The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 76 — Just stop doing it

Being Black in corporate America, folks.

Good morning, folks! Welcome back to the Kicks You Wear! Thank you for rocking with me on this glorious Monday morning.

Hope your weekend was awesome and I hope this week is just as spectacular.

Let’s jump right in.

Nike has more work to do

(Photo by Freddy Do on Unsplash)

Nike has been one of the few major corporations in America that have, at least visibly and publicly, stood next to Black people and Black culture in supportive ways.

  • Just two years ago they extended Colin Kaepernick’s Nike contract in a moment in time where the NFL actively vilified the quarterback.

  • And this year, they committed hundreds of millions of dollars between Nike, Jordan Brand and Converse to organizations dedicated to Black advancement.

Those moves mean a lot. That money can go a long way for those organizations. Kaepernick’s platform will benefit greatly from Nike’s affiliation. But, still, right now, at this moment they do feel a bit hollow.

It's because of the “Black at Nike” Instagram account. This anonymous account was set up to give Black employees and other employees of color a space to share their experiences while working for Nike.

What we got back were a bunch of horror stories.

  • The account dished out details on racist managers, microaggressions galore. and a predominantly white workspaces that peddle Black culture. Did I mention the microaggressions?

  • Employees weren’t just at Nike’s flagship. The account gave access to everyone, whether they work in Beaverton or at a local spots across the country.

Here’s one particularly egregious and awful example.

There are more. There are worse. Unfortunately, this is what it’s like to be Black while in corporate America.

It’s not limited to just one company, either. It’s not limited to just one industry. There are lots of people who experience these kinds things on a daily basis who aren’t empowered to share those experiences with the world.

But the disappointing part here is that this is Nike. They’ve built a company ethose surrounding pro-Black messaging — especially over the last few years. This account alone completely shatters that.

And, look, corporate America is never going to solve this country’s racism problem. But Nike has done legitimately good things — things that go beyond just naming Juneteenth a company holiday.

But none of those things matter until has handled its own internal struggles with racism. Period, point blank. As Footwear News’ Sheena Butler-Young writes, Nike is always going to have a heavy burden to carry in this situation because of its pro-Black messaging. This is what comes with that.

And, try as they may (and not all of them are trying), brands will face an uphill climb in weeding out bigotry and prejudice. Meanwhile, firms like Nike — with its long history of pro-Black messaging — will always carry the highest burden in seeking to remedy these issues.

Overall, their diversity numbers are improving, data from the brand’s FY 19 impact report shows. About 21% of the company’s employees are Black, which is actually down from 23.5% in 2017. But 10% of its VP’s are Black (up 2% from ‘18) and 31% of it’s corporate board is Black (up 8% from ‘18).

That’s good! That’s diversity. But those are just numbers. And diversity means nothing without the inclusion. Increases don’t matter if the work environment is hazardous to the Black employees they house. And, clearly, it still is.

There’s a lot of work to be done here. Hiring initiatives aren’t the only thing that gets the job done. Nike must create a welcoming work environment for folks of color and weed out the folks in their company who run counter to that.

Is it a massive undertaking? Of course. This is a cellular level cleanup that has been centuries in the making. It was never going to be an easy thing to do.

The thing is, they just have to do it.

The reckoning at the workplace

(Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash)

We’ve been paying a ton of attention to the reckoning with social injustice and inequality that we’re having in the streets, and rightfully so. Protest is extremely important to get where we need to go.

But we’re also seeing another reckoning in the workplace across corporate America. Black voices are fed up with what’s going on in this country.

  • We’ve seen employees — current and former — hold major corporations’ feet to the fire over the last few weeks. First Adidas, then Complex and now Nike. All companies that profit off of Black culture.

  • Even on a smaller level, a company like Atmos — a name deeply entrenched in the sneaker world — is being called out for underpaying its Black employees.

As we discussed last week when we talked about the good CNCPTS was doing, there are far too many companies who act like they’re doing the work and really aren’t. All just to turn a profit.

But that’s changing now, and it’s all because of a perfect confluence of events that have given Black folks and other folks of color the space to speak up.

  • First, it’s beneficial for companies to actually show they care — even if it’s a front. Consumers, now more than ever, want to know exactly where the companies they’re giving their money to stand on the issues they care about. If they run counter to their sensibilities, they take their money elsewhere. You can actively lose money for being on the wrong side of history now.

  • Second, people are finally listening. Don’t believe that? Just look at the 180 people are doing on Colin Kaepernick’s protest. 2016? The protests misfired. 2020? Colin was right.

  • Third, and most importantly, folks are tired. Yes, people are listening now. Yes, companies are losing money. But, most of all, Black people are just plain fed up. For so long, companies have made ends off of Black culture without giving anything back. That’s done now.

There are many more examples of this to come. What we’re seeing right now is only the beginning. As the great Hip Hop Harry would say, “Who’s next?”

Virgil keeping it Two Virgils with us

I like to give credit where credit is due, so I’ll do that here. We (read: I) have been clowning Virgil Abloh for a few things over the last couple months.

  • Most notably, his $50 donation to bail funds for protestors while being a whole multi-millionaire. Frankly, it was hilarious. And it turned into a meme.

  • Second, when he got upset at rioters for rioting and breaking into stores.

  • And, finally, that absolutely God awful cover for Pop Smoke’s posthumous album. Definitely deserved this one.

I am absolutely pleased to report that the Louis Vuitton artistic director has had just about enough of all of us. He kept it 20,000 Virgils and created the Off-White $1 million “post modern” scholarship fund for Black students in fashion.

He shared more details (and how annoyed he was with us) on Instagram.

anyone that’s ever been in a meeting with me or a creative brainstorm or even a random iMessage chat knows that i’m forever fighting for the “17-year-old-version” of myself. ⁣

what that specifically means is... all i want is for any young black kid to achieve a shorter path to their career goals, and if i can help with an open source approach to opening doors or messaging "how-i-did-it" along the whole way, then i've done my real job, not my actual job.⁣

i'm putting money, my resources, and my rolodex where my mouth is... just keeping it “Two Virgil’s” or more accurately “That many Virgil’s” in the slideshow above: i've started a scholarship fund for black students and raised $1 million so far, pre-announcement with the same manic creative brainstorm that got me here with the support of some of my collaborators and the @fashionscholarshipfund it’s called the Virgil Abloh™ "POST-MODERN" scholarship fund. ~ link in bio for more details. email me there.⁣

the goal is to make sure i'm not one of the few, but one of many in my industry...
July 10, 2020

The scholarship will be split up between over Black 100 students with fashion concentrations. The scholarship also comes with mentorship, information and support services for Black students looking to dive into the fashion industry.

This is a great thing. The fashion industry is infamously white and non-inclusive to folks of color — particularly Black folks. Abloh’s Off-White is included in that. This scholarship creates a potential pipeline for new, diverse faces in an industry that is sorely lacking in that department.

If pissing Virgil off is what it takes to get him to do something like this? Keep going. Maybe we can get another 20,000 Virgils thrown at something great.

Speaking of Virgil…here’s the Off-White Jordan 4

Y’all ready for this L? It’s right around the corner. The AJ4 has an official release date of July 25 and is already on the SNKRS app.

The shoe is absolutely stunning, man. This sail color on a Jordan 4 is ridiculous.

Uno sguardo alle immagini ufficiali delle Off-White x Air Jordan 4 “Sail”. Le sneakers faranno il loro debutto ufficiale il 25 di Luglio su SNKRS (ricordiamo di aggiornare l’app per via del cambiamento da poco implementato) e presso retailers selezionati, che vi comunicheremo nei prossimi giorni. Seguite la nostra pagina dedicata ai lanci @launchoutservice per non perdere tutti gli aggiornamenti.

Voi tenterete il cop?
July 11, 2020

That’s an amazing color. And think of all the DIY possibilities here. Just…man. This is a good one, y’all.

What’s droppin’, bruh

That’s a wrap for Monday, family! Thank you so much for chopping it up with me today. I hope you have an amazing week! Make sure you file them taxes, too.

As always, peace and love. Be easy. Be well. Be kind.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯