shark biters and a few inappropriate words on appropriation

Photo Credit: HipHopSite.com

what’s happening good people?

i’ve been chewing on what to say within this
post, and as i sit down to type this out on
the national holiday designated to celebrate
the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it
seems even more appropriate to offer up these
words…

‘fuck all the shark biters.’

now, the reason for that line really stems
from what not only goes on today with the
vanilla, generic buffing of Dr.King’s image
by a cross-section of people to where he is
a one-dimensional figure, but from two separate
situations and narratives from good friends that
i was privy to over the past couple of days.
let me break them down in turn.

The first instance involves my boy Julian
Lytle, a well-known illustrator. Now, Julian,
Sean Causley along with Shawn Pryor and other
guest artists have been hard at work creating
the world of Longboxes On 22’s. To sum
up, it’s an entire Tumblr galaxy filled with
creations inspired by the fine blending of
comic books, album covers and pop culture.
and it SNAPS. it really speaks to a good deal
of folks that are into all these things but
don’t see themselves fully represented in
comic books on a larger scale. so this past
Friday, Marvel announces that they are dropping
variant covers of Howard The Duck and Deadpool.
These covers are done as an homage to the
magnificent hip-hop tandem Run The Jewels.
So, here’s the rub…the Deadpool image?
Bears a pretty keen resemblance to what the
Longboxes on 22s crew did NINE MONTHS EARLIER.
(They build on it here.) Now let’s be
real here. I’m not openly saying that there
was a deliberate attempt to appropriate this
one piece of fan art. But it’s pretty damn
intriguing that an industry which has seen little
diversity among the ranks of its editors and
writers(this is info i’ve gotten from Jules
and other creators of color working in that
field)is now embracing hip-hop like this. i
noticed when the new Captain America was
released by Marvel that there was a variant
cover featuring Sam Wilson, the former Falcon
as the new Cap, flanked by Rae Sremmurd. it’s
a move to move more books, i dig that aspect
of it. but you can’t tell me that a major
machine like Marvel doesn’t have research
personnel on the lookout for stuff like this.
and maybe the artists really wanted to show
love to Run The Jewels. but there’s creative
interpretation and then there’s appropriation.

the second situation involves my people at
ThisRespekWear. you’ve seen their clothing
lines for the past few years, from their
iconic ‘Don’t Feed The Pigeons’ t-shirt to
the current – and valid – clothing line
dedicated to the suffering of all New York
Knicks fans. myself included. so my man JV
puts up a post on social media detailing how
he went into a store and they’re selling a
t-shirt…with THEIR design. on some knockoff
status. mind you ThisRespekWear has a real
movement going, and while it was comical,
it is a bit of a dumb move on the establishment’s
part.

i detail these two situations out of dozens
that have gone on and continue to go on. as
the world gets more in touch with each other
via technology in all forms, there are more
demonstrations of how out of touch some of us
are with each other AND how out of touch some
businesses small or large are with true creatives.
look, we’ve all heard of the saying ‘imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery.’ but there
is a limit to that flattery when it seeks to
void your contribution as a creative person
due to your hue. it’s almost a game now that
is being run by the powers that be to take an
aspect of another culture and just run with it
with no real understanding of the elements
involved or why that came to be for that culture.
most recent examples i’m sure you can remember:

vegan leather ‘du-rags’.

twerking.

reality show celebrity women getting surgery
for ‘full lips’.

the thing that irks me is, what’s so damn
difficult about involving more people of color’s
perspectives to have a rightful place of
influence in any industry rather than taking
their shit? or even letting them, when they
have their own initiatives, just sustain their
output and respective consumer bases? on a
more simple level, it’s about control. control
to support a supremacist system that doesn’t
want anything that they can’t co-opt or knock.
look at today. how many times are you going
to see the same quotes from MLK about peace
posted somewhere and how many times will you
see other more pertinent quotes from Dr.King
that reflected how revolutionary he really was…
and why they killed him?

appropriation like this is micro-aggression.
and while it may seem slight, it’s highly
damaging. and that’s not to say that there
aren’t POC’s doing it. look on Twitter at a
few accounts and you can see some tweets
being jacked. i say all this being mindful
that there is a grey area at work here. but
i do sincerely wish that more folks that look
like me, that more folks who are grinding
away striving to be heard don’t get bit like
what happened to Longboxes on 22s, ThisRespekWear,
Sister Rosetta Tharpe…you dig what i’m saying.
we gotta see this stuff for what it is, and
call it out when it is necessary and valid
to do so. some of it may be more subtle than
others.

in closing, respect the real when you come
face to face with it. and do your part to
make sure the shark biters either starve or
have broken teeth.

thanks for reading, until the next time…
walk good.