Why It's Not Just About a Shoe

Note: A friend of mine recently asked how we felt about the current Nike fiasco involving the Betsy Ross sneaker. What follows is a lengthier version of my response in that discussion:

Pandora's Box
11" x 14" mixed media on canvas
I am Black, Native American and Irish. All three have been oppressed on these shores. I see history as just that - narrative. Where our country erred - like all do, is in deciding to exclude parts of that history. So we all have received a very slanted view, a tale of omission. 

Where I think people go wrong is in failing to understand that their narrative and their reaction to it is not the whole truth. It is not gospel to be swallowed without dissection or discussion. And it is because my blood is so mixed that I understand very well how our versions of history can redeem some, damn others and exclude most. 

Nike pulled the Betsy Ross sneaker because it might have affected their bottom line. Period. They have a large ethnic demographic that may have seen their product in a bad light due to the issues at the forefront of societal consciousness right now. 

This is why representation matters. No one apparently objected during the production of the shoe, its design concept or the marketing phase. And if they did, those people lacked the clout of a celebrity to have them actually listen.

But here's the thing...

There are signs not even 10 miles from my doorstep recruiting for Knights of the Confederacy. Where I live, the neighbors called the owners of our home to convince them to sell the house to them after seeing my nutmeg self hanging up Halloween decorations on the porch. That call was placed while I was still outside and the neighbor calling was looking right at me. 

My oldest son also looks Hispanic. When he's in-house, we don't let him roam about solo because this area has a habit of reporting to ICE. And though my husband proudly spent twenty years as a combat Marine, he wears a "Retired Marine" hat on the regular just to discourage bigots from trying to intimidate our blended family - something that has occurred with alarming frequency in the last three years.

These are everyday indignities large portions of our populace face that are simply not talked about, much less truly acknowledged as something worth changing. 

So we can certainly pretend we live in an America that offers freedom and a history that includes everyone. Or perhaps we can acknowledge that maybe it's not such a stretch for some of our citizens to believe a major corporation might covertly attempt to legitimize hate with a symbol. After all, it's been done on American soil before to all three groups in my family. 

So for this week, I'm asking you to contemplate the perspective of others. 
It doesn't make you less of a person to see another's point of view. 
Work on your compassion. 

Respectfully, 
O.M.

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