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“You’re White,You Don’t Fight”: Branding & Racial Imagery in the Media (the Apple iPhone & t


Branding and Racial Imagery in the Media by Paris Ch. Walton

Abstract

With it being the 21st century many may believe that racism is over. However, not only has it not ended, but it has been disguised in the most subtle ways. The racial representation in the media is done so well it shapes individual opinions about consumption and who the consumers are. This is evident when looking at the Nike Air Jordan or the Apple iPhone. Both trademarks attract many buyers who have a strong brand devotion.

With such a strong following, it should be no surprise that these two brands draw huge lines on release dates. However, Air Jordans and iPhones are shown in two different lights through the media. Consumers of one company are shown with excessive violence, while the other is displayed as well behaved. This investigation offers an insight to the media’s portrayal of consumerism as well as it's racial representation.

Background

While attending Arlington High School in Indianapolis, Indiana I would arrive to a virtually empty school, only to find out the newest Jordan shoes were released earlier that morning. By lunch time students would arrive to show off their recent purchase. These new J’s would draw little crowds around them with spectators commenting like “those go hard”. By the next morning the school’s attendance would be back to normal with a flock of high-schoolers showing off their new pair. I later found out Nike changed the release date for the more popular Air Jordan sneakers to Saturdays due to teens skipping school. I saw this cycle repeated over and over until I graduated.

Even though we wore uniforms fashion was very important. Style was revealed through jewelry, make of uniform, and sneakers. Having J’s on created a disturbance among students because they were seen as expensive, hard to get, and a way to claim “swag”. Even though Air Jordan sneakers and iPhones cost nearly the same, the iPhone had a smaller amount of students purchasing it, let alone stand in line for their release.

However, my classmates that did have an iPhone were seen as the “rich kids” even though Arlington was probably made up of middle to lower income families. This ideology would draw people to its purchaser as well because it too seemed unattainable but in a different way than Air Jordan’s. The price and the media’s labeling of “high class” and “luxury” was not relatable to kids at a public school known to be “hood rich”, but not the traditional idea of rich. Contrary, Air Jordan shoes were seen as unattainable because of the limited amount sold, not due to price. This experience of two brands with the same type consumer loyalty but different representation leads me to the topic of my senior thesis.

Project Description

Have you ever wondered why people stand in line for hours and hours for the next gadget? Or why some are dedicated to only Chevrolets or Fords? Brand loyalty is the reason for such dedication. This devotion can be seen in those who consume Apple iPhones and Nike Air Jordan too. However, by looking in the media the two brands have completely different depictions.

The iPhone is surrounded by keywords with positive connotations. On the other hand, Air Jordan’s are given keywords with negative implications. When the image of an Air Jordan release comes to mind, excessive violence is not far in thought. However, iPhone releases invoke ideals of ridiculously long lines and people camping outside of Apple to be one of the first with the newest phone.

Goal

My goal for this project is to see how the media can create discreet racial imagery and shape brand devotion. As stated previously, Air Jordan’s receive a ton of negative media attention on release days compared to iPhone releases. I want to see if this is because their consumers are assumed to be mostly African-Americans versus iPhone’s more “high class” Caucasian and Asian consumers. Or if the media is influencing the way people think they should act?

I also want to discover how the brand reflects who a person is in life and how they want to be seen with the product. Lastly, I ask why there is a difference in how the media portrays the two products. Why might this racial issue exist if the media is a supposed to be a neutral source?

Literature Review

What is a brand?

It is first important to know what a brand is to understand the loyalty behind it. According to Matthew Healey’s book What is branding? , a brand is a named product or service, a trademark, and a customer’s belief about a product (2008:6). This idea is backed up in Rita Clifton’s Brands and Branding. Clifton (2009) and Healey also agree that a brand is “a promise of satisfaction between the seller and buyer”.

In the article A Brand called You by Tom Peters (2007) he believes that “you” also known as “us “the consumer is the brand. When we step out into the world wearing a name like Adidas we show how that brand can represent us in our daily lives. Although his argument of what a brand is differs from the previous authors, he does agree that a brand is a “promise of the value you will receive”.

What is Branding?

Going back to Healey’s (2008), What is branding?, branding is the act of positioning, storytelling, price, and customer relationships. Positioning is deciding what the customer wants from your brand and what they think of it. Storytelling is the way you draw on emotions. Pricing is how much does it cost. It is proven that an item of higher price is selected more because it is seen as a higher quality even if it is not. Lastly, branding is about customer relationships and how your consumer feels “special” for purchasing a company’s product.

What is Brand Loyalty?

In the article Brand Loyalty vs Repeat Purchasing Behavior by Jacob Jacoby and David B. Kyner (1973) brand loyalty is defined as “a biased, behavioral response, expressed over time, by some decision-making unit, with respect to one or more alternative brands out of a set of such brands, and a function of psychological (decision-marking, evaluative, etc.) process”. However, Albert M. Muniz, Jr. and Thomas C. O’Guinn (2001) do not use the phrase “brand loyalty” instead they use “brand community” in Brand Community.

Muniz and O’Guinn describe “brand community” as a “specialized, non-geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand”. These communities have their set of rituals and tradition as well. I like this term for my thesis because brands have their own cultures and communities that go along with them.

How does brand loyalty begin?

According to Aaker brand loyalty begins when a brand stands for something in a customer’s mind (1993:18). Forbes.com writer, Scott Goodson (2011), supports Aaker and uses Apple as an example on starting brand loyalty. Goodson explains the first step Apple made was building a relationship with customers, being trustworthy and transparent at the same time. When a glitch occurs the company is honest with their mistake and fixes it as quickly as possible.

Apple also embraces social media to communicate with consumers. The second step Apple has accomplished is “movement marketing”. This is letting your consumer know you are passionately involved with your company. Goodson uses Apple’s mission statement "Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings”. The statement does not mention what they do but what they believe.

Racism in the Media

Helan E. Page (1997) refers to the media as “white public space”. In this “white public space” African American men are a threat. Seen as “incompetents with violent behavior and unembraceable” black imagery is set up so that only a few can succeed (1997:100). Page believes that even when a positive image is displayed the media still views it in a negative light because of white privilege.

Timothy Vercellotti and Paul R. Brewer (2006) then explain the distrust African Americans have in mainstream media. As an alternative, black media serves as a way for the “black perspective” to be heard and viewed. African Americans have a greater trust in black media because it has double as an advocate to its readers making it more believable and creating a since of group pride. Without this sense of pride that black media creates there could be cultural oppression caused from mass media.

“Cultural oppression is a primary source of the social problems experienced by African American and has placed them at risk of cultural estrangement, a weakened black collectivism, and spiritual alienation” (Schiele:2005).

In the article Mass Media and Racism, Stephen Balkaran explained that racism in the media exists in other ways that cannot be viewed visually using Michael Reich’s Segmentation Theory (1999). This viewpoint explains racism in an economic point of view. In this theory, Reich proposes that the ultimate goal in society is to maximize profits. As a result, the exploiters will attempt to use any means to: (1) suppress higher wages among the exploited class, (2) weaken the bargaining power of the working class, often by attempting to split it along racial lines, (3) promote prejudices, (4) segregate the black community, (5) ensure that the elite benefit from the creation of stereotypes and racial prejudices against the black community (Balkaran:1999).

Methods

Starting with Air Jordan I would like to interview collectors. Collectors are the epitome of brand devotions. With their interviews I would be able to analyze how they see themselves, then compare or contrast it to how Air Jordan enthusiasts are seen in the media. Next, I will attend new releases to observe rather or not the media’s perception is accurate. Is there really a large amount of violence at Air Jordan releases? Do iPhone releases have violence at all? Or do both brands have well composed consumers?

While at the releases I want to have casual, non-obvious research conversations to see how people truly feel before they have the products in their hand. What is driving them to stand in line? What makes the current products different from the previous ones or other like it? I also want to attend Black Friday, an event that is known to be rowdy, to see if the media will create imageries among certain products and consumers. This could prove racial boundaries even further in the media. Finally, I would like to interview those with iPhones. With their answers I want to see if the user’s ideal of themselves is put upon them by the media creating an image that might not have been there before the product.

To have a stronger data collection I will follow iPhone and Air Jordan on Google News to monitor their representation. I will also use prior literature written on branding, brand devotion, and media influence and image to grasp a better and more logical understanding on the subjects.

Expected Results

Through this project I hope to find proper ways to conduct anthropological research for the first time. I expect to find how the media displays racial boundaries and shapes consumer’s ideas of themselves and the products they buy. Through interviews I will find how Air Jordan consumers feel about their collection, themselves, and their portrayal in the media.

This will be repeated with iPhone user’s interview as well. From my finding I want to find a solution to ending racism in the media and the effects it has on people of all ethnicities. Air Jordan and the iPhone both have devoted consumers who probably share the same behavior on release days, so why does one get more exposure than the other? That is a question I seek to answer.

Planned Timeline

Meet with Dr. Mullins on Tuesdays or Thursdays after 4pm for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Introduction

And there he lay with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Joshua Woods, at the age of 22, lost his life due to an attempted robbery for his Nike Air Jordan shoes. It first began when Woods and another man went to the Willowbrook Mall to purchase the newly released Nike Air Jordan XI ‘Bred’ sneakers. This addition of Jordan basketball shoes had not been released in over 11 years providing a wanted retro flair to its shoppers.

Once leaving the mall, Woods and the other man stopped at his house when a green car pulled alongside them. Suddenly, an armed passenger from the green vehicle approached Woods and his driver demanding them to hand over their freshly bought J’s. The driver along with Woods was able to jump out of the car and run to a neighbor’s house for help. While looking for help he heard gun shots in the distance.

The shots were being fired at Woods who slid his way into the driver’s seat He managed to slip away before crashing into two houses and hitting a gas line. On December 26, he passed away from several gunshot wounds and other harms from his escape. The driver with Woods was able to live suffering no injuries. In total there were four men arrested for the death of Joshua Woods. All charged with capital murder.

Project Description

Have you ever wondered why people stand in massive line for hours waiting on the next gadget? Or why some are dedicated to only Chevrolets or Fords? Brand loyalty could be the reason for such dedication. Consumers of Apple and Nike products show such devotion by purchasing items as soon as they are released.

The Apple iPhone and Nike Air Jordan sneakers are the most demanded merchandises from these companies. Despite likenesses between the two brands, the media presents completely different representations. Here I describe media as television commercials, newspaper articles, blog reports, social media, radio ads, and online news reports.

As I sat watching Kevin Hart’s Ride Along there was a scene that caught my attention. Kevin Hart’s character, a high school security guard, began to break up a fistfight between two Caucasian students. While doing so he begins to yell, “Stooooopppp! You’re white you don’t fight!” A very hilarious scene, but it reflects how white people are seen as perfect.

This reminded me how the iPhone is surrounded by keywords with positive connotations. On the other hand, Air Jordan is given keywords with negative implications. When the image of an Air Jordan release comes to mind many think of excessive violence. However, iPhone releases invoke ideals of ridiculously long lines and people camping out to be one of the first with the new phone.

History

Michael Jordan was born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York, however he grew up in North Carolina. During his sophomore year at Emsley A. Laney High School he was rejected from the varsity basketball team for being too short at 5’11. Yet, he was able to prove his skills on Laney’s junior varsity basketball team. By his senior year he had grown an additional four inches, lead the varsity basketball team, and was even selected for McDonald's All-American Game.

With such a successful high school basketball career, Jordan was being recruited to many universities such as Duke and Syracuse, until he chose the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There he excelled as a player. His team won the NCAA Division I championships in 1982 with Jordan scoring the final basket needed to defeat Georgetown University. He was also singled out as the NCAA College Player of the Year in 1983 and in 1984.

During the summer of 1984, Jordan made his first appearance at the Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team. The team won the gold at the games that year, which were held in Los Angeles. During his junior year of college Jordan left to join the Chicago Bulls. On November 17, 1984, in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the 6’ Jordan stepped onto the court wearing a red-and-black signature shoe, called the Air Jordan. Since their debut, Nike Air Jordan shoes have continuously had a ruckus surrounding the sneaker.

When Michael Jordan himself wore the first pair of AJ1’s he was fined five thousand dollars each time they were worn by the National Basketball Association. This did not stop him from wearing the shoe; instead Nike gladly footed the bill. Michael wore the Air Jordan I again as he scored 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs. Designer Peter Moore created the Air Jordan 1.

It featured the Nike Swoosh on the mid panel and a newly designed wings logo on the upper ankle. The first Air Jordan was similar in design to other popular Nike models released in the 1980s such as the Air Force 1, Terminator and Dunk. The Air Jordan I featured a Nike Air unit for heel cushioning, padded foam ankle collars for additional protection and a toe overlay for added lockdown (FootLocker, 2014).

Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles, and was voted the Finals MVP a record six times. He also scored more points per game than any player in NBA history, with a 30.1 average, and his 32,292 career points scored rank as the third-most in NBA history. His career postseason scoring average of 33.5 points is also the best in NBA history. In 1996, Jordan was officially named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

Images of Jordan's windmill dunking, blazing baseline heroics, and flying through the air to bank a shot thrilled sports spectators throughout the world and soon Jordan's popularity increased. He was the perfect embodiment of the sport. This in turn made him a spectacle in which the media used high tech wizardry to magically transform sports into a media extravaganza of the highest order.

Being such a worldwide figure, Jordan was able to reach an iconic status making his brand more desirable and increasing brand loyalty. With this status of celebrity, “it is only natural that a sports shoe corporation like Nike” would want to commercialize and purchase Jordan's stardom to sponsor its merchandises. According to ESPN.GO.com, at one point, Michael Jordan was the most recognized and the most popular athlete on the planet. As such, Jordan revolutionized the business of athlete endorsements. He signed on with companies such as Wheaties, McDonald's, Gatorade, and Nike.

It was reported that Jordan actually preferred Adidas, but Nike offered him so much money that he could not refuse. 1985 was the first year of mass production for Nike's Air Jordan; it reportedly grossed over $130 million. By 1998, Jordan had reportedly made over $130 million from Nike alone. Jordan was eventually given his own division of Nike, known as Brand Jordan.

The Beginning of Apple

Much like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs became an iconic figure from developing Apple, Inc. On February 24 1955, Steve Jobs in San Francisco, California, to graduate students Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble. The two students sought adoption to ensure their child had a good life. Steve was adopted at birth by Clara and Paul Jobs. At age 13 Jobs met 18 year old, Stephen Wozniak, a smart kid great with electronics. A powerful friendship they would create.

He attended Homestead High School in Cupertino, California and went to Reed College in Portland Oregon in 1972 but dropped out after only one semester. After dropping out, Jobs moved to a hippie commune in Oregon where his main activity was cultivating apples. A few months later, Steve returned to California to look for a job before being hired at Atari then using those wages to travel to India. During his trip to India, not only did Jobs find religion in Buddhism, but he also developed a creative idea for a new company.

To put his ideas into action, he contacted his childhood friend, Stephen Wozniak. Together they began using their interest in money and electronics to the fullest. Wozniak was building his own computer when Jobs saw the great potential for profit. On April 1, 1976, the first Apple Computer was born. Wozniak was responsible for the electronics, and Steve concentrated on the design.

The Apple II followed in 1977 and the company Apple Computer was formed shortly afterwards. The Apple II was credited with starting the personal computer boom, its popularity prompting IBM to hurriedly develop their PC. The Apple II was the first personal computer capable of color graphics. Jobs insisted that Apple design both the software and hardware on Apple products.

Apple’s first logo had a picture of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Next was the rainbow, striped apple with a bite taken out on the side. The colored stripes represented the fact that the Apple II could create graphics in color. In 1997, it was simplified to a single color that has changed over time. By the time production of the Apple II ended in 1993 it had sold over 6 million units.

During the early 80's, Steve Jobs controlled the business side of the Apple Corporation and Steve Wozniak, the design side. However, in 1984 a power struggle with the board of directors caused Steve Jobs to leave Apple. He immediately founded another computer company, NeXT. Ironically Apple bought neXT in 1996, and Steve Jobs returned to Apple to serve once more as its CEO in 1997.

In 2007, Apple introduced the original iPhone instantly gaining reign over every smartphone on the market. Over the next two years, with the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs, Apple increased functionality while simultaneously lowering price, taking the smartphone fully out of the niche and making it mainstream. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s continued the evolution, bringing support for broader cellular phone carriers, faster speeds, and better displays.

A major feature of the iPhone 4s, introduced in October 2011, was Siri, a virtual assistant capable of voice recognition. . In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery in 2004. Despite the success of this operation he became increasingly ill and received a liver transplant in 2009. He returned to work after a six month break but eventually resigned his position in August 2011 after another period of medical leave which began in January 2011. He passed on October 5, 2011, the day after the 4s release.

The iPhone 5 took manufacturing to new levels and the screen to new heights, but most importantly it set the stage for what came next, the most recently released iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s & 5c were the first phones to be released after his death.

With the products Air Jordan and iPhone having such resemblances in their backgrounds, why is there a bias leaning towards one group of consumers but not the other? First the similarities between the two companies and their products must be discussed.

Brand Loyalty

Both Nike Air Jordan’s and Apple iPhone have a countless consumers who show “brand loyalty”. These two commit is first important to know what a brand is to understand the loyalty behind it. According to Matthew Healey’s book What is Branding? , a brand is a named product or service, a trademark, a service, and a customer’s belief about a product (2008:6). . This idea is backed up in Rita Clifton’s Brands and Branding. Clifton (2009) and Healey also agree that a brand is “a promise of satisfaction between the seller and buyer”.

This is the image or motto that pops into a person’s head when thinking of the product. For many, Nike’s trademark “Swoosh” is a symbol that is a part of everyday life, as well as Michael’s trademarked “Jumpman” symbol, which depicts Michael soaring to the hoop as only he could do.

Going back to Healey’s (2008) What is Branding? branding is the act of positioning, storytelling, price, and customer relationships. Positioning is deciding what the customer wants from your brand and what they think of it. Storytelling is the way you draw on emotions. These emotions do not have to be one of sadness it can also evoke humor, anger, and even joy. Neither Apple nor Air Jordan produces many commercials, but both use similar techniques to convey their stories.

In 2013, Brand Jordan released a commercial showing an African American and Chinese male as children. It becomes clear through the TV commercial that both boys are talented at basketball and grow as athletes until they are drafted into college. Once in college the boys, now men, become international rivals. This rivalry continues into a friendship as the men face each other in the Olympics. This clip wants the audience to feel a boost of energy, a sense of pride, and the overall intensity of hard work paying off.

Again in 2013, Apple, Inc. released a commercial to introduce the iPhone 5s. This one reveals the iPhone 5s (Gold) by showing the golden metal pieces of the phone slowly molding and intertwining together to create the phone. The background plays an excerpt of Goldfrapp’s Oh La La. The market strategy here is to make the iPhone 5s (Gold) appear more tempting to purchase in a sensual way. Both companies used simple techniques and storylines to promote their goods, but both created a unique emotional response. These responses reflect how the buyers see the items as the consumer.

Commercial seen here:

Pricing is how much does it cost. It is proven that an item of higher price is selected more because it is seen as a higher quality even if it is not. The average cost of a pair of Jordan’s is double the price of other sneakers, beginning at around $150. This is significantly higher than the original $65 price in 1985. An iPhone fresh off the market can cost up to $849 without a cellular service contract and a low as $199 with one. Both of these products are in the higher price range when comparing to products alike. However, this does not affect sales. In fact, as of November 2013 over 421 million iPhones have been sold total. Lastly, branding is about customer relationships and how your consumer feels “special” for purchasing a company’s product.

According to Aaker, brand loyalty begins when a brand stands for something in a customer’s mind (1993:18). Forbes.com writer, Scott Goodson (2011), supports Aaker and uses Apple as an example on starting brand loyalty. Goodson explains the first step Apple made was building a relationship with customers, being trustworthy, and alsotransparent at the same time. When a glitch occurs the company is honest with their mistake and fixes it as quickly as possible. The “promise of satisfaction” truly builds a bond of trust between the company and its buyers.

Companies like Apple and Nike have done a fabulous job creating loyal customers. This bond and loyalty gained from consumers is when the public sphere begins to see long lines bright and early on new release days. Along with providing satisfaction, Apple also embraces social media to communicate with consumers creating a warm connection. The Apple marketing team has accomplished “movement marketing”. This is letting your consumer know you are passionately involved with your company.

Goodson uses Apple’s mission statement "Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings”. The quote does not mention what they do but what they” believe in” as a company.

This gave the company room for growth and change. Nike’s mission statement is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world”. It continues with Nike’s co-founder, Bill Bowerman saying, “If you have a body, you are an athlete…”. This statement allows anyone to do what they love even with limitations. Plus, if you categorize everyone as an athlete, they will buy products from an athletic company, such as Nike, boosting their profits.

These inspirational mission statements have the ability to create a sense of unity and community. Muniz and O’Guinn describe “brand community” as a “specialized, non-geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand”. These communities have their set of rituals and tradition as well.

One of the newest contributions to Apple’s “brand community” are the blue messages when texting iPhone to iPhone along with FaceTime. These functions are only available with an iPhone building a sense of unison. When many people purchase an item they seek individualism but yet they are conforming to those around them. For example, the iPhone makes it consumers feel exclusive and of a higher social status. It also fits into many cultures such as internet culture and mobile phone culture.

"Hero Worship"

Some corporations have to put in more effect than others to succeed, however, to other businesses profits come more naturally or from the identity of their CEOs. This is the case once again for Nike Air Jordan’s and Apple’s iPhone. The “great man" appears frequently to be an athlete, an entertainer, or a person of relatively trivial accomplishment, whose values exhibit superiority over our own. Mass hero worship can lead to blind devotion to leaders. With the rebellious Michael Jordan and stubborn Steve Jobs, it is no surprise the two figures have such a devoted fan following.

Apple’s iPhone has considered its self to be the “Jesus” phone because their launching or new releases have been the biggest thing since Jesus coming back. Through “Hero worship” one can express their characteristic values. It reveals not only the traits we admire most but also our fields of interest. The term is described as an extravagant or excessive admiration for a personal hero. iPhone also has attracted many consumers through “Hero Worship”. Steve Jobs made his consumers feel like they were creative, “bad asses”, clever, and cool, an embodiment of who he was while building the Apple brand. This “hero worship” is then carried down as a reflection on the person’s products.

Just like the iPhone, Air Jordan has a “Hero Worship” following Michael Jordan. The shoe makes its consumer feel like an instant basketball hero that can soar through the sky landing the perfect dunk. The shoe is known to bring tons of media when a new release comes out. When Air Jordan shoes are released they get much more attention than the iPhone does, but rarely regarding anything positive.

With such similarities such as attractive CEOs with rebel attitudes, brand loyalty, and costly products between company stories why is there a bias in the media? This reason is racial imagery in the media.

Racial Imagery

Helan E. Page (1997) refers to the media as “white public space”. In this “white public space” African American men are a threat. Seen as “incompetents with violent behavior and unembraceable” black imagery is set up so that only a few can succeed (1997:100). Page believes that even when a positive image is displayed the media still views it in a negative light because of white privilege.

According to, TheGrio.com “Nike Air Jordan sneakers have been more than a basketball shoe in the black community. They represent a strong relation to the black community. They have become everything from a fashion accessory to a status symbol”. Before the Air Jordan, all basketball shoes were white in color. This simple statement only begins to describe the sheer magnitude of the changes that were about to occur to the sport of basketball and to the athletic footwear industry once Michael Jordan entered the league.

Timothy Vercellotti and Paul R. Brewer (2006) then explain the distrust African Americans have in mainstream media. As an alternative, black media serves as a way for the “black perspective” to be heard and viewed. African Americans have a greater trust in black media because it has double as an advocate to its readers making it more believable and creating a since of group pride. Without this sense of pride that black media creates there could be cultural oppression caused from mass media.

Film artist Spike Lee is great at creating a perfect experience of the “black perspective”. When the characters in his film began to wear Air Jordan’s along with Spike Lee himself, is the beginning of the media’s association between African Americans and J’s. The website NiceKicks reported that Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing “became an instant classic with a powerful message”.

The movie has resonated in many circles, but upon the film’s 20th anniversary is celebrated heavily by the sneaker community. Besides literally every sneaker in the film being a Nike product, the movie illustrated a sneaker heads greatest fear as well as what love we have for our sneakers. This film featured the Nike Air Jordan IV’s in a hilarious scene where a black character gets his pair scuffed by a white cyclist. The black character chases the white cyclist until finally reaching him for a final confrontation.

Spike Lee was not the only one to shape this image. The hip hop community had a huge hand involved when artists began to perform in these sneakers. Actors in popular African American television shows such as Martin and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air once again reinforced the media’s link by wearing the sneakers while on set.

In the article Mass Media and Racism, Stephen Balkaran explained that racism in the media exists in other ways that cannot be viewed visually using Michael Reich’s Segmentation Theory (1999). This viewpoint explains racism in an economic point of view. In this theory, Reich proposes that the ultimate goal in society is to maximize profits. As a result, the exploiters will attempt to use any means to: (1) suppress higher wages among the exploited class, (2) weaken the bargaining power of the working class, often by attempting to split it along racial lines, (3) promote prejudices, (4) segregate the black community, (5) ensure that the elite benefit from the creation of stereotypes and racial prejudices against the black community (Balkaran: 1999).

“Cultural oppression is a primary source of the social problems experienced by African American and has placed them at risk of cultural estrangement, a weakened black collectivism, and spiritual alienation” (Schiele:2005). This describes the impact of slavery and past blatant prejudice against African Americans. Lastly, Channeling Blackness by Darnell M. Hunt mentions the term “black-white binary”. This describes the negative terms that are associated with the word “black” when heard through the media versus the word “white”. The later comes to the equation of:

“Black”= African=savage=emotional=inferior=slave=bad when viewed by audiences.

The equation of “white”= European=civilized=rational=superior=free=good is total opposite and uses all positive terminology.

The overall image of African Americans is an undesirable one cross-culturally. According to Mary Beth Oliver’s article, African American Men: “Criminal and Dangerous”, African American men are seen as violent, aggressive criminals due to fictional crimes shows, reality television, and other type of shows. 84% of all crime stories out of black suspects pertain to violent rather than nonviolent crimes. This is very apparent when looking at the press attention on release days for Air Jordan and IPhones.

Release Dates

When the time comes for Nike Air Jordan and Apple iPhone to have a new release it is bound to draw local media and long lines full of enthusiastic patrons. Unfortunately, the portrayals of the company’s consumers are shown in opposing lights in the media. The media depicts the consumers of Apple as well-behaved while those shopping for Air Jordan are rowdy and disruptive. Reinforcing the negative terminology envisioned by the audience when using the terms “African American” or “black”.

Air Jordan in the Media

On December 17, 2013 FortheWin USA Today writer, Chris Chase’s article entitled “Crazed Shoppers Destroy Glass Door to Buy New Air Jordan’s” is a headline too familiar. In Columbus, Ohio stampeding shoppers forcibly broke down a door at Eastland Mall to get to a Champs Sports that was selling the new Taxi 12’s Air Jordan’s. The entire ordeal was a worthless effort because the shoes were not even in stock. Instead, Champs handed out vouchers that would allow for purchase the next week. This story, as well as the one in the introduction, demonstrates the different ranges of coverage Air Jordan receives by the news.

When doing a general search “Air Jordan’s and Violence” on Google over 50 million results showed up. When searched on Google News over 23,000 articles appear. Several articles display a crowd of angry, violent, and lower to middle class crowd of black people. Such violence had to be explored resulting in a minor ethnography.

Air Jordan 5 “Oreo”

A little after midnight I attended the release of the Air Jordan 5 “Oreo” at Castleton Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana. This would also double as my first time attending Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day and is often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. However, due to competition between businesses many stores opened at 10 pm.

The entire mall was packed shoulder to shoulder. I entered through JCPenny with Finish Line being the final destination. On my journey there I felt tension throughout JCPenny. The customers, predominantly Caucasian, used very sharp tones with the employees. There was a large Caucasian woman that yelled to other customers to “Hurry the FUCK up!” while they were checking out. The environment in this store was negative and gloomy; I could not wait to leave.

After leaving JCPenny I was a little nervous to go to the Finish Line. I assumed the crowd there would be more rowdy than JCPenny. I had never been to an Air Jordan released and I too, had been influenced by the media. Upon arrival the consumers were waiting in a patient, friendly manner. Instead of yelling at one another they were partaking in casual conversation regarding their excitement for the shoes. Asking what size each was purchasing. I too enjoy conversation with many customers. I asked one African American fellow, Keith, if he was collector. He responded that he was not but would want to be in the future.

The crowd was more diverse than I had assumed. The majority of the customers appeared to be African Americans, but Caucasian and Latino peoples were there in great numbers as well. The line was composed of about 80 people, 50 were African American with about 15 Caucasians and 15 Latinos. The media hardly shows racial backgrounds different than African American when discussing Nike Air Jordan’s.

The next day I checked Google News to see how many reports there were on the previous night’s Air Jordan release. To my surprise there were no reports at all. However, there was tons of coverage about Walmart. The radio, social media, and nightly news covered explosive scenes at different Walmarts across the country on Black Friday. YouTube was full of videos captured by bystanders filming fights and arguments. Though, none exist for the Air Jordan release.

iPhone in the Media

Apple as a company has been coined a “luxury brand”. It is for those who see themselves as individualistic, creative, intelligent, sophisticated, and many other high class adjectives. This “positive” terminology is mostly because the consumers are Caucasian. Along with being Caucasian, these patrons are also seen as high class.

However, iPhone releases have many misfortunes as well. International Business Times reported an episode the occurred at an Apple store in Pasadena, California on September 20, 2013. “With the excitement over the release of the new Apple Inc. iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C reaching a fever pitch Friday, a few overzealous customers may have crossed the line in Pasadena, California” they reported. George Westbrook 23, of Compton, and Lamar Mitchell, 43, of Pasadena, were arrested for getting into a brawl outside the Apple Store on West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. They were members of a crowd that waited overnight for the two new iPhone models.

When anticipation is high it is no surprise violent outbreaks happen. Though, with the two characteristics, Caucasian and high class, it is difficult to consider anything negative about the brand. Instead, the positive will always be referred to first because black-white binary presented by the media is so deeply embedded in culture ideology.

iPhone 5s & 5c

On September 13th at 8:00 am, I attended the Apple release of the iPhone 5s and 5c at Keystone at the Crossing Indianapolis, Indiana. The doors originally opened at 6:00 am. Keystone at the Crossing is an upscale shopping center containing department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, and Louis Vuitton. Inside holds one of the two Apple stores in Indianapolis, the other being downtown. With Apple being a “luxury brand” it was no surprise to see it there. Like with the Air Jordan release this would also be my first time attending an iPhone release.

Once I entered into the mall, Apple was the store immediately to the right. The line had already made its way to the mall entrance. I reluctantly got into line, but was yelled at by a guard. “What are you doing?” he said to me. “Getting in line.” I replied. He then informed me that the end of the line was on the other side the mall. Suddenly, my 2 hour wait increased to a 4 hour wait.

Once I was settled into my spot I observed my surroundings. The majority of the people in line were well dress for it to be so early in the morning with slacks and nice button-ups. Many parents were seen with their children and some came without parents. The environment here was very similar to the one seen on Fox News. Boring.

There was a live band playing and thankfully so. The buyers were not conversationalists and left the mall echoing of nothing but guitar strings. Once I gain the courage to interview someone as a customer I asked the man in front of me. His name was Jesus; he was originally from Guatemala and now lived off of 86th and Michigan Road working as an auto mechanic. He said this was his second time attending an iPhone release.

Once our conversation was finished he decided to leave not wanting to wait much longer. I then began to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Patel, a married Indian couple. Mr. Patel seemed very knowledgeable about the new release. He explained to me that the new phones were unique because of the better quality of camera and the thumbprint lock screen. He even tried to convince me to purchase the iPhone 5s Gold Edition, even though I explained it would cost me over $800. Mr. Patel was surprised by my response and explained the item was well worth it.

After standing in line for about 80 minutes I decided to leave. While headed to the door I noticed Apple provided buyers with Starbucks and samples of fruit smoothies. I grabbed myself a cup of coffee then continued to exit. Before reaching the door I noticed a man appearing to be around 80 years old standing in line. He had on a pair of brown shorts with a pair of white ankle socks and a blue t-shit along with a metal walker. I asked the lady next to him how long they had been there. She responded “since 6:00 am”. It was now around 9:45 am and they still had an hour wait.

The behavior the costumers presented was not unusual at all. This is how iPhone releases have always been seen on the news, as calm even with a very long wait. If a report showed a riot then the viewer would be shocked. However, these images do occur they are just more forgiven by the public because these “white” consumers are too good to act foolishly.

Conclusion

In order to change the perception of African Americans in the media African Americans must change racial presentation as a community. There must be new coverage on the radio, television, and on film promoting positivity within the community. It has to be cone because the association between African Americans and violent, aggression, and crime in general has created a false insight.

Both Nike Air Jordan and Apple iPhone have had some type of negative press but the difference is the lasting effect. What the media produces often influences cultural opinion on the subject. Therefore, being targeted for a certain racial background is a greater deal than it seems. It causes the public to stereotype and categorize an entire race as a whole. The media is a powerful tool that can persuade minds and bring much conflict.

Reflection

While working on the investigation I realized this is definitely what I want to do with my life. I was given the freedom to explore topics I am interested in and engage in conversation with many people. I was able to see how these two brands actually create a community among its users. Once I started asking question about the products, people would light up with joy to tell me their opinion. In fact, they convinced me so much I bought a pair of J’s and an iPhone.

Along the way I had many thoughts on what it takes to be an anthropologist. For example, while waiting in line at the iPhone I could not grasp some of the shopper’s names, so I just identified them by their looks and skin color in my notes. Is this ok to do as an anthropologist in training? Is it ok to generalize people in such a way? Since I do not know this answer in the future I will be sure to get general information about the people I am questioning out of respect.

The most enjoyable aspect of this paper was seeing my ideas typed out on paper. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself by covering topics I have not seen covered before. This way it would truly be from scratch, not including ideas from gathered sources. This has shown me that my thoughts can be well written and in my opinion, entertaining.

However, one thing I did not like was my inability to stop answering any questions that may be wondered or asked. I feel like there is so much more to talk about and discuss but I am already at 40-plus pages so I know I must come to an end. But I guess leaving room for questions is not a bad thing because then I am able to learn more from others. Overall, I loved this investigation, it was stressful, but now I know I can do it and honestly I’m kind of proud of what I’ve produce…but I might be delusional.

Literature Cited

Aaker, A. David, and Alexander L. Bell

1993 Branding Equity & Advertising: Advertising’s Role in Building a Strong Brand

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Andrews, L. David

2001 Michael Jordan, Inc.: Corporate Sport, Media Culture, and Late Modern

America. State

University of New York Press, Albany.

Costello, Sam


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