I receive a lot of interesting information through my Facebook page. Each day, I get stories about police brutality, underhanded behavior by politicians, extraordinary achievements in the black community and nearly everything else. This morning, I received an email that simply sent me into a rage.
In one of the most sickening displays of corporate exploitation, Red Bull has decided to create a basketball tournament that takes place at the infamous Alcatraz prison, dubbed “King of the Rock.” Bringing ballers from around the world, the ad presents imagery of black men dribbling basketballs and dunking over one another, all for the honor of getting to Alcatraz prison for the finals. One of the tournament’s slogans is “Only the hardcore made it to Alcatraz.”
I found it intriguing that Red Bull has found a way to merge the stereotype of the black man who spends all his time on the basketball court with an equally destructive image of that black man playing his way into a penitentiary. Perhaps we need to take a visit to Red Bull’s corporate headquarters and make them aware of our national campaigns designed to end the destructive effects of mass incarceration among black men. Maybe they need to listen to hip-hop songs in which corporate America provides platforms to black men who train themselves to kill one another, sell drugs and do other things that lead to so many black fathers being ruined by life in the penitentiary. The last thing I need to see is another black boy putting down his school books and becoming hypnotized about the fantasy of playing basketball on his way to prison.
An addiction to sports over education and significantly disproportionate incarceration rates serve as two of the most dominant factors working to destroy the black family in America. With so many black boys nurturing hoop dreams that will never be fulfilled, many end up as unemployed adults with no education and little to no ability to become reliable husbands and fathers. Black men have the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic/gender group in the United States, the highest rates of death from hand gun violence and incarceration levels that are nothing short of an all-out holocaust. By feeding into this imagery and giving yet another basketball-dribbling black boy a reason to glamorize the prison system, Red Bull has helped to fuel the epidemic that is killing us.
Personally, I never plan to purchase another Red Bull product for the rest of my life.
Here is one of their ads if you’d like to see it.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.