Lil Nas X, Tony Hawk, & The Perils of Being a Black Creative
The controversy over Lil Nas X's blood infused shoes has resurfaced as Tony Hawk announces the release of blood infused skateboards.
When hip-hop artist Lil Nas X released an extremely limited batch of Nike shoes with a drop of real blood infused in the soles, I thought it was brilliant.
Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Hill, is one of the first successful rappers to be openly gay. This of course sparked much controversy since some people are still insistent that someone else’s sexuality could have anything at all to do with them. The creation of the so-called “Satan Shoes” was directly drawn from the experiences of homophobia Lil Nas has faced and continues to face, a clever play on the hell he and so many other LGBTQ+ kids were promised they’d be cast down to.
"I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y'all preached would happen to me because I was gay," he wrote in a passioned tweet. "So I hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves."
Once again, Lil Nas became the center of controversy and pointed bigotry from homophobes and religious fanatics who were wildly offended by the shoes. Their main claim was that the use of actual human blood in the sneakers was inappropriate and blasphemous, claims that eventually led Nike to file a lawsuit against the rapper for using their shoes.
The shoes were later recalled.
It was just announced that Tony Hawk, the most well-known skateboarder alive, will be releasing a limited amount of skate decks infused with his own blood in collaboration with the company Liquid Death. Unsurprisingly, this is being met with little to no resistance, begging the question of whether people were truly offended by Lil Nas’ use of blood in his creation, or if they were offended because he is a gay Black man who doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks?
“Now that Tony Hawk has released skateboards with his blood painted on them, and there was no public outrage, are y’all ready to admit y’all were never actually upset over the blood in the shoes? and maybe u were mad for some other reason?” Lil Nas questioned in a tweet that was later deleted.
It must be beyond frustrating that the same creative endeavor Lil Nas was literally sued for is now being praised when coming from a palatable white man.
In a statement Liquid Death gave to Buzzfeed News, the company responds,
“We fully support Lil Nas X and thought his fictional Montero music video and limited shoe release was a brilliant and hilarious counterpunch to the homophobic hatred damning him to “hell“ that he and so many others in the LGBTQ+ community have to deal with. The backlash Lil Nas X receives is despicable homophobia, plain and simple”
The entire ordeal is a shining example of the increasingly high standards artists of color are held to, and the backlash they must endure when not meeting these standards. That level of pressure is excruciating to work under, knowing that everything you put out will be judged by drastically different rules.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kendi is currently a student at New York University and is the author of multiple award-winning poems, short stories, stage, and screenplays.