A larger conversation about Race and WWE

A few days ago, when news of the Jordan Myles situation first broke, the first thing I remember doing is rolling my eyes, and quickly exiting out of the tab I had open on my phone. I was party to the whole "Hulk Hogan" situation, and remembered how that went, and honestly, I'm none too eager to go through that again. But after the past few days, I wanted to give people an opportunity to learn why it is so difficult being black, and wanting to follow WWE. Fair warning: this post will be a bit lengthy, but if you truly want to learn, I encourage you to take the time to read through it (and if you want, click on any hyperlinks for further reading). Yesterday, I spoke on it, saying what I've told a lot of people online: I hate talking about race with people who pretend that they want to learn. As a POC (person of color) living in America, it is exhausting.

Yesterday's comment thread about Jordan Myles' Twitter rant became a prime example of why I, personally, hate talking about race. Looking through the comments, you get one unified message: how Myles is handling this is wrong, and therefore, what he is trying to say is invalid. To compound this, Titus O'Neil than weighed in on the situation, and the general feeling was that Titus was a good example of the correct way to handle this. Even Booker T had things to say about the use of social media for work-related issues. So, because so many people have already addressed what Myles has said, I won't go into the whole Jay Lethal/Uncle Tom thing, because my feelings on that subject align with Titus: sometimes, you need to aim at your targets more precisely, than trying to fire blindly into a crowd with no regard for collateral damage.

Instead, I want to talk more about WHY it's so difficult for black people to talk about race "the right way". And to start off with, I want to first discuss everyone's favorite example of how to talk about race the right way: Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the few heralded black men in history who people see as the "Moses" of African Americans, leading his people to the promised land that he once dreamed about. He even has a holiday celebrating his life and accomplishments. In 2019, we teach our children about the black preacher who led peaceful protests that allowed white Americans time to see that African Americans were humans who didn't deserve to be lynched, murdered, dehumanized, raped, enslaved, or treated as the degenerates of the species. In 2019, we look back on Martin Luther King Jr. fondly.

In the 1960s, however, feelings about Martin Luther King, Jr., was much different. During the 1960s, only 36% of Americans thought that Martin Luther's peaceful protests were actually effective. The numbers for his approval rating throughout the 1960s are even more telling:

In 1963, King had a 41% positive and a 37% negative rating; in 1964, it was 43% positive and 39% negative; in 1965, his rating was 45% positive and 45% negative; and in 1966 -- the last Gallup measure of King using this scalometer procedure -- it was 32% positive and 63% negative.

Via Gallup Poll

All this is to say that the man who is revered now as one of the most liked men in history because of how he handled things, was turning away a lot of people with those same tactics, from 1963-1966, with over half of America having a negative opinion of him a few years before his death. A man who spent a decade of his life preaching peace and non-violent resistance, of doing things the right way, was hated. 30 years later, he became one of the most beloved people in America.

So what does that have to do with the WWE and the Jordan Myles situation, exactly? To make that link, first, we need to admit some things to ourselves. WWE has a very troubled history with race relations. The Atlantic covers it better than I could in a reasonable amount of time, but here's a non-summative list of a few things straight off the top of my head:

  1. The lack of African American World Champions
  2. DX Blackface
  3. Booker T losing to Triple H in a storyline based around his race
  4. Hulk Hogan being rehired despite current black wrestlers complaints, and even after a non-apology where he advised people be careful what they say because they could be recorded
  5. In a sense of irony, Randy Orton not being careful what he was saying, while being recorded
  6. Cryme Tyme (seriously)
  7. The inability to build a black superstar who doesn't dance, smile, and/or rap
  8. Vince McMahon using the N word in front of Booker
In short: WWE has a race relations problem. More specifically, they have a history of shamelessly exploiting sensitive race issues for profit (at best), while not acknowledging how this history could push away black viewers. And to this day, nobody has had a serious conversation about it. Kofi Kingston's championship victory, and it's significance to the African American community (and honestly, the black community extending beyond America), was left to be covered by sites with no affiliation with the WWE machine. A significance that may be hard to understand if you're not black, and Kofi Kingston was just another "face" who had achieved his 11-year long dream.

Maybe you have to be black understand that it's hard to stomach that Kofi Kingston, a man who survived 3 man in a gauntlet match and took the fourth to his limit, and then a week later went the distance in the elimination chamber, and then endured yet another gauntlet match, finally won the championship, and then proceeded to beat challenger after challenger: this man lost to Brock Lesnar faster than perhaps any man built up as a legit champion has ever lost. Maybe you have to be black to understand the significance of Kofi winning the WWE championship, to then be able to understand how, given the non-comprehensive list of 8 that I mentioned above, covering 20 years of WWE race relations, those 9 seconds destroyed any Goodwill that WWE may have built up during those 6 months.

So, for the people who aren't black, and have a hard time understanding, and actually want to understand. I want you to equate 20 years of race relations in the WWE with the 200 years of race relations in America. From slavery, to the Civil War, to the Civil Rights. From DX Blackface, to rehiring Hogan to be the captain of the face team at the Saudi show. Try to understand the frustration of being in an environment like that. An environment that profits majorly from your contributions, and yet, denies you recognition for those significant contributions (from slavery, to 11 years grinding). An environment that stereotypes you (Reagan's War on Drugs in the black community, to Cryme Tyme robbing people), and then profits off of those stereotypes (the disproportionate amount of black people who get longer sentences than whites, to the bucketloads of Money that New Day has made for WWE off of merch).

Imagine the frustration of loving a form of entertainment that doesn't recognize you as a fan. This might actually be easier for you, because we all know how stubborn WWE can be with pushing a fan favorite without having their hand forced. We've all seen it, and we've all likely done our fair share of pushing. But imagine how it feels for a black fan to want to see a black person win the belt. Kofi Kingston. Mark Henry. Sasha Banks. Big E. Booker T. Apollo Crews. Apparently Titus O'Neill is a fan favorite around here. 3 of those people did, at one point, hold a World Championship. But it took them 5-11 years to actually hold them.

The thing about race relations in this country is that, (and forgive me if this sounds offensive), white men have constantly told black people to wait. To find the proper way to do things. To give them time to understand, and to make things right. And every time, African Americans have listened. We peacefully protested. We brought things up to the higher ups, behind closed doors. We did all of these things we were asked to do as black lives were constantly being ended. Being told told to wait, as we watched no progress being made from those asking us to. For 200 years, we've been asking America, until frustration boiled over from constantly being told to wait, over and over.

And for 20+ years, black fans of the WWE have been constantly told to wait. Wait past blackface. Wait past Triple H beating Booker T. Wait past Cryme Tyme. Wait past New Day. Wait while we watch Jinder Mahal get a WWE championship. Wait as we watch Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, so many white faces who showed up after all of our guys, who waited so long, not only get shots at championships, but actually win them, and lose them with dignity. And let's not even get started with the women's division. None of those black wrestlers have ever stepped out of line. They've been the perfect WWE wrestlers, and have made the company a lot of money. But the second that Sasha Banks gets frustrated with yet another Flair championship, or yet another push for Alexa Bliss, we judge her for doing things the "wrong way", as if she, and people like her, haven't been getting done the "wrong way" for years.

Titus O'Neill, who, again, everyone loves because he does things the right way, hasn't been seen on TV in months. Baron Corbin, who nobody wants to see, can't seem to stop being featured in top storylines. Maybe you have to not be a POC to not be frustrated, because for every Baron Corbin, you get a Kevin Owens, or a Daniel Bryan, or a Finn Balor. You get choices. Maybe you have to be black to understand how, instead of choices, we get random, irregular bones thrown at us every few years. The Rock. Booker T. Bobby Lashley. Mark Henry. Kofi Kingston. 20 years, at an average of every 4, we get a bone that suggests that maybe, just maybe, WWE is finally listening to their black viewers. Only to realize that bones don't last forever.

Which I want to bring back to the Jordan Myles situation. I will admit: bringing Lethal into the situation may have been a bad move. But let's not pretend that the target of his anger hasn't been making bad moves for the better part of 2 decades. Let's not forget that this isn't the first bad move they've made this year. Let's also put to rest this idea that the right way to handle this is behind closed doors. As Martin Luther King began to realize towards the end of his life, you can't force one side of the party to play by the rules, and not hold the other side to those same standards. As he said, "a riot is the language of the unheard". For 2 decades, we've watched black wrestlers handle things the right way, and in 2019, we are watching Hulk Hogan grace our screens as the captain of Faces, while the New Day are free-falling from champions, to jobbers who can't win, and again, Titus O'Neill is nowhere to be seen.

Like with kneeling in the NFL, peaceful protests in the 1960s, and the more disruptive BLM, "the right way" has become a euphemism for "a way that doesn't force us to confront the things that we like, the things that we are afraid to face, the things that show us just how far we've come as a country". How much more proof do you need that "the right way" isn't doing anything for African Americans?

In short, I implore you not to look away from Myles because of this idea that you have of the "right way" to do things. Historically, inside and out of the WWE, the right way has never been effective for Black Americans. What he's saying has merit. Just because he's doing it in a way that makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean you should look away. You don't have to be black to understand that, when nobody is hearing you, sometimes you need to speak louder. Instead, question your own selves. Why does Myles, speaking the truth, only louder, make you so uncomfortable?

I hope you've learned something from this, and if you've made it this far, thank you for your time. Be blessed.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.