The Air Jordan XI Concords are perhaps the most famous pair of sneakers in the world today. Since being introduced just before Christmas, the retro shoes, made to look like the ones Michael Jordan himself wore back in the '90s, have inspired pepper sprayings, fistfights, a stabbing and other insane acts of violence. All the shoe madness has reminded some older Americans of a shameful time in the '80s and '90s—when Jordans were originally introduced—when people would be mugged or killed on the street for their basketball sneakers. Have we really reverted to attacking one another for sneakers again?
The bad news is that the new Jordans are indeed part of the equation when attempting to understand the current spate of violence at shoe stores. The good news is that the shoes themselves are just the tip of the iceberg.
Attempting to make sense of the latest senseless fighting over shoes, some Black commentators have been concocting pretty wild theories. Jay Scott Smith, for instance, recently attempted to make the case that the Air Jordan is “more than a sneaker” in the Black community. “Jordan's iconic status made the shoes a must-have item, even amongst a group of kids who never saw him play in his glory days in Chicago,” wrote Smith. But while it may be true that the Jordan, particularly the Jordan XI Concord, is a revered shoe amongst sneaker collectors, believing that the shoe is the major issue when it comes to the fighting is a bit naïve.
One thing is certain: Nobody who is truly happy with his or her life is getting into fights at shoe stores over Air Jordans. If you’re going to stab someone over sneakers, or get stabbed over sneakers, it’s likely that you’re an angry, tormented and insecure person, and it’s likely you’ve gone awhile without getting help for your issues. The truth that most media doesn’t say is that when people fight over Jordans, they’re not fighting over Jordans so much as they’re letting the Jordans bring to the surface tension and aggression that’s been under the surface for years, and to say otherwise diminishes the problems many of them face.
It’s no secret that thousands and thousands of young Black men in America are angry and looking for outlets for their aggression. To look at the Jordans fights as just simple bickering over shoes misses the real problem entirely: We need to figure out how best to get young Black men feeling better about themselves and their lives. When we do that, the fights over Jordans will go away almost immediately.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
(Photo: AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Todd Sumlin)