I’ve been reading two texts this week. Side-by-side they offer another reveal of the tragic double standard of black and white life in our America. That truth descends like an ashy film upon reaching 90 pages into Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir about creating Nike. On the one hand: a story about a white Christian rich kid manifesting a new destiny for himself away from mediocrity using military connections to build a business with a recently conquered nation; 1964, the year Knight starts Blue Ribbon Sports. On the other hand: I’m half-way through the drudge of Vann R. Newkirk II’s long-form in the Atlantic, The Great Land Robbery, about the vast land theft and wealth transfer during the civil rights era from blacks to whites in Mississipi. 1964: by this year almost 800,000 acres of land have transfered from blacks to whites as a result of legal discriminatory (racist) federal farm loan programs and private lenders.
Knight’s pop fantasy of himself and the pursuit of a vision to make life about “play” through footwear and lifestyling branding becomes even more willful cultural forgetting next to drivers of the globalization that were making cheap shoes possible – the return to exploitative capitalism (slavery), maintenance of a permamenent underlcass, etc… Land theft shifted majority voting power before blacks could vote, a calculated suppression. And the legacy grinds on as this robbing and stealing continues to enrich white investors, hedge fund managers, and agri-business who now own these once-black suffered farm lands.
Knight’s story is pop fun; maybe best for toilet reading. But it’s another insert into the canon of white neo-liberal colonialism. The American dream is still available for a white ruling class only – and those they selectively permit. Holding that heavy.