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An insult to black America
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D. Barbara McWhite grew up in York County, S.C., and lives in Orange Park, Fla., with her husband and cat. Her column is published here each Tuesday. Opinions expressed are solely her own.

I'm scratching my head. I'm scratching my head over the audacity of Adidas in trying to market its latest sneakers -- "The Roundhouse Mid," also known as the “shackle” shoe.

These shoes, designed by New York designer Jeremy Scott, come complete with orange, plastic shackles that, like slave or prison leg irons, are meant to be attached around both ankles.

Adidas promoted the $350 shoe by saying, "Tighten up your style with the JS Roundhouse Mids, dropping in August. Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?"

Opponents, especially in the African American community, are outraged over the shoes and the seemingly obvious similarity to shackles worn by slaves and prisoners.

The "Shackle Shoe" by Adidas

I am flabbergasted as I try to imagine how Adidas decided these shoes would go over. What college-educated, brainless dimwits in its marketing department decided that sneakers aimed at young, urban men could best be developed and marketed to include shackles?

I find it quite a statement that Adidas actually thought the African American community would sit back and let this slide. To think that African Americans not only would not be offended but would actually pay $350.00 for a pair of shoes that depicts, in living color, the repressive rigors of slavery or that attempt to normalize and glorify prisoners garb, is mind-blowing in its stupidity.

Yet while I shake my head over Adidas' audacity, I also believe the African American community is party responsible for giving the perception that this kind of marketing attempt would be welcomed.

We have allowed the vile n-word, a word historically used to denigrate and debase us, to be repackaged and sold to our children as music. We have also allowed rappers to shine up words like "bitch" and "hoe" and sell them to our children under the guise of artistic expression. We have softened the title of absent and deadbeat dads by calling them "babydaddys."

Is it, therefore, such a stretch to think that it might also be alright for businesses to wipe the dust off the emblems of slavery and market them back to us? And why not clean up the image of prison life and normalize it by making shackles available to all of our young men? The shoes' slogan might rightly be, "Why wait to go to prison when you can experience it right now?"

Some disagree that the shoes are offensive, saying they are creative. Others say the shackles are meant to convey that the shoes are so expensive they have to be chained to their owners.

Adidas at first issued a statement denying any link between the shoes and slave or prison shackles, saying, "The JS Roundhouse Mid is part of the Fall/Winter 2012 design collaboration between Adidas Originals and Jeremy Scott. 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. Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for Adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful."

So what new products do you have lined up for your fall showing, Adidas? I can hardly wait to see your white pointy hoodie, complete with a lovely noose pull string. And I absolutely will buy your new Holocaust steam shower head.

After receiving a deluge of negative comments, including some calling for African Americans to boycott, Adidas has now changed course, issuing the following statement: "Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."

While there is no doubt in my mind that Adidas did the right and the financially prudent thing to withdraw the shoes, I am still offended and saddened that the perception of my race is that this marketing effort could possibly have been accepted.

So I applaud those who flooded Adidas with the demand that they stop promoting these shoes. It's past time for black folks, especially black parents, to stand up and say we will put an end to the Jim Jones, follower mentality -- a mentality that allows us to feed our own children the "kool-aid," formulated by others, that is poisoning their self-worth and destroying their lives.

What do you say? Was Adidas wrong for attempting to promote these shoes?

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October 10, 2015
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