Asians Angry with Adidas over ‘Yellow Series’
By George Anderson
The graffiti artist whose art appears on the sole of Adidas-Salomon AG’s new “Yellow Series” is of half Chinese descent but that isn’t doing anything to placate Asian organizations
in an uproar over what they see as just another stereotypical depiction being used for commercial purposes.
Barry McGee is the artist whose character, Ray Fong, he said is based on an uncle at eight-years of age. The character has slanted eyes, buck teeth and a bowl haircut.
The “Yellow Series” was introduced at boutiques in major urban markets around the globe on April 1. Each pair retails for $250 and comes with a graffiti art fanzine.
Mr. McGee told The Washington Post he was not ready for the furor his art has caused. “I had a bowl cut and I had buck teeth,” he said. “People can perceive it as whatever
they want. I guess that’s just the power of images. The whole project was kind of a joke to me, so it’s weird because I never saw this coming.”
Frank Wu, dean of the Wayne State University Law School and author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, said Mr. McGee’s ancestry doesn’t make the image
portrayed any less disturbing.
“The problem with this is not that it’s done by bigots, because it’s not,” he said. “It’s also not that it offends people, because in many ways, that’s what art is meant to do.
The problem is that these images, even though crude and cliched, are powerful, almost indelible. They write the scripts that we expect others and we ourselves to follow. You can’t
read all that into a shoe, but it’s part of a pattern.”
Moderator’s Comment: Did Adidas-Salomon AG make a mistake by introducing its “Yellow Series”? What should the company
do now in light of the controversy surrounding the art in the shoes? –
George Anderson – Moderator