Looking out: Wrestling with images
By Brandon Astor Jones
Recently I took the time to observe closely the so-called "wrestling match" on Saturday morning television. One combatant, the African-American, who I will refer to as Brother Man because I do not know his name, was slight in build. He wore red trunks and the appropriate soft ring-sneakers only.
He looked very much alone. I could not see another person of colour, not even in the audience as the camera swept over a cheering and jeering crowd. Most of those in the audience were pre- and early teenagers.
Brother Man's opponent was a Caucasian, who I will refer to as You Know Who. He was fully dressed and wearing western-style riding boots. He reminded me of a man you might pass on the side of a country road fixing the flat on his pick-up truck.
His boots had heels at least two inches high, with hard soles and pointed toes. He also wore blue jeans, held up with a pair of wide suspenders. He wore a western style shirt with two snaps on the smallest point of the two Vs that formed the flaps for each of the long sleeve shirt's two pockets. He even had on tan leather gloves, with the fingers cut off. All of that was topped off with a "twenty gallon" hat.
At ringside was You Know Who's manager, much older, dressed in a very white suit, vest and hat. He looked like "Colonel Sanders" of Kentucky Fried Chicken; he even wore white boots and a bushy white handlebar moustache.
Also at ringside was a cheering and jeering Caucasian woman; I will call her Miss Ann.
As one might suspect, as the match wore on, Brother Man was taking the beating of his life. It was as if he was paralysed and had no arms or legs with which to defend himself. Most of his time was spent on his knees or being flung hither and yon by You Know Who. On occasions You Know Who would stop slinging him around for a moment to savagely grind one of his boots into the throat or face of Brother Man.
The referee, who was constantly being distracted by the Colonel and Miss Ann, was looking the other way when You Know Who went into his front pocket and brought something out of it, with which he cold-cocked Brother Man. Like a stack of bricks, Brother Man fell to the mat; You Know Who leaped on top of him to pin him to the mat. With three slaps of the referee's hand, the match was over.
Miss Ann climbed into the ring and stood on You Know Who's left side, the referee stood on his right, and in unison they raised You Know Who's hands into the air. The audience stood to clap and cheer, thunderously.
You would have thought that the pretentiously orchestrated contest, so full of racist imagery, was over. Alas, it was not. Seconds later, from some hidden place, You Know Who produced a length of rope. He proceeded to hog-tie Brother Man, who was still lying dazed on the mat; and yes, the rope was tied around his neck as well.
In that Ted Turner Television production, the whole match, from start to finish, was a symbolic depiction of the "struggle between good and evil" — with, of course, a black man being the focus of evil. In a roundly racist society, not only does the pseudo-goodness of whiteness triumph over the designated evil, but the climax of the spectacle conjures up lynching.
Some readers may be of the opinion that I have read things into that wrestling match that were not there. Perhaps some are saying, "Hey Brandon, all you saw was just an innocent round of Saturday morning television fun, for the kids. It wasn't real."
Well, I would wager that every past or present woman or man of colour who ever lost a loved one to senseless mob violence would beg to differ. The savagery of racist mob violence, as was presented to all those white youth on that Saturday morning, is very real. One day when a few of those youths participate in an attack upon a child or person of colour, unconsciously driven by the scenes they saw that Saturday morning, perhaps it will be easier to understand.
When are we going to tell the television network big shots who produce the kind of garbage described that we have had enough?
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to receive letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, GD&CC, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA.]