Last Sunday I was blessed to be in sunny Los Angeles. After performing Saturday at the Our Communities Our Jobs rally, I decided to stay a few extra days to network and shoot some videos. My good friend Tahir Jahi was showing me the city and we decided to stop in North Hollywood to get some Thai food. As we walked to the restaurant I saw the above image in the window and I could’ve sworn it was a picture of a slave. I immediately stopped and made a quick left turn into the store to see what the hell was going on. Come to find out it wasn’t a slave… it was a cut out of UFC wrestler Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
I thought I saw a slave because I saw a black man with a chain around his neck. Not platinum or gold, an actual chain, that you lock something up with. Also, said black man was naked except for a pair of shorts, I mean he didn’t even have shoes on. To be honest, I was surprised that the shorts weren’t ripped up Kunta Kinte style. Now before you get all offended and say I try to make everything about race let me share a few facts about “Rampage” Jackson that I didn’t know at the time: A) He apparently always wears a chain around his neck, not jewelry an actual chain and B) Since he competes in the UFC wearing only a pair of shorts with no shoes, this is technically his uniform. But remember this shirtless/shoeless chain wearing black man is selling cell phones, which caused me to think about why certain images of black men are acceptable in this society.
It seems like advertisers these days love a shirtless black man just ask Old Spice. I mean those commercials are on damn near every time I turn on the television, and they didn’t have just one shirtless black man they had two. I can’t help but think that on a subconscious level this plays to the image of the black man as Mandingo, strong and sexual but not intelligent, thus no threat to the powers that be.
Of course this all goes back to the need to control our own images and thus avoid being stereotyped all together, but until then can y’all brothers at least put a shirt on?