Image above is of Joshua Wood.
>Don’t be alarmed (or do) by the title but they are lyrics from J.Cole song feat Missy Elliot titled Nobody’s Perfect. They perfectly sum up the crime and violence around Nike’s Jordan as it relates to Black male consumerism in the U.S. My focus is not to demonize but highlight this particular issue and encourage us to look at our broader economic mode of production capitalism and the role it plays in fueling this violence systematically and structurally. This death has long been orchestrated by the dragon that governs us all. December of 2012 Joshua Wood 22 year old Black male and father was shot and killed in Houston over a pair of Jordan sneakers. Understanding his death must look at the superstructure that governs our lives which is our economic system capitalism. Joshua Wood story is one of many
“Joshua Wood, 22, was shot about 10:30am in Harris County, Houston, as he was trying to move from the passenger seat of a car to the driver’s seat to escape two armed men demanding his new Nike Air Jordan XI ‘Bred’ shoes. The story continues “Wood and another man had bought several pairs of the newly released sneakers in the morning at Willowbrook Mall before heading to drive home. The shoes were only released to the public that morning. As the driver stopped at his house, a green four-door car pulled up in front of him, the sheriff’s office said. An armed man got out of the green car and demanded the newly purchased shoes, which retail for about $185 in the US.”
Under capitalism, once the object emerges as a commodity that has been assigned a monetary value for equivalent universal exchange, it is fetishized, meaning that consumers come to believe that the object has exotic appeal at face value likes its some magical thing One can look at the way in which Nike Jordan’s and the violent craze behind them is in direct relationship to Marxist theory on commodity fetish.
“A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. It’s analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” His famous example is that of a wood. Wood is simply cut bark of trees but once we cut it into up create a fancy nice desktop table it ultimately changes and takes on a mysterious metaphysical quality. “The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.”
As early as the 90’s there have been report of teens slain over these shoes. The social endowment ad mystical attachment towards these sneakers is simply a byproduct of this capitalist society. Marx argues that these commodities take on social character of their own.The solution to ending the violence in urban cities among black youth must have an anti-capitalist agenda. And the bullshit about the limited amount of Mikes are created on purpose just to add thirst for em. They now they can make more, the scarcity ain’t real. That the myth capitalism promotes that there is never enough for everyone when it is.
The popularity of Nike’s in Hip-Hop and the mythic legacy of Michael Jordan’s to young Black males establish the cool status of the Air Jordan sneakers. Air Jordan sneakers which have been nicked named “Mikes’ or simply Jordan’s by inner city Black youth. To obtain these Mike’s which comes out month after month, many urban Black youth of lower socioeconomic status wait in line across stores nationwide for hours and sometimes days just to purchase them spending hundreds of dollars even if they are poor. And sometimes in those long lines the consumerism desire leads to fights in and around the store. Does Nike ever consider how if they are selling a product that incites violence this not only puts the public in danger but employees of the stores who must risk being the objects of physical violence due to the false scarcity they create. This should be considered a public safety issue but these are Black faces that are dying so it is never considered as devastating.
This image is of a fight that took place in a Footlocker in the Bronx.
“Socialized by film and television to identify with the attitudes values of the privileged classes in society; many people who are poor or a few paychecks away from poverty internalize fear and contempt for those who are poor. When materially depraved teenagers kill for tennis shoes or jackets they are not doing so just because they liked that item so much. They also hope to escape the stigma of their class by appearing to have the trappings of more privileged classes” ( bell hooks Outlaw Culture 169)
As bell hooks points out the consumerism is related to Black youth wanting to feel good and literally escape the shame of being poor they have been taught. . Think of a dog running to get a bone from his master. “The object’s value appears to come from the commodity, rather than the human labor that produced it (Marx Capital Volume 164) The human labor who produced lives partly in Cambodia. We never question as American who made our Nike products and under what conditions? That is part of our capitalist condition is not understand under what conditions are the workers in who made the products because if we were to see that we would realize they exploitation web. That ignorance is our first world privilege. To not know the labor conditions is our first rule of capitalism.
This image is of the Vietnamese women workers who make shoes.
“More than 20,000 Vietnamese workers have walked off the job at a Taiwanese-owned plant that makes shoes for Nike Inc., demanding higher pay to keep pace with skyrocketing prices, officials said Tuesday.The workers at Ching Luh plant, in southern Long An province, went on strike Monday. They want a 20 percent bump to their $59 average monthly salaries along with better lunches at the company cafeteria,”.
While on the other hand Jordan made $90 million last year alone. “Jordan made an estimated $90 million last year thanks to the rich partnership he enjoys with Nike. His 2013 earnings eclipsed those of all other retired or current athletes save boxer Floyd Mayweather. It marked Jordan’s biggest earnings year yet in a career paved with monster paydays, which peaked in Jordan’s last season with the Bulls (1997-98) at $80 million.- (Forbes) This relationship between poverty labor and exploitation can not be more evident than with him.
Who will pay the consqequences of such class inequitalies. This global capitalism weaves together. The disenfranchisement of non Western countries for Western consumers such as the U.S. creates this crazy differences whereas the women workers who make his trademark shoes make only an average of 59 a month and he has made 90 millions in one year alone. I will let you meditate with it.
Here is an excerpt from an article posted last May on nbcnews.com about Cambodian women workers who make the Jordan’s clothing people killing for.
“About 3,500 workers protested on Wednesday at a factory in Cambodia that makes clothing for U.S. sportswear company Nike, refusing to give up their campaign for higher pay despite a crackdown by police this week.
At least 23 people were injured on Monday when police with riot gear and stun batons were deployed to disperse about 3,000 workers, most of them women, who had blocked a road outside the factory owned by Sabrina Cambodia Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, west of the capital, Phnom Penh.
A trade union representative claimed that a woman who was two months pregnant lost her child after military police pushed her to the ground. Military police spokesman Kheng Tito, however, said the claim was false and denied that his men had been violent.
The workers walked out on strike on May 21. Sun Vanny, president of the Free Trade Union (FTU) at Sabrina, said about 4,000 workers were expected to join the protest on Thursday.”
Some may argue that people just simply want these overpriced shoes made from the labor of Cambodian workers in near sweatshops like occupations. And that it is natural to desire nice things and apart of human nature to want. Fetishism is not inherent with commodities. “Since exchange value is a definite social manner of expressing the amount of labour bestowed upon an object, Nature has no more to do with it, than it has in fixing the course of exchange.” And most unnatural is capitalism. Though everyday poverty is naturalized and poor shamed. We live in world with historic class inequities around the globe and especially in the U.S. and they were consciously designed. This dragon called capitalism has made sure the blood not only spills on the street of Chicago but Vietnamese and Cambodian women workers who dare demand fair wages or some semblance of equity for their work. Its grateful that J Cole pointed this out within his lyrics he is not the first. They are our sisters in our global struggle against U. S White Supremacist Capitalist Imperialism and we must see their deaths as caused by the same multi-headed dragon called capitalism. Our goal is to end this cycle because the insidious rules of capitalism includes naturalizing our oppression to each others telling us this is our only option for reality when our knowledge and freedom dreams say otherwise. We must demand a radical re organization of labor in our entire world as it has never become so small on the planet since pangea. All of us should always remember we have nothing to lose but our chains and our oppressions intersect.
Check out this radical artistic interpretation of Jordans from artist Jesse Vicious.
Sources – hooks, bell. Outlaw culture: resisting representations. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.