Social Commentary by Donney Rose
My initial introduction to King was that of a peaceful Black man who just wanted little white and black boys & girls to hold hands as one. A King who brought 80's music icons together on the “Sing Celebrate” tribute. A King commodified by corporations like McDonald's. A righteous dude who had a cool dream of equality that gifted me a day off from school. I was born in 1980. During a time when Black folks were positing for middle class upward mobility & dealing with the proliferation of inner city gangs and the pending damage of crack cocaine. If the imagery of the 70's had been one of Black pride in the aftermath of 60's bloody Black resistance, then the 80's was an attempt to forge into the mainstream of America as fully actualized humans.
After traveling from city to city at a time when King publicly denounced America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, the stakes were higher than ever for these leaders of nonviolent civil disobedience. Before King left his Atlanta residence to catch his flight to Memphis, his four children attempted to barricade him, pleading for him to stay. He told them he would be back in a few days and when the young King children finally loosened their grip to allow their father to get in the car to the airport, it would be the last time they would see him alive. The journey to Memphis seemed to have carried a different degree of eeriness for King’s loved ones. For years he had regularly walked in the valley of the shadow of death, but continuously forged on for the sake of the people and the movement. His last sacrifice of self came on the night of April 3rd.
Stephon Clark. Mark Conditt. Two young American men both dead under wildly different circumstances. Conditt, dead by suicide bombing after planting bombs around Austin, TX that claimed the lives of innocent people. Clark, dead by way of 20 shots fired upon him by Sacramento police who misidentified his cell phone as a gun. Both deaths, indicative of trends of violence that has claimed many American lives: police brutality & ideology-based mass murder. It can be reasoned that there is an intersection between these trends. That the people who are responsible for these types of violent crimes share a similar identity (white/male) and the people who are victims of these crimes often share a similar identity (person of color/marginalized person). And because these identities are consistent more often than not, the natural inclination is to make “what if” comparisons of the criminal and the victims switching places. But here’s the thing, those who uphold a racially biased criminal justice system do not care about the juxtaposed unfairness presented by disenfranchised peoples.
By now we have all seen the image of the adorable Black boy in the H&M ad wearing the hoodie that reads “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle”. The image has trended, been repurposed, sparked outrage and elicited the predictable apology from the company. The hashtag #BoycottHM caught fire over the past few days and several otherwise loyal consumers of the brand have denounced their support. In a moment of sheer marketing absurdity, someone at the H&M decision table thought it would be “cute” or “risque” or “tongue-in-cheek” to put this Black boy in this piece of garment as a way to sell it. Or they didn’t think much at all. Or there’s an unchecked culture of cultural insensitivity/hipster racism at play over at H&M that believes that habitual line stepping is good for business because it’s “provocative”. But when corporations like H&M find themselves in hot water, they rarely do inventory on the culture of their business because they know our habits. And more often than not they are right.