Fashion Slaves

Postmodern black American enslavement is quite a spectacle. Witness the temporary thunderclap of comfort and the blinding shinola emitting from the upper middle classes every time a black American charges an expensive purchase or, better yet, uses payday

Jun 27, 2012 at 9:21 am


ostmodern black American enslavement is quite a spectacle.

Witness the temporary thunderclap of comfort and the blinding shinola emitting from the upper middle classes every time a black American charges an expensive purchase or, better yet, uses payday Friday bill money to floss. 

All black everything.

The election and nearness of the re-election of a bi-racial (read: black) man born to a single white woman (today labeled “ghetto”) as President — achievement-packed as it is — has done little to quell black Americans’ thirst for things.

We likes us some thangs.

The more initialisms, names, brands, versions, exclusivity and far-reaching ZIP Codes, the better: Coach, Burberry, Gucci, Lexus, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes, BMW, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Xbox (720, of course), iPad, iPhone (5...coming this fall), Martha’s Vineyard (the black inkwell section) and Maybach are but several among thousands of the brands blacks covet and buy up.

That we get much of our blood thirst from watching how and what whites acquire is another column completely. It is but another sad dance routine in our version of 

“Dancing with the Races.”

They take two steps; we take one. 

Then they completely alter the paradigm, nudging it ever farther from our grasp and by then, definitions of what is indeed upper- and upper-middle class have changed. 

To wit, Mason is the new West Chester.

Soon, outer space will be the new Mason.

Get it?

It all pushes us to a certain level of crazed intra-racial classism that turns us into black cannibals eating one another alive for failing a class called Acquisitions.

More tellingly and dangerously, though, it’s a colossal distraction. When we are distracted we lose sight of authenticity, when we lose sight of authenticity we fall into identity crises and when we fall down that well... welllll, then we become fixated on absolutely the wrong “issues” within our newly remodeled blackness.

Because as new blacks, we hate old shit. 

We like new builds.

In most cases slavery or some imagining of the plantation undergirds the “issues.” And since the most destitute black American is clueless to the psychosexual horrors and O.G. terrorism of slavery in America, all our talk-show punditry and every-asshole-is-an-expert blogger and their slavery analogies do nothing but belittle the African slave trade in ways that make the very mention of slavery an excuse for the average white person within ear shot to mentally and emotionally check out because, hey, he never owned slaves and you — with your college degree and upwardly mobile intentions — you never were a slave.

Case closed.

However, what we talk about when we talk about slavery so much and so irresponsibly turns us into nothing more than a bunch of black Chicken Littles. No one is gonna believe how horribly real and far-reaching the manifestation of slavery remains if we keep referring to corporate office suites as “plantations,” to our white bosses as “masters” and to any and all chain iconography in popular culture as “shackles.” By the way, I haven’t witnessed anything but envy and idolatry for name brand black rappers who still insist on rocking gold chains and obnoxious-face watches. 

If those ain’t shackles, then Kunta Kinte ain’t hawking a Reading Rainbow iPad app.

And he is.

Another case closed.

Furthermore, misguided and misplaced slave metaphors make also-ran spokesmen of people like Jesse Jackson who was never taken seriously as a presidential candidate, decried the one viable black candidate the country’s ever seen but then cried like a bitch-ass when that viable black man was elected. 

Take note that before and since, Jackson has been trying to find footing as an angry black man in rhyming verse. Please also note that mainstream white media defaults to him in cyclical fits of laziness; boggling, since angry black men in this country come a dime a dozen.

Kinda like slaves did.

My bad. I digress.

We were talking about the spectacular nature of new-new black slavery.

Adidas started showing images of its JS Roundhouse Mid, designed by Jeremy Scott, awhile back and the masses of anonymous sneaker freaks checking in online seemed to love it. But as soon as Adidas posted an official Facebook page for the sneaker — with its plastic orange chain connected to a Velcro-strapped ankle cuff — Chicken Little blacks, with Jackson among the chorus, went ape shit.

Blacks throw all notions of context out the slave ship window when they play the slavery card incorrectly. It’s silly because if they had context, then they’d know that Scott — long a sneaker designer known for cartoonish and cartoon-inspired design elements — based his design of the Roundhouse Mid on an old-school toy called My Pet Monster. Where were these black Chicken Littles when Adidas and Scott released the (again, ugly) JS Bones sneaker with the huge, plastic bones across the laces and the leopard print around the sides? Don’t bones remind us of Hollywood’s racist past of putting bones through the noses of white actors in blackface portraying African “natives” in all those early films about whites saving and conquering darkest Africa? And what about the leopard print? Were Scott and Adidas trying to say black Africans wander around half naked in animal skins? 

Because some do. 

Should I be offended by that? 

Or should I still try to find a pair online because Lil’ Wayne rocked a pair?

I am confused. Except for one thing I know for certain.

Scott’s Adidas-backed sneakers are ugly. 

But their mere outrageousness and expensiveness are attractive to the folks who can and cannot afford them. 

It’s classism by sneaker.

Slavery by fashion.

And enslavement by race.

If Scott’s guilty of anything it’s appropriation. 

But try having that conversation with any hipster and be prepared to be stared at blankly.

And try having a conversation about real slavery with blacks who wield slavery as a cat o’ nine tails against guilty whites.

Then, be prepared to be Adidas.

And run, in your JS Roundhouse Mid sneakers, for the hills.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]