There was a manufactured outrage situation earlier this week when Big E tweeted out a picture backstage that he and his New Day teammates took with RAW Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and recently crowned Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann. Here’s the picture:
So you have a group of champions taking a picture backstage. Happens fairly often, either as a promotional thing or just coworkers taking a picture together. No problem, right? Well there wasn’t any problem except that Big E added #BlackExcellence as a caption. And then, on cue…….
“If Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, and Alexa Bliss took a picture with a hashtag White Excellence would that be ok?”
Those are just a few of the responses. Now some were just trolls (including one idiot who was blatantly trying to promote his podcast) but serious or not people need to get over themselves. There’s nothing to be mad about here.
You want to know why? It’s called history. The wrestling business, like every other branch of the entertainment industry, has a long sordid history of racism both in front of and behind the camera. And the issues are largely the same – lack of roles that extend beyond stereotypes, lack of recognition compared to one’s white coworkers, inequal pay, you name it.
In the wrestling business carrying a championship is the same as getting a starring role in a major movie or television show or winning an award for said role. There just haven’t been that many black people given that level of acclaim in the business, so when you have multiple black people given that kind of accolade at the same time it’s grounds for some degree of celebration.
And to be honest if you’re not black you should be just as happy, because it represents progress. If nothing else it’s one less thing people can give you crap about for being a wrestling fan. You know how many black tag teams have held a WWE tag team title? By my count, four: New Day, Kofi Kingston & R-Truth, Men on a Mission, and the duo of Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas. That’s in over 30-plus years. In between that there countless all white teams and a few racially mixed teams (along with some Hispanic and Asian teams that were largely based on stereotypes). And on the women’s side Banks is the fourth WWE women’s champion ever following Alicia Fox, Jacqueline and Jazz. That’s four over roughly a decade and a half after several decades with none.
So yeah, there’s gonna be some elation and some cause to celebrate when something like this happens. And yes some of that celebration is going to be based in the race of the people involved. Get over it. Black wrestling fans have rooted for white wrestlers for decades, have bought their merchandise, etc the same way we’ve enjoyed movies and tv shows with all or mostly white casts and music made by white artists. We can do that, and when one of us breaks through we can celebrate it and them. And we’re going to, and not always in some color blind way. When a black wrestler being a champion isn’t such an anomaly then yeah, we won’t make as big a deal of it. But right now it still is, so we still we are. And we’re not going to ask for permission either.
Kofi Kingston went on to eloquently explain how there was no malice intended by the picture or the hashtag, but he shouldn’t have had to. When people who look like you have largely been cut out of major showcase opportunities often because they look like you then any reversal of that is going to be a happy occasion. And you’re gonna want to commemorate it.
They earned that moment through years of hard work and deserve a moment of mutual celebration. It’s no different then say, Daniel Bryan celebrating after Wrestlemania 30 in similar fashion because so many people who looked like him didn’t get the chance that he got on that night. If you can be happy the little guy with the shaggy beard got a chance normally reserved for guys who look like the men he beat that night you can be happy for everyone in that picture for the same reason.