What about ACH?

It’s been over a month now, and everything is still changing rapidly even as I type this out (I started this back when he first showed us the T-shirt design). My own opinion has been fluid and everchanging as well so if you’re looking for me to have some definitive assessment……..that’s just not happening, and may not happen ever. That especially pertains to ACH on a personal level. Now that I’m in that age bracket where guys like ACH are like sons/nephews/little brothers to me I’ve been forced to accept that they don’t necessarily handle things the way I would when it comes to what we put on the internet. I wouldn’t have aired everything out Twitter like he has, but I’m not one to do that anyway. Having grown up in a world different from people 10 years or more younger than me, a world where the internet was not a thing until I was in my twenties and not one where it was there from my childhood, this is an entirely different ballgame than the one I played for the first half of my life. Unless we get a full picture of what he’s dealing with personally and professionally (which we may never get and he never has to give us) then we’re doing the same old speculating and filling in the blanks we always do based on who we already liked or disliked going in, and what we want to be true. At this point it’s best to not run with anything until he or someone directly involved is willing to go on the record.

And as far as whether or not he’s dealing some undiagnosed mental health issues…..man, I don’t know. A lot of us have been playing amateur psychiatrist on Twitter and have no idea what we’re talking about. Yeah he’s been kinda all over the map with some of the things he’s said. I think we can acknowledge that without acting like we can determine that someone’s bipolar based on some tweets. It’s ok to not know the answer!! And look, I’m not doing this piece as a conversation ender by any means. When we know more, I’ll say more but for now this is what I feel comfortable saying.

There are some things that bother me about him taking it to social media. One is the way that the Twitter mob has continually egged him on to spill the tea, air everyone out, or whatever your phrase of choice is. It’s gotten out of hand real fast, with a lot of people treating it as if it’s just good content to gawk at, or using it as a stalking horse to push out of some of their already existing takes. Some of these folks may have real concern for ACH and his well being but I’m willing to bet that few if any of them give a damn beyond what they can take for themselves out of all of this. I was always told to think twice before following the advice of people who can’t or won’t do anything for you if things go belly up after doing what they suggest. I think this is absolutely one of those situations. How many of us are gonna lift a finger to help him should this lead somewhere he did not expect, and he ends up in some kind of dire straits? Be honest now. Are we making hay of all this, of things that happened to him and not us, for his benefit or our own amusement?

But no matter what happens with him on individual level he did get us talking about some issues that need to be addressed in the world of professional wrestling, both for the participants and us spectators/customers. He called WWE a racist company, which in some ways it sure is. Do they hold Klan meetings in the board rooms? I’ll assume no, but just like pretty much every big company or organization in America they operate in ways that prioritize and benefit their white employees and customers over everyone else. That’s true in terms of who is the default in terms of being put on TV, who gets hired to work backstage and in the office. And whether or not it’s done with malice the results end up being the same. When Hulk Hogan and Jerry Lawler keep getting brought back it’s gonna make a lot of us feel some kinda way, and when we’re told to lighten up by some of our fellow fans I can tell you that my instinctive reaction is to tell them to go jump in the lake. If you don’t already get this, understand that are a lot more ways to be racist than calling us Niggers and putting on Klan robes. Exclusion and lack of sensitivity on issues that matter to us, even if done without any ill intent, are wrong and need to be called out. And when they get called out some of y’all need to be quiet and let the issues be raised, as opposed to throwing around terms like ‘Black Supremacist’ or ‘Reverse Racism’ as some idiots do.

Look, this isn’t just about who gets booked to win matches or gets to be champion. I don’t think that’s what was running through ACH’s mind when he thought about that T-shirt design and decided to unload. It’s about the environment backstage, and whether or not these men and women are being listened to when something bad happens or they have some other concern. It’s about how much help they get in presenting their characters, setting up their gimmicks, etc. compared to their white counterparts. And obviously now it’s about how much awareness exists across the board in whatever company they work for when it comes to issues of race. There need to be way more people employed there in every department who at least have a clue what ideas certain images evoke. It’s great to hire more of us as wrestlers but there’s a lot more work to be done to ensure our success, which should be a goal because our success within your wrestling company ultimately factors into the success of your company. Simply putting a belt on somebody isn’t a magic solution at all, especially with the history of WWE and the business as a whole when it comes to race.

SO JUST GO ELSEWHERE!!!

I saw a few people offer that up as a solution not just to ACH but to other black wrestlers in WWE, black wrestlers outside the company who are mulling career options, amd even us fans. If guys like ACH and Lio Rush are running into problems and older guys like Kofi Kingston have to endure for years to get some of the same programs as their white co workers and women like Naomi are constantly put on the backburner then maybe we should all move on to work for and patronize a company that will treat us all better. To that I say…..no. First of all, that place doesn’t really exist. ACH unloaded on Ring of Honor as well and his shot at Jay Lethal aside he was spot on about all the black guys who’d been there and were barely pushed or guys like Shane Taylor who had to create his own gimmick and force the company to promote him more. AEW is a new company and we have yet to see over the long haul how they’re going to deal with us; any current criticism needs to be kept in context but let’s not award them any medals yet either. MLW has done well in some aspects as far as pushes onscreen and production backstage but they’re still very much a feeder system to other companies. And I’m sure if you talk to black indie wrestlers who’ve never set foot in any large or mid-size company they will have some stories for you, too.

And secondly why should we have to cross the biggest company in the business off the list to work for or patronize? That’s like saying no to Microsoft or Google or the NFL or Disney. If I like steak from Ruth’s Chris then I should be to eat there without being treated badly by the staff; I shouldn’t have to go to Outback or some other place to be treated right. No, if the largest place is truly to be for everyone as advertised then they should be challenged to do better. Walking away ultimately lets them off the hook, and doesn’t rectify the situation. It lets some of you guys off the hook, too, as you’ll get to once again dodge having to examine the ways the status quo in our society does harm to your fellow citizens and human beings. Every time stuff like this gets swept under the rug or some quick Kumbaya resolution is forced we are allowing, encouraging, and abetting the worst of us to continue to hurt people who have had to overcome tacked on disadvantages, disadvantages meant to subjugate us, from the day they were born.

So in closing there are two situations here, an individual one with ACH and a larger one with all of us. ACH is a young man trying to find his way in an unforgiving business and in the world at large. However you assess the way he’s handled things and whether you agree with him or not you should want him to find some kind of satisfying resolution to what he’s dealing with. After all what exactly are any of us gaining if he doesn’t? Does that somehow make your life better? I sure hope not because if it does then maybe you’re the one who needs some help and not him. The rest of us need to look at what’s happened with him and all the other people who work for WWE and the business as a whole and see the struggles that they’re enduring for our entertainment. And by the rest of us I mean all of us. Black people’s issues aren’t just for black people to address the same way women’s issues are not just for women for to address or any other group’s issues are not just for that group to address. We are all sharing this space here on earth and as wrestling fans, and what hinders one group will ultimately hurt and limit you as well.

So finally while I do not line up with every point along the way he’s dealt with this situation I hope he finds what he’s looking for in his career and in life, and I think all of you should, too. There’s more than one way to get there and the path you or I would choose may not be the one he needs to take. He’s a human being and we need to treat him as such. I think we made him into too much of a hero at first, and now that some problematic tweets of his have surfaced some people are going too far in the other direction. I don’t have a real answer to it all, I just hope that he gets what he needs and we do more of what we need in the grand scheme of things.