I remember the images well. The lean and distinguished Barack Obama addressing the throngs of global citizens who braved freezing temperatures in our nation’s capital to personally witness the historic inauguration of this country’s first African-American president.
The echoes of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, juxtaposed with refrains of “We Shall Overcome” composed the soundtrack of change ushered in by the election of President Obama and the promise of heightened expectations for our country and our people.
The weight of an economically challenged nation was only one aspect of Obama’s burden. His election did not only symbolize the democratic changing of the guard, but also carried with it the expectation that a climate of racial change had permeated our national fabric, and that the frosty winter of intolerance and demeaning stereotypes had evolved into a temperate environment of unfettered access for all, embodied by the caramel-complexioned leader of the free world.
Though not all Americans shared this utopian expectation, even the most stalwart cynics of race relations in this country had to concede that President Obama’s election was at the very least a sign of progress.
As I visited friends this holiday, I reclined on a chair and engaged in a discussion about a topic of which I know very little: professional wrestling.
Somewhere in between adolescence and my teenage years, I developed the sometimes annoying trait of logic, which quickly made me lose all interest in the soap opera in the squared ring known as pro wrestling.
Some friends of mine were talking about the current characters on the wrestling circuit known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), including a nefarious duo known as Cryme Tyme.
Since I was not familiar with the duo, my friends wanted to show me this pair of pseudo-pugilists, and promptly displayed a pre-recorded match featuring the tag team.
Much to my horror, this Cryme Tyme team consisted of two African-American men who entered the ring to the raucous bass lines of “gangsta rap” music. They had on baggy jeans with the mandatory underwear showing at the waist. To fully complete their ensembles, they boasted grills on their teeth, oversized platinum chains and pendants, and an assortment of other hood- essential accessories.
After recovering from my initial shock that two brothers in 2009 would actually prostitute themselves in this ode to buffoonery, I took a breath to check my hypersensitivity barometer. After all, it’s just entertainment, and everyone knows wrestling is not real.
As I write this column, it has been two days since I was introduced to Cryme Tyme, and I have yet to achieve the level of objectivity that would allow me not to be disturbed by the presentation of these men, along with their willingness to adopt this black gangster image and have it consumed by millions of Americans, many of them children.
The fact that in this era of Obama and the continued emergence of African-American CEOs and other notable professionals, that there is entertainment value in heralding the misguided “gangsterism” of some of our youth, shows that although we have made progress, we certainly have not yet overcome.
The question that we must ask as we enter 2010 is: What has made more of an impact in our community: one black president making a speech on prime time, or two black male wrestlers named Cryme Tyme?
Only time will tell.