Racism is probably the worst thing a person can be accused of in America.
Unfortunately, it is an accusation that is leveled in the most casual manner. It is leveled daily against conservatives who dare to differ from President Obama. It is leveled against comedy shows for not having black female cast members. It is now being leveled against World Wrestling Entertainment because, among other things, black wrestlers are losing too many matches. I kid you not.
Yet this is the argument by Dion Beary in an article in The Atlantic. But here is the claim Beary made that drew my attention. Beary writes, “In its 62 year history, WWE has never chosen a black wrestler to hold its world championship.”
So how does Beary address the championship reigns of Mark Henry and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
Beary claims that Henry was only the WWE Champion, not the World Heavyweight Champion. As Beary correctly notes, the WWE had two champions for over a decade until they merged the titles last year. The new title is called the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and is currently held by John Cena who carries both belts with him to the ring. So this makes the two championships equal in status. To complain that Henry held the WWE Championship rather than the World Heavyweight Championship is splitting hairs.
As for The Rock, Beary says he is of “African descent” but adds that he is “Half Samoan and half African-Canadian.” Johnson’s maternal grandfather, Peter Maivia, was from America Samoa and a wrestling star in the 1960s and 1970s. His father, Rocky Johnson, also a wrestling star during this same period was indeed born in Canada. To be precise, he was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia. The black population in Nova Scotia is Canada’s oldest going back to the 1780s when nearly 3,500 black United Empire Loyalists (many of whom had been slaves) fled after the American Revolution. Johnson might very well identify himself as Samoan, but one cannot deny his black heritage. To say that The Rock isn’t black would be like saying President Obama isn’t black because his mother was white.
As for professional wrestling, I don’t deny it is a cut throat business and many of its participants have died young. This is especially true of the WWE. There is no doubt there have been many black wrestlers who have been chewed up and spit out by Vince McMahon over the years. But there is a long line of white, Hispanic and Asian wrestlers who have been subjected to the same treatment by McMahon. The WWE and professional wrestling in general can be accused of many things. Racism isn’t one of them.