My Jordans remind me of why I got into teaching. They are a symbol of the complexity of my personhood. On one hand, you have this body that aesthetically represents the urban, hood, street, “hip”, young, Black male. I cannot not think of a singular symbol of clothing that represents urban, hip-hop culture more than a pair of Jordans. But it is almost as if by wearing them you lose particular potential aspects of an “internal personality” by default. When I would wear my Jordans, yeah they gave me an added aspect of confidence. But I wonder what they thought of me, especially growing up in an era that I would term the rise of stereotypical assumptions, the pre-Obama era; the era of black men really and truly only being on the television or in the newspaper for three different career paths: the athlete, entertainer, or criminal. I did slightly wonder what they thought of me when I entered their classrooms and bought sour keys at their corner stores.
My Jordans are a part of my personality, a part of my upbringing. But my Jordans are complicated. I know that they are an immensely powerful social symbol but they also represent the problem with immensely powerful social symbols. My Jordans are such a symbol that they force many to degrees of boxed-in stereotypes and perceptions based simply upon their presence. Ironically, that is half the reason why I wear them…but it is also half the problem I have with them. My Jordans are complex, indeed.
I wore my Jordans as a student. I sometimes wear my Jordans as a teacher. Without sounding redundant, they represent all of me but nothing of me at the same time. At the end of the day, my Jordans speak a bit about the outside of me: my personality, style and perhaps character, but they say little to absolutely nothing about the inside of me: my drives, motivations, and abilities. That’s what we need to remember about my Jordans.
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