"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."
--Frederick Douglas, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro, July 5, 1852
In retrospect, it sounds pretty stupid when you say it out loud. You know, founding a nation to escape bondage from the Kingdom of Britain, only to turn around and do the exact same thing with African slaves. It reminds me of those old anti-drug ads, where the incredulous dad bursts in on his son, mid puff.
"I learned it from watching you!"
Fast forward a few hundred years and you can argue that WWE is a pretty good reflection of the melting pot in these Untied States. A quick scroll of the roster will reveal a cast of characters from all walks of life and quite literally, all shapes and sizes.
You can start at the top.
A Mexican aristocrat named Alberto Del Rio is the World Heavyweight Champion, mirrored by a patriotic lad from Boston, John Cena, who wears the WWE crown. Mark Henry, a powerfully built African-American, will fight for the strap later this month, just as a pair of Samoan kids known as "The Usos" vie for the tag team titles.
Much to the chagrin of a fat little toad named Zeb Colter.
Colter is a modern day Doink. While he's managed to escape the greasy face paint and doot-doot-doodle-doodle theme song, he's every bit the evil clown. His jokes are not funny, his commentary is hurtful and well, let's just go ahead and say it, he looks kinda creepy.
That's the point.
Whereas Colter would have been right at home as a venom-spewing manager in the mid 1980s, his script feels somewhat dated. His vision of America, while kayfabe, regrettably mirrors that of a large populace still roaming the streets of this country. Oh yeah, they're out there.
But they're outnumbered.
At one time, the population of the Klu Klux Klan reached as high as six million members. Today, it's just a few thousand. And good luck finding them. They have to conduct business on the dirt floor of some hick's musty basement, or send secret n-word messages via carrier pigeon.
It was 40 years ago when Bruce Lee changed American cinema with Enter the Dragon, but the studio refused to release a film that featured Lee in the top billing. He was deemed "too Oriental looking" and therefore needed a Caucasian like John Saxon to soften up the image. Funny thing is, some people still feel that way.
But there's more of us than there are of them. A lot more.
Is racism still a problem? Or course. Do we have real-world issues with immigration and citizenship? Absolutely. But Colter, and the people from past (and present) generations who think like him ... their side lost. Quite some time ago, actually, which is why to me, his character gets such tepid boos.
"Boo" as is "shut your trap" instead of the heelish "I hate you!"
The days of trying to define a "real American," like Zebby wants us to, are over. They're over because America was not borne from the imagination of one man, rather, it was the dream of a collective. It's that same collective that lives and breathes today, reflected in our popular culture.
We have a seven-foot behemoth from India named Great Khali teaming up with a four-foot leprechaun called Hornswaggle hailing from "The End of the Rainbow" in Ireland. They operate under a female manager of Monday Night RAW named Vickie Guerrero.
And it's not by accident.
The WWE roster is a mirror-image of its fan base. Pan the crowd at a live event, or shake a few hands at a WWE FAN AXXESS show. It's not populated by a bunch of skinheads or right-wing honky tonks, it's comprised of men, women and children of all shapes and sizes. Like us! Remember, you can't spell WWE without WE.