Warning: Before I waste anyone’s time, I want people to know this column is going to involve political discourse. So if for any reason you are against political talk on a wrestling website, I advise you not to read this. There are plenty of other columns on the website you can read, and I respect your decision.
I must admit that I am not a fan of Mahal’s in-ring or promo work and do not believe he is championship worthy at this moment in time. There have been undeserving champions in the past and will continue to be ones. I can accept that. What I cannot accept is the gimmick itself. The gimmick as a whole has been a poor reflection of Vince McMahon’s perspective on social issues and that, among other reasons, is why WWE should stop visiting politicized storylines.
Even though WWE has done a dismal job clarifying why fans should hate Mahal, there are only two valid reasons why. Aside from those who boo Mahal due to his lack of ability, people are booing (or at least are told to boo) Mahal due to xenophobia and/or race-card shenanigans. It is worth noting that WWE fans booed a little old Indian woman simply for singing the national anthem, showcasing the extent of how much WWE has programmed its fans to dislike foreigners simply for being foreigners.
The Jinder Mahal angle is a testament to McMahon’s jingoistic way of viewing the world. His blind patriotism may have generated billions of dollars in the 80s but today a number of people are more aware of the problems in America, particularly with inequality, and that immigrants are overall contributing, not undermining, society. Even from a pure wrestling standpoint, stock All-American vs. stock Evil Foreigner is too passe and skin-deep for today’s wrestling fans. Most wrestling fans react better to more robust, fleshed-out, and layered characters and wrestlers.
Much thanks to Donald Trump, there has been a large increase in xenophobia – with the ultra-right rhetoric turned up to a max level- and has either goaded people into believing in its doctrine or intensified their anger. This is in spite of statistics and data overwhelmingly showing how economically benefiting immigration has been for the USA.
But — in spite of overwhelming statistics showing how wondrous DACA has been for America, with 97 percent working or going to school (and the fact that $460.3 billion would be loss from the economy if they got deported), in spite of evidence showing undocumented immigrants contributing 11 billion dollars to the economy a year and committing significantly less crime than regular citizens, in spite of evidence showing Muslims commit 4 percent of terrorist related attacks in America per year and almost half first-generation Muslims make over 50,000 a year or that Middle East refugees have committed zero terrorist attacks in America — the deep-rooted myths and deep-seated irrational hate is overwhelming at times and that was perceptible when reports came out Trump supporters largely voted for him due to fear of diversity, instead of economic reasons.
You may be asking yourself how this all relates to WWE now, and the answer to your possible question is that WWE is using agitprop in a way that is contributing to the problem. Instead of tackling a relevant issue in America, and using it as a way to point out the harm of thinking this way, the company is reinforcing these dangerous ideologies in an attempt to cash in on people’s baseless bigotry.
If you’re knee-jerk reaction was to rush to the comment section to point out how I’m over-reacting to the problem, think of WWE’s past. Does Booker T and Triple H ring a bell? How about Muhammad Hassan? Mexicools? The list goes on and on, frankly. Also, let’s not underestimate WWE’s power nor its audience. Let’s also not underestimate their fan base, children, whose minds going through developmental stages and ergo can quickly change their minds.
Now that we’ve tackled the first issue, it is time to tackle the other issue: race-card shenanigans:
The ingrained notion is that if you are a minority, poor, uneducated, and/or in jail, stop blaming social, political, and/or economic iniquities — blame yourself. This way of thinking contributes to two major problems: it gives social and psychic comfort to those who think that they are bigotry-free and can say minorities are eternal racists who cry racism at every slight or failure. It also allows them to bash civil rights leaders for playing the race card (today referred as identity politics) on every racial issue.
Mahal is blaming the fans of hating him due to the color of his skin. He is “making it up”, which is a gigantic problem as it is contributing to that doctrine. It is adding fuel to a society that wants to see all forms of bigotry as make believe, and things like Mahal give them enough evidence in their mind to make up their mind on every one of these issues until they pass away. Do some play the race-card? Yes, although it is an exception, not the rule; and now it is a common theme to see people, without a shred of evidence, say people were making up or staged the event to push their false narrative, as seen with Lebron James, Adam Jones, Michael Bennett, and so many more people just this year.
To top it all off, WWE cannot help itself from belittling and patronizing a Japanese wrestler, even if it’s a big international star like Shinsuke Nakamura. Vince McMahon’s recklessly simple-minded outlook on Japanese culture, perceiving anything not American culture as iniquitous and objectively wrongful, has no place in modern wrestling.
Now, as seen on Smackdown the previous couple of weeks, the “race-baiting” Mahal is victimizing Nakamura by using stereotypical insults, stripping him of individuality and humanity by way of pigeonholing him. God forbid they played up how groundbreaking it is for two international stars to be competing for the WWE Championship and humanized them by showing their upbringings, cultures, and incredible journeys to WWE instead of relying on lowbrow, bottom of the barrel subject material.
Hate is easy, it is a hazy rush of judgment to outcast someone as inferior to your individual self or culture. It is instinctive and effortless. Understanding is hard. It takes even more than research and effort. It takes the ability to imagine stepping in someone else’s shoes to understand and see from their perspective. Hate is closed-mindedness. Understanding is open-mindedness. Anyone can do what WWE is doing; it is simply not skillful in any way, yet it is counterproductive in so many ways.