In this age of social media there is a malicious scam being run, and on a fairly regular basis. It relates to the use of black people as promotional props for advertisers, media pundits, and even politicians.

 Here’s the way it works: A white person or advertiser produces an image or writes something about blacks that is totally offensive. In response, African Americans get pissed and raise holy hell. The public outcry creates a national buzz. The national buzz attracts valued attention to advertisers, media pundits or politicians.

There’s one more important step to the scam – this is the thing that rings my bell: Once the offender has used blacks to expand their “brand,” they plead total ignorance and then profusely apologize.

They say: “I had no idea that (fill in the blank) would offend black people.”

“I think a lot of it’s deliberate,” said Debra Dennis, a Fort Worth-based journalist. “You know what they say: There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

The latest publicity stunt involves Adidas, the German company that manufactures sneakers to help black people run their fastest and jump their highest. Some white whiz kid at Adidas got the notion in his head that it would be great to make a sneaker that has shackles. That’s right, shackles, attached from sneakers to ankles – just like the ones used during slavery days; just like the ones used to escort millions of black men to jails and prisons.

Now, when blacks get profiled and arrested, all the police need to provide are the handcuffs.


Of course, blacks have complained about the ad. (See link below). Officials at Adidas dismissed it as the “quirky” idea of one of their ad geniuses. They say they had no intention of offending anybody.

That response might wash if these offenses didn’t occur so regularly.

Remember the controversial Nivea ad? ( Nivea‘s Racist Ad “Re-civilizes” a Black Man – Culture – GOOD )

The ad featured a clean-shaven African American with short-cropped hair, gripping the woolly head of a scruffy, bearded black man. The conservatively dressed man stands poised to fling the woolly head into the air. The caption beneath the ad says, “Re-civilize yourself.”

Of course, blacks protested. Of course, Nivea pleaded ignorance and promptly issued an apology. But that was only after they had attracted all that public attention to their product. That was after they had achieved their goal: to distinguish their product from the pack.

Here’s another one: Remember the 2008 picture of LeBron James on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine? ( LeBron James‘ ‘Vogue’ cover called racially insensitive – … ) In the picture, LeBron clutches a white woman in one arm, and bounces a basketball in the other. Here’s the most disturbing part: He’s scowling. If you know film history, you’ll know the picture is an exact reenactment of a scene from the movie “King Kong.”

Get it? King James. King Kong. Black people. Apes.

It was bad enough that the photo shot marked the first time Vanity Fair had featured a black man on its cover.  Worse still, when African Americans noted that the ad was racist, the people at Vanity Fair said they didn’t know.


Advertisers and photographers get paid big bucks to understand the history and meaning of the images they promote. It’s impossible to believe the makers of Nivea,  Vanity Fair, and now Adidas, were that naïve.

They understand, all right. They have understood for quite awhile. That’s why years ago, in the 1990s, Newsweek airbrushed O.J. Simpson on its cover to give him a more menacing look. Go back another decade, to the 1980s, when George Bush used images of a black man, Willie Horton, to promote his presidential campaign.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Actually, there is. Black folks get bad publicity all the time.

Adidas cancels ‘shackle’ shoes after outcry