Today in class we briefly discussed the interaction between Buggin’ Out and this white gentleman who has returned from a bike ride. The white male accidentally steps and scuffs Buggin’ Out’s Jordan’s, a popular sneaker brand. Instead of calmly discussing the issue, Buggin’ Out calls him out, gathering a crowd of other youth bothered by the heat. Despite the short 2 minute interaction in film, the scene covers issues of who belongs to what spaces because of their race and the value of certain black merchandise.
The first thing I noticed in the scene was the white male is wearing a Larry Bird jersey, a famous basketball player who was once dirt poor. Bird models the American Dream for white Americans: from rags to riches, extremely talented in a single aspect, hardworking, and inspiring for youth. On the other hand, one of Buggin’ Out’s peers is wearing a Magic Johnson jersey, the complete opposite of Bird in race, style, and background. The rivalry between Magic and Bird lasted for years, often being described as black vs. white by the media.
This wardrobe choice represents the tension between the characters and between race. Buggin Out and his peers question why the white male brought a brownstone in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, a black neighborhood. He replies because America is a free country and he can own property anywhere. To counter this, Buggin Out’s peers yell this white male messed up his Jordan’s, an item $108.38 after tax, which they claim warrants a beat down. The youth exaggerate the value of sneakers so that an audience may consider Jordan’s as priceless. Blacks value this type of black merchandise despite its cost because of the name.
Because of his dress, Buggin Out and his peers tell the white male to move back to Massachusetts, an insult common to white Americans living in black neighborhoods in New York City. However, the white male informs the youth he is from Brooklyn with confidence. In frustration, the youth yell out a few more slanders in hopes to rile up the white male and convince him to leave Brooklyn. Yet their attempt fails, since the white male walks into his brownstone relaxed and ignoring them. Since Buggin Out’s interaction did not resolve as he hoped and he also feels disrespected, he continues to carry that tension through the film, until it boils over during his duel with Sal.