The problem I have with this piece is that it feels dated and misguided. Crazy dated at that. I don’t care if people jump up and down on racial fault lines, if someone lands hard enough to cause an earthquake (and by earthquake I mean if someone says something that gets discussed on ESPN, MSNBC, etc.) then so be it. What the writer is doing here is just examining something that may or may not have racial overtones without any real context. She seems to think that certain types of sneakers and the cultures they spawn, reside in some sort of rigid barrio. She's wrong.
Honestly, you could write this story and fill it in with pretty much anything. Cigarettes (I’ve never seen a white person smoke a Newport), cars (I’ve never seen a black person driving a Subaru) and even soda (is Sprite just a black preferred soft drink? Seriously is it?). Of course there are cultural reasons why each thing is such (socio-economic backgrounds, the different levels of materialism, etc,) but the writer just throws out lazy examples from previous generations to fill out her explanations. You need more than a marketing degree to describe why black kids used to die over Air Jordan’s and white kids dog out their Chuck Taylors with barely a shoulder shrug.
Notice I said, “used to”. It's obvious that the writer thinks this is a late 2012 issue. She really gives herself up when she writes the following:
“There have been murders over Air Jordan’s in black communities for years -- yes, Air Jordan’s in particular. Sneaker-related violence is so infamous among African Americans that in December 2011, when Nike introduced an update to that model, a widespread hoax on the Internet had it that an 18-year-old named Tyreek Amir Jacobs was murdered while shopping for a pair.”
Really? There have been murders for years? She links to a Sports Illustrated story from 1990 to strengthen her argument without mentioning that in this millennium kids live a splintered financial existence. They can’t afford to buy a bunch of $125 dollar sneakers, a new iPhone and Monster headphones. I see plenty of black kids in my neighborhood proudly rocking $60 Vans.
To be fair, i'm not saying there's no violence associated with high-priced sneakers. When exclusive high-profile sneakers drop, there is often a bump up in robberies, since the people in line are often carrying large amounts of cash. There is still a element of danger, i can't deny that. The point i'm making is, the level of stress is not equivalent to the predatory environment that sneaker culture spawned in the '80s and '90s. People might get robbed or beat up in 2012, but in 1992 people were getting shot.
Ordinarily a piece like this wouldn’t resonate with me so much but this is The Atlantic, I mean they usually know better than to print this sort of drivel.