During these unpredictable times that we are navigating because of this pandemic, we have to find alternate ways to entertain ourselves. The new normal are Zoom meetings, incessant notifications from Slack or Discord, and a myriad of contactless options to maintain social distancing mandates. Since many countries are under a shelter in place order, social media is the main escape. As a release we have many different hashtag challenges, creative ways to display your sneaker collection, and take a dope picture for the gram. During one challenge, where individuals balanced multiple kicks on their head, Complex posted a picture and one of the featured ladies made a racially charged comment, and that lead to a long-overdue question in the sneaker community. Are black women properly promoted in this space like their white counterparts?
A few weeks ago, Lena Waithe posted a comment that read, black faces make the sneakers cool, and white hands get paid for it. Her comments hit home and is a feeling that black consumers have experienced forever. Whether it’s Run DMC holding up an Adidas shell toe at a concert in ‘86 or Michael Jordan wearing his signature sneaker in ‘84, it’s black people who are at the forefront of sneaker culture. It’s a status symbol, cultural iconography, a movement that has been adopted by others looking for cool. Questlove said it best, “nobody is checking to see what Kurt Rambis is wearing.” Nowadays, some would argue, it’s the music artist, model or social media influencer the pushes the culture knob.
Social media can be great when used responsibly and a nightmare for those who don’t. Recently, @snkrsgurl was involved in the #Jordan1sonhead challenge and was called out for saying, “next time ima wear black makeup to satisfy you😘” What followed was equally sad and disheartening, an outcry of sympathy and excuses for this woman who made a racist comment. People saying she didn’t mean it like that, or she is foreign, she doesn’t know what that means. Just because you are ignorant, doesn’t make you less culpable for your actions. Many black people took offense, especially black women because at the center of this is a post that has nothing but white women. The plot thickens.
Black women in sneakers are undeniable, you have Vashtie, Alealie May, Maya Moore, Teyana Taylor and Jazzy Rae to name a few. So, it’s obvious when media outlets whitewash advertising and features. Too often black women are labeled as spicy, loud or complain too much when they defend themselves. Would that happen if they were male or a white woman? Too often misogynistic comments referencing their mental cycle are hurled as insults regarding their behavior. Would this happen if they weren’t black? And to me, the ultimate insult, if you don’t like it, why don’t you create your own platform. I thought this community was about inclusion, why should black women have to create their own space?
Far too often people are triggered when black people create something for themselves. Historically, black movements are rooted in unity to uplift black people and the black experience, never to make anyone else feel inferior. This community is unbalanced, from power structure to representation, can it be fixed, sure. But can we come together to accomplish that; I don’t know.