Designer Jeremy Scott has created a new high-end sneaker for Adidas, seen below.
For the purposes of this article, I consider racism to mean a belief that one or many races are inferior to another. Here, the shoes would be indicative of racist attitudes if the designer and/or Adidas are implying that black people ought to be enslaved or imprisoned, that black people are naturally suited to slavery or are more inclined to crime, or even if either party is jokingly suggesting such a belief. I'll say now that I see no reason to think that the shoes are somehow supposed to satirize such notions. More importantly, the designer hasn't made such a claim, either.
So, are the shoes somehow associated with slavery? Despite the misleading title to this post (sorry), the shoes don't bring images of slavery to this white guy's mind. But the shoe isn't out of the woods, yet.
Consider the name: JS Roundhouse Mids. Perhaps you didn't know this, but "roundhouse" has been associated with jail for centuries. Coupled with the prisoner jumpsuit-orange, it seems pretty clear that Scott was influenced by prison chic.
It's also worth noting the shoe's tagline: "Got sneaker game so hot you need to lock your kicks to your ankles?" Given the particular type of vernacular English used, it's fair to assume that the sneakers would've been marketed to those influenced by hip hop culture. So, young black men would have made up a significant portion of the target demographic, had the shoes actually gone to market.
So, we have the following equation. Prison theme+black male demographic=x. And what does x equal? Racism? Or was it merely naïveté? Or, perhaps, Scott and Adidas merely observed the perceived glorification of criminal behavior in some rap music and tried to cash in on it?
Before I answer that question, though, I'd like to consider another one: What if Scott was black? Would the shoes, could the shoes, still be racist? Or would it just be another example of the aforementioned glorification of criminal activity? This raises the question of the ol' racism double standard; if it's OK for a black person to do it, why isn't it OK for a white person to? To which I respond, "Because." Sometimes, double standards are a good thing: guys can fart, but girls can't; college kids can drink every day without beign an alcoholic, real-world grown-ups can't; black people can say "nigga", white people can't, unless Kanye gives his mostly white concert ticket-buying audience permission or if you find yourself in the following situation:
Anyway, back to the shoes: are they racist? Not intentionally so. Racism is profitable, and it seems to me that the intention here was to cash in on the perceived tendency to glorify criminal behavior or serving jail time instead of snitching. However, they are extremely ignorant. So there you go.