Obama The New President, America Far From Post-Racial: A Drive Down MLK

This Tuesday, the day after the national observance of the Martin Luther King holiday, Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American, will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America making him the most powerful man in the world.

I am not someone who is overly pessimistic and believes that the election of Obama means nothing in terms of race-relations. The election of Obama is a sign of the progress in race relations that have been made in America and if you do not believe that just try and imagine an African-American 40 years ago, when half of America was segregated and the other half semi-segregated, even coming close to winning he office of the presidency no matter how qualified they were or how much they sold out.

However, I think that the talk of many in the media, the “netroots”, the young and idealists, conservatives, and liberal activists about the election of Obama making way for a post-racial America is absurd. It should come as no surprise that most of these people are making this argument are white ( or at least not black) and would like to absolve themselves from any racial introspection.

Obama will be inaugurated on Tuesday and hundreds of millions will be watching the event. In St. Louis there are going to be parties thrown all over town especially in the African-American community.

But, when we all wake up in Wednesday, we will still be waking up in a very segregated city. The vast majority of whites will not venture north of Delmar and there are many neighborhoods in St. Louis where African-Americans will still not feel safe after dark. Having a black man in the Oval Office will not change that.

Recently I had an older man in my cab that I guessed to be around 75. I was taking him from the trendy upscale urban neighborhood of the Central West End to the airport where he was catching a flight to Florida. I decided to take him straight up North Kingshighway to Highway 70 which at that time of the morning is the quickest way to the airport.

The man, who lives just blocks from the boundaries of North St. Louis, told me he had not driven through the North Side in at least 20 years and everything looked strange to him. There was a new streetscape, new stores, and new restaurants. The neighborhood we drove through is virtually 100% black and this was a white man.

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The Wrestler and Some Thoughts on Wrestling

I want to thank one of my favorite film directors, Darren Aronsky of Pi (the mathematical sign not what you eat or desire) fame, for making a serious film, The Wrestler,  about a very serious American cultural phenomena and that is pro wrestling.

In an interview with the BBC Aronsky stated that this was the first serious film ever made about wrestling. Contrast this to my favorite sport of boxing, which has had hundreds of serious films made about it including classics like Raging Bull, Rocky and Million Dollar Baby

The reason there have been no serious films about wrestling coming out of Hollywood I believe is because wrestling is seen as a fake and comical joke by many people. I remember Andy Rooney once saying on 60 Minutes that people who watch wrestling should not be able to vote. Well, that would be taking a lot of people out of the voter rolls since wrestling is the number watched programming for Latinos in America and has millions of other rabid fans from all races.

This film, staring Mickey Rourke, a guy I like a lot (hey he is an ex-boxer with an IRA tattoo), is a must see. It is more about life than wrestling as the character played by Rourke is broke and struggles to make ends meet living in a New Jersey trailer park and working at a supermarket while still wrestling on the indie circuit. His body is failing from all the punishment it has taken over the years, he is estranged from his grown daughter, and his only friend is an aging and lonely stripper. There are no Hollywood twists and turns and there is no happy ending. Real indie wrestlers and fans are used and this is a film based in New Jersey where you hear real working-class Jersey accents and see immigrants unlike in a lot of Hollywood films.

Now, I very seldom watch wrestling myself anymore. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I am not happy with the direction the industry has taken. Old school wrestling was based on a territorial system. Most of North America (and other parts of the world including Japan and New Zealand) was regulated by the territorial promotions of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Some of the legendary territories of the NWA were the St. Louis Wrestling Club of promoters Sam Muchnik and later Pat O’Connor. The Mid-Atlantic territory of Jim Crocket Promotions in Carolinas, Virginia, DC Area and Georgia. The Graham brother’s promotion in Florida, Carlos Colon in Puerto Rico, Calgary Stampede Wrestling and many others.

The other major organizations were the American Wrestling Association based in Minnesota and covering the upper Midwest and parts of Canada. This promotion was mostly run by the legendary trainer Verne Gagne. Then you had what would later become the WWF and then the WWE based in New York and ran by Vince McMahon, Sr. and later by Jr.

It is McMahon that made the working man’s opera, the violent theater to the masses, the ultimate good versus evil show, into a cartoon. Not only did McMahon turn his promotion into one heavy on steroid using muscle bound greased down guys and half-naked women in goofy story lines and short matches; but he attacked and ultimately destroyed the territorial system and thus ruined wrestling.

How else did he ruin wrestling?

No Blood, No More Hardcore. In order to go more mainstream and be friendly to TV moms he took hardcore out of wrestling. So, in his operation, wrestlers and matches like this would have no place.

Abdullah the Butcher V. Chief Wahoo McDaniel

No More Local Legends. As the local system was broke down local legends, who in many cases were the most popular celebrities in their local markets, like Jerry “the King” Lawler in Memphis and the Von Erich Brothers in Texas, no longer had a place in a national operation. Many smaller towns, that were huge wrestling towns, like Greensboro, NC and Norfolk, VA very seldom even have wrestling shows any more because of the nationalized system.

Jerry the King Lawler. He OWNED Memphis and Andy Kauffman.

Continue reading “The Wrestler and Some Thoughts on Wrestling”