the stores, given the reaction on Addidas' Facebook page.

But there is also this:

"The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive. Removing the chains from our ankles and placing them on our shoes is no progress.
These slave shoes are odious and we as a people should be called to resent and resist them."
Reverend Jesse Jackson
I hadn't realized that the good Reverend had taken up drinking.

But in all seriousness, it is this sort of knee-jerk outrage, designed to root out and react to racism under every rock and plant, that is among the worst enemies of the American Black community. Yes, there are racists in the world, but there are also just plain idiots and assholes. Being unwilling to make that disctiction is not helpful. Back in the late 1980s Reverend Jacskon run for President of the United States of America. It was, of course, an effort doomed from the start, in no small part because of the toxic baggage of racial animosity that the Reverend Jackson brought along during his "run" for the presidency. Reverend Jackson personifies the school of thought that sees anything short of the complete eradication of racism as no progress, and anything that can be considered even tangentially related to the history of Blacks in America to be the direct result of someone's ideas on race. But this outlook has become less and less credible as time goes on. Leaving aside the sheer ridiculousness of equating a dubious design in footwear to the practice of slavery in the United States, this constant hammering on the idea that a vast conspiracy of racists schemes to return the world to a social structure that passed more than a century ago simply drives a wedge between groups to no real advantage. And to the degree that minority groups are often thought of as having "leaders" prominent members of the community who seem to have taken leave of their senses tend to cast a negative light on entire communities. While the Reverend Jackson was certainly a force to reckoned with during the days of the civil rights movement, he now seems like a doddering old man, a respected Wolf-hunter in his day, who has taken to crying "Wolf," simply so that we won't forget what the word sounds like, or that he once challenged the animals on a regular basis. But we don't need the ghosts of the past kept alive simply for their own sake. We need people who will focus on the real problems that still exist, and offer workable solutions.

While racism still exists in the world at large, and the United States, sometimes, stupid is simply stupid. It's worthwhile for us to recognize that, and call out people who don't, rather than perpetuate a conflict that could be put mostly to bed.

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