Showtime explains how the infusion of “jailhouse culture” into our society is desensitizing our youth to the horrors of the prison system.
There is a problem going on in our communities that I think needs to be addressed. This problem has been going on for far too long, and seems to get swept under the rug more and more as time goes on. The problem that I am referring to is the infusion of jailhouse culture and mentalities into popular culture and media. Recent events have caused me to question how far society is willing to go when it comes to drawing the line between what goes on behind the bars and what is actually tolerated on the street.
It baffles me how we have started accepting the behaviors and follow in the footsteps of those who are incarcerated as opposed to following the paths of great leaders and visionaries who came before us. In today’s society prison isn’t something that is as frowned upon as it once was. Believe it or not, some people seem to think that going to jail makes a person “cool” or “real”.
My concern about this issue was peaked last week when German shoemaker Adidas released a picture of their new sneaker via Facebook. The “JS Roundhouse Mid” shoe featured orange plastic shackles on the back of them. Most critics made an immediate connection between the shackle shoes and slavery. Protests and boycotts began to form on every major form of social media. Between blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates it was easy to see that things would not be pretty if Adidas went through with the release of these shoes. The majority of the cyber protestors accused Adidas of being insensitive to the history of slavery and bashed them for their misguided attempt to market the shoe as just another basketball sneaker on the block. Adidas originally defended these sneakers by releasing a statement that read ”The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery. Needless to say, before the end of last week Adidas flipped the script, and had a complete change of heart. Their representatives released another statement. This time it was made clear that the “JS Roundhouse” had suffered a first round knock out blow.
Unlike most of the folks who criticized Adidas, I didn’t see a direct connection between the shackle shoes and slavery. My opinion on the design of the “JS Roundhouse Mid” was based on something totally different. In some ways I kind of felt like people were focusing on the wrong things. I don‘t know the designer of the shoe personally, but I don’t think that he was thinking about slavery when he made these shoes. In my opinion the design of the shoe had nothing to do with slavery, but was very insensitive on an entirely different level.
The design of these shoes was nothing more than an attempt by a major corporation to mass market a product that mimicked the behaviors and dress code of those who are incarcerated in jails and penitentiaries across the country. This was just another attempt to desensitize us to the reality of what goes on behind the bars of prison facilities.
This wasn’t the first time that an attempt has been made to glamorize the prison lifestyle. In fact, every time you see a celebrity on television with their pants “sagging” you are watching the glorification of something that was created in prison. Several decades ago men who were interested in having sex with other men in prison would walk around with their pants hanging below their waists and expose their butts when they wanted to let others know that they were looking for intercourse. This “fashion statement” has made it’s way out of the jail houses and into the homes of parents and guardians around the country as we often times deal with our own children now walking around with their pants sagging and damn near dragging on the floor in many cases.
Even though a few local governments across the country have made an attempt to ban “sagging” and create repercussions for those who don’t wear their pants on their waist, I don’t think this is the answer. While campaigning for the Presidency in 2008 Barack Obama was asked what he thought about creating legislation to ban “sagging” and he said that the idea was “a waste of time”. I’d have to agree with the President. I don’t think legislation is what we need. I think there should be a conscious effort made by parents to teach their children how to dress for success and respect themselves and the people around them. Don’t allow the images that are displayed on the TV screen to have a negative impact on your child’s future.
Many times the media has a tendency to not only glorify the things that go on in jail, but to also exalt behaviors and activities that will land people in jail. Some of the things that occur on reality television shows are not only degrading and humiliating, but often times illegal. The combativeness between characters on reality TV usually will come to a head with some sort of physical altercation. These shows will show you the arguments, the secret behind the back lunch meetings over mint mimosas and watercress sandwiches, and the physical altercations that result from those things. But you will probably never see someone go to jail for something that they did while the cameras were rolling during their 15 minutes of fame. This happens for one reason and one reason only. Networks can’t profit off of someone once they are in jail. The things that they do to land themselves in jail, and the things that they do when they come home from jail all make for entertaining TV. But once you are locked in that cell the network bosses have no use for you. So of course if they can show a professional athlete throwing a drink in a woman’s face, or two women fighting in the middle of a crowded nightclub, and engaging in other types of destructive behaviors they are going to do so with out any thought about the social repercussions that these images will have. It is up to us to shield the minds of our impressionable children from these images and to let them know that this behavior will not be accepted.
Society has become so used to people committing crimes and going to jail that every other high profile court case is labeled as the “trial of the century”.
We get to watch up to the minute footage of celebrities like Lindsey Lohan, Floyd Mayweather, and Charlie Sheen being carted in and out of jail. The entire process is usually similar to a circus. Some sort of special treatment for celebs usually accompanies their time spent in jail. With the help of technology, our favorite incarcerated celebrity can give us updates about prison life through their blog posts or website. Rapper Lil’ Wayne even had a website dedicated to his prison stay while he was incarcerated in Rikers Island for a gun possession charge. Prison shouldn’t be portrayed as fun and exciting. Instead it should be portrayed as exactly what it is…A real life HELL on earth!
We need to take a stand and let it be known that as parents we will not accept a jailhouse mentality in our households. I applaud the efforts of everyone who took a moment to voice their opinion on the $350 worth of crappy fashion accessories that Adidas tried to push into our culture. This wasn’t just about a shoe! This was a direct attack on the mindset of impressionable teenagers and young adults from all walks of life. If we would have let this slip through the cracks who knows what would have been next!! Your child could be the proud owner of a toothbrush that doubles as a metal shank. If that seems like a stretch to you it may be time to wake up, because five years ago I would have never imagined that I would be able to see a company attempt to pass off prison attire as sportswear.