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Black Women and the Struggle for Respect
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Black Women and the Struggle for Respect

“The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman.”

That’s what Malcolm X said in 1962. Sixty years later and Malcolm X’s words are just as true now.

Black women and the struggle for respect is real.

Wrestling companies, wrestlers, and fans have long disrespected black women in wrestling. Recently, we’ve seen WWE superstars, Sasha Banks, and Naomi being disrespected by WWE, causing discontent in the wrestling community. We’ve seen this before. The same type of disrespect, different company, different Black women wrestlers.

Black women, Sasha Banks and Naomi win tag team championships
Image Credit: WWE

Black women wrestlers are stuck in an ongoing cycle of demeaning disrespect, which presumably won’t stop until society sees the value in Black women. WWE clearly handled this situation poorly. There was no reason for the company to create a public campaign about something that happened in private unless it is an attempt to discredit Banks and Naomi.

Is This A Work?

If you watched the May 16, 2022 episode of Monday Night Raw, you’ve probably asked yourself that question multiple times in the last couple of days. Is this a work? WWE announced a women’s six-pack challenge (Sasha Banks vs. Naomi vs. Asuka vs. Becky Lynch vs. Doudrop vs. Nikki A.S.H), with the winner facing Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair at the premium live event Hell in a Cell. Sounds normal, right? But then things start to get bizarre.

First, a backstage segment featuring Lynch and Adam Pearce, where Lynch says WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Banks and Naomi left the arena. OK. So, they removed the WWE Women’s Tag Team champions from the match. That makes sense, they’re the tag team champions, give the two spots to Alexa Bliss, Lacey Evans, Sonya Deville, Carmella, or Zelina Vega. Right? Nope. It’s now a singles between Asuka and Lynch. Fine. Wrestling cards are subject to change.

It’s Not A Work

The RAW commentary team, specifically Corey Graves, began to make continuous statements about Banks and Naomi “unprofessionally” walking out. This should be an interesting storyline, right? Then things start to get interesting. PWInsider was the first wrestling news site to break the news. PWInsider reported Sasha Banks met with WWE owner Vince McMahon because she didn’t like the creative plans for the six-pack main event.

And then the Fightful Select article drops with more details. We all know “dirt sheets” never get it right. This has to be a work? Graves calling Banks and Naomi unprofessionally on TV. More information drops. A Twitter thread published by a friend of Naomi, @Adidas_Head88, confirms much of what PWInsider and Fightful Select have reported.

What if this is real? WWE wouldn’t publicly discuss a backstage situation, would it? Well, WWE released an official statement on the matter. The initial statement, sent to wrestling media, looked like a notes app post, by the way. This has to be a story. 12:32 a.m. May 17, 2022, WWE released an official statement on its website. We’ve been here before. It’s the same emotional feeling experienced after reading “I felt her wrestling wasn’t good enough.”

The Dangers of Publicly Attacking Black Women

When Black women are publicly demeaned and disrespected the attacks are oftentimes subtle, but they have profound effects. In the case of WWE’s official statement and on-air message delivered by commentator Michael Cole, the attacks were subtle but meant to devalue Banks and Naomi professionally. A statement like “they claimed they weren’t respected enough as tag team champions” spun into a nasty stereotype.

Black woman looking serious in office setting.
Black women are less likely to feel they are treated with respect in the workplace.

But it isn’t rare for Black women to feel disrespected in the workplace.

Black women in the workplace have been the subject of numerous studies in the United States. Some of the reports have shown that Black women have a flawed workplace experience. An online survey conducted by the Gallup Center on Black Voices, from November 2020 to December 2020, found that Black women are less likely to feel they are treated with respect in the workplace. They are also less likely to feel like a valued member of their team and that their coworkers treat everyone fairly.

Statements like “and even though they had eight hours to rehearse and construct their match, they claimed they were uncomfortable in the ring with two of their opponents even though they’d had matches with those individuals in the past with no consequence,” help perpetuate the stereotype that Banks and Naomi, two Black women, are difficult to work with. Above all, labeling Black women as difficult to work with is closely related to the Angry Black Woman stereotype. A stereotype that has been a shameful image in American culture for decades, dating back to the aftermath of slavery. Today, the stereotype is still active.

The Same Narrative

When it comes to situations involving Black women in wrestling, there is always an online narrative that no one supports or has sympathy for their Black female colleagues. None of their coworkers care. None of their coworkers like them. In the statement from WWE, delivered by Cole, Sasha Banks and Naomi let their peers down. This narrative is pushed continuously even when some coworkers show public support.

See Also

Remember Brandi Rhodes’ departure from AEW. Wrestling media reported that Rhodes wasn’t well-liked in the AEW locker room. The narrative continued even after Nyla Rose, Vickie Guerrero, and Red Velvet tweeted in support of Rhodes.

Of course, it’s rare that a person is liked by everyone on the job. It’s also rare that every coworker who supports a person will speak publicly. We shouldn’t expect every WWE superstar to speak publicly. Many superstars may fear losing their jobs, company status, and/or fanbase. Because wrestling is a business. Is it realistic or fair to demand that Banks and Naomi’s colleagues publicly speak in their favor?

Support Black Women. Support Black Wrestlers and Not Companies

The wrestling industry loves to disrespect black women. Therefore, fans should always support wresters and not companies and owners.

For a while now, WWE has taken strides to showcase and present Black wrestlers in a more reputable way. But, despite their best efforts on screen, the company is now in a three steps forward, two steps back situation. Running a PR smear campaign in an attempt to destroy the professional careers of two Black women, casts a dark shadow on the company. And whether you agree or disagree with Sasha Banks and Naomi’s decision to walk out, we should all be able to agree that WWE’s decision to run a public campaign is wrong. Additionally, fans should demand accountability from WWE the same way we demanded accountability from All Elite Wrestling after the company disrespected Big Swole. Hold WWE accountable.

Black women and the struggle for respect in the workplace is real.

Again, situations like this are a good reminder to support Black-owned wrestling companies and Black shows.

Also, support Mercedes Varnado. Support Trinity Fatu.


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