Thursday, June 21, 2012

The meaning of shackles on my feet

Please excuse my language, but what the Hell was Adidas thinking when they introduced the shackle shoes?  I’m not buying the line “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?”
It’s hard to imagine that in this age over hyper cultural sensitivity not one person at the German sports apparel maker considered the correlation of those shackles and the enslavement of black folks.  Not one person? No one had the insight to blow the whistle in the middle of the presentation and call a foul? Nobody?
The implications related to not knowing any better raises serious question regarding who was in the room when the shackles were presented.  I can only assume there was the absence of a black person to scream “no you didn’t!”  If so, that brother or sister needs to have the black card removed and sent to a class on what pisses other black folks off.
Someone needed to yell about the large numbers of black youth who purchase those high price shoes.  I know young people with enough invested in shoes to pay for their college education.  I’ve heard young people scream at their parents for refusing to purchase the most recent version of Jordan’s foot crack. Youth are addicted to shoes like an old wine-o standing on a corner begging for change to get another bottle.  “Please mama, please, got ta have my shoes!”  Show me a parent not dealing with the insanity connected to a kid’s shoe addiction and I’ll give them an award as parent of the year.
Which may be the point behind Adidas shoe concept – telling the truth about those who fork out all that cash to buy the crap.  As much as I want to strangle everyone in the board room who gave the nod for the shoe, I have to give them credit for being honest about the lure of the shoe industry.  Those who buy their products are slaves to the shoe.  You might as well put a shackle on them to make it official.
And it goes deeper than the shoes they wear.  Their dreams for education and a life of a modest level of security are enslaved by their spending habits.  Their parents can’t get past making it from one check to the next due to their need to show up at school with new kicks on their feet every day.  Add to the cost of shoes the rest of the wardrobe.  You might as well call them what they are – slaves.
As much as I hate the concept of shackles on shoes, there’s something about that memory from slavery that gets at a truth that needs to be preached.  Since they want to wear them, put shackles on them.  Make them walk around school with a symbol of subjugation.  Make them tell the truth about their obsession. 
Outrage on the release of the shoe forced Adidas to offer a formal apology. "The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery," the statement said. "We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."
Adidas had no choice but to back down.  With high profile critics like Rev. Jesse Jackson banging at their door they had to find a way to back out of their plan to place shackles on the feet of youth. "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," Jackson said before Adidas' decision to withdraw them from the marketplace.
I’m certainly relieved that Adidas pulled the shoe, but maybe this was an opportunity to make a point to those black kids fixated on shoes.  We had a chance to force them to wear a label like in the “Scarlet Letter”. Make them tell the truth.
I wear shackles on my feet because I’m a slave to my shoes.

1 comment:

  1. Where are these shoes made, anyway? I'll bet at some sweatshop where the workers are slaves to horrendous conditions and slave wages. I know there is a factory in the Philippines because my wife and I visited it one on one of our trips to her home. At that time there was a strike at the factory, threats from the contractor management, round the clock picket lines, and one sign I'll never forget: "Those who make the shoes cannot buy them". In fact, “Global Wage Report 2010” of the ILO notes that workers in the Philippines are among the lowest paid in the world and wages are falling still. Repression of unions, including assassination by death squads, continues with impunity. In Indonesia, it's the same thing. There, the International Labor Rights Forum has a campaign on an Adidas contractor, here's a quote from their website: "In January 2011, the owner of PT Kizone factory fled Indonesia, and 2,800 workers and their families found themselves without the nearly half a year’s wages worth of legally-owed severance pay. adidas is the only major buyer from the factory that has refused to accept responsibility and contribute towards what the workers are owed under Indonesian law. Nearly $1.8 million is still owed to the workers, who are struggling to keep children in school and put food on the table. Check out their website,