Last Tuesday night WWE sent Jinder Mahal (a heel whose main motivation is the fact he’s Indian) down to the ring to make a series of crass jokes about Shinsuke Nakamura. He made fun of the Japanese tendency to pronounce ls as rs and referred to Shinsuke as Mr Miyagi. They were dumb, insensitive jokes and screamed of something that Vince McMahon would find hilarious. They also speak to a problem at the heart of WWE.
Because yes, WWE is racist. It’s the kind of institutionalised racism you see at large companies, but rather than it being displayed with missed opportunities and sly comments, they send people out onto TV to speak it to the world. When that is treated with the contempt that it deserves, they hide behind the excuse of these men and women portraying characters. It’s perfectly acceptable to portray a racist character in an entertainment setting. A film like Detroit recently did it to great effect, but that film was trying to make a point. The writing was clever, WWE’s is not.
I would bet every penny I own that there isn’t going to be some great message here. They’re not going to show that Mahal is lashing out at Nakamura because of the abuse he himself receives. They’re not going to show how these words effect Shinsuke or why they’re unacceptable. They’re just going to move on. They’re already doing that and have failed to upload the segment to their YouTube channel, making it clear that they are aware of their mistake.
It’s also important to state that Mahal is unlikely to be at fault for this. The man is an atrocious wrestler, but he’s also a guy trying to survive in a company that chews people up and spits them out on a weekly basis. He’ll have been handed a script, and he probably had misgivings about it, but at the end of the day, he’s not a veteran or a regular main eventer. He’s an over-pushed talent who could be kicked to the curb without a moment’s notice. I’m assuming a lot here, but it would not surprise me at all if Mahal kept quiet just to avoid trouble.
Which, again, brings us back to that institutionalised racism. The entirety of WWE dances to the tune of one man’s band. Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon: the elderly, billionaire white guy who is a well-known supporter of Donald Trump. While he obviously doesn’t write every word that gets spoken on TV, his is the final say, and it’s Vince that ever writer working there will be aiming to impress. If you want to look at why WWE has the racial issues it does, the buck starts and ends with the guy at the top.
And you know what, wrestling has always been a racist industry. You only have to look at how many ‘savages’ there have been over the years. It’s not just Vince either, Crockett, Watts and all of the others were doing it. They played to the ‘white trash’ audience and gave them the storylines they wanted. However, outside of WWE, that is beginning to change. The industry as a whole is cleaning up, and we’re seeing more diversity and acceptance among companies and fans. Homophobia, racism and sexism are no longer part of the business. It’s just a shame that the biggest company in the world still falls back on the same old crap whenever they get a chance.