Adidas and the Truth About ‘Slavery Sneakers’ – News & Views – EBONY

Adidas and the Truth About ‘Slavery Sneakers’

David Leonard

Adidas’ planned release of its “JS Roundhouse Mids” shoes has been put on hold, but the rightful outrage continues.

The sight of “slave shoes”—sneakers with shackles and chains—prompted widespread indignation and outrage. “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,” writes Jesse Jackson. “For Adidas to promote the athleticism and contributions of a variety of African-American sports legends … and then allow such a degrading symbol of African-American history to pass through its corporate channels and move toward actual production and advertisement, is insensitive and corporately irresponsible.”

The shoes are yet another reminder of the efforts to sanitize and erase slavery from public consciousness. Whether in the efforts to whitewash history through denying or minimizing the history of slavery, or turning slavery into sources of profit and pleasure, the shoes speak to an effort to reimagine slavery within White America. Whereas the history of slavery is one of violence, bloodshed, and survival in the face of brutality, these shoes disrespect the memories and atrocities at the heart of this country. In turning its symbols – shackles and chains – into something of trendy desire and pleasure, these shoes and its designers not only spit on this history but seek to cash in on the pain and suffering of many people.

The marketing of the shoes also disturbingly capitalize on incidences of shoe violence and media sensationalism. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “On Adidas’ Facebook page, the company calls the shoe ‘so hot you [will need to] lock your kicks to your ankles.’” Like those pundits, politicians, and media who sold fear by citing kids being murdered for their shoes, Adidas sees an opportunity in exaggerated stories of death. By telling its consumers that “yes others will desperately want your shoes but not to worry, they are on lockdown,” the company is selling consumers a footwear version of LoJack. As with the politicians and media pundits before them, Adidas is continuing a tradition of peddling and proofing off of racial fears and stereotypes.

As the history of shoe production has been one of exploitation, abuse and “slave-like” conditions, there is sickening irony in these shoes. Do the shackles and chains attached to the shoes mirror those that have been found on children’s feet? Does it symbolically reflect the sweatshop conditions endured by those who produce shoes and apparel throughout the globe?

Continue reading @ Adidas and the Truth About ‘Slavery Sneakers’ – News & Views – EBONY.

My newest piece @NewBlackMan: Elmo and the “Beloved Community”: The Conservative Right’s Assault on Sesame Street

Elmo and the “Beloved Community”:

The Conservative Right’s Assault on Sesame Street

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

Over the summer, Ben Shapiro, while making an appearance on Fox News’ Hannity, “jokingly” announced his desire to “cap” the characters of Sesame Street. He followed this up with more “serious” criticisms, denouncing America’s favorite kid’s show because of its “soft bigotry of low expectations,” its promotion of “gender neutral language,” and its advocacy to “give boys dolls and girls fire trucks.” The other members of Hannity’s “great all-American” panel similarly spoke about the downgrading of America’s moral fabric, seemingly linking the messages of Sesame Street to the cultural wars. The Huffington Post describes his criticism of Sesame Street in the following way:

Chief amongst Shapiro’s alleged liberal offenders is Sesame Street, the Jim Henson-created educational show carried on PBS, the public network with few conservative fans or defenders.

Citing interviews with one of the show’s creators, early episodes of the show featuring hippies and racial reconciliation and, more recently, incidents such as 2009’s “Pox News” controversy, Shapiro writes that “Sesame Street tried to tackle divorce, tackled ‘peaceful conflict resolution’ in the aftermath of 9/11 and had Neil Patrick Harris on the show playing the subtly-named ‘fairy shoeperson.'”

Patrick Harris, to Shapiro’s chagrin, is gay. And, even scarier, Cookie Monster says cookies are only a sometimes food now; the venerable sweets machine has added fruits and vegetables to his diet, indicating a major liberal plot.

On Martin Bashir’s show on MSNBC, Shapiro similarly denounced children’s television for promoting “a self-esteem ethos, the idea that, to paraphrase Barney ‘everyone is special’; an unearned self-esteem.”

The attacks on Sesame Street (and by extension the liberal media and big government intrusion in family matters) are nothing new. A 1992 column in The Economist similarly denounced Sesame Street as a liberal assault on American values:

The problem comes when the sensible tolerance and respect of “Sesame Street” are mutated into something less appealing. First, it becomes a kind of hypertolerance (which argues, for example, that the canon of black female authors is as rich as that of white male authors); which is merely silly. Second, it becomes an intolerance of those who do not practice this hyper-tolerance (so that anyone who argues that a canon of authors who happen to be white and male is better than the one picked by sex and skin color is a racist sexist); which is pernicious. It is the intolerance that has come to be called “political correctness”—or PC (Sesame Street, the acceptable face 1992, A30).

The criticisms that “multiculturalism” or “tolerance” represents a vehicle for the “intolerance” for dominant values (white, Christian, middle-class) that have purportedly been central to America’s historic greatness are common to the broader culture. Equally troubling to those critics of Sesame Street is not only tax-payer support for a program that is neither intended for white-middle class audiences (Shapiro notes the history behind Sesame Street), but in their mind devalues whiteness for the sake of multiculturalism agenda.

To understand this criticism and to comprehend the right’s denunciation of Sesame Street mandates an examination of this larger history and the ways in which Sesame Street has built upon the civil rights movements and those concerned with justice, equality, and fairness. In 1979, The New York Times identified the primary focus of Sesame Street as the “4-year-old inner-city black youngster.” Jennifer Mandel, in “The Production of a Beloved Community: Sesame Street’s Answer to America’s Inequalities,” argues that while the original intended audience for the show was “disadvantaged urban youth” who suffered because of “the limited availability of preschool education” the appeal and impact of the show transcended any particular demographic. While addressing structural inequalities and countering the systemic failures in America’s educational television was part of the show’s mission, it more masterfully offered a utopic vision of America and the broader world.

continue reading at NewBlackMan: Elmo and the “Beloved Community”: The Conservative Right’s Assault on Sesame Street.