Monday, August 31, 2015

On Zahra Schreiber and Institutional WWE Racism

Schreiber got into some trouble when her past caught up with her
Photo via @zahraschreiber
Zahra Schreiber made headlines this past weekend. Sure, she made her NXT live event debut as Solomon Crowe's "sister" on Saturday, but that act wasn't nearly enough for her to gain the notoriety that had her trending on Twitter, unfortunately. Someone unearthed two Instagram posts from over three years ago that displayed Nazi imagery and paraphernalia. The posts, which have since been deleted, featured Schreiber doubling down on her pictures with asinine comments like "The swastika means prosperity and luck" or bringing out the "I have black friends" defense. It was not a good look at all, and people took her to task for it, as one would.

The problem with going after someone like Schreiber, however, is that the desired reaction to gross indulgences of bigotry is for the parent company to act in punitive measures, and the company in question here is a haven for people with questionable morals to say the least. It's fully reasonable that WWE shouldn't want anything to do with someone who proudly posts Nazi medals or who posts Hitler ponies and then tweets in emoji form the SS logo and a gun pointed to the head of a person in a turban, just like it was when WWE passed on hiring Jessicka Havok after those racist tweets came to the surface.

And much like the Havok flap, the posts in question were dredged up after a period of time, which without context shouldn't matter. A racist posting racist stuff is bad no matter how old it is without any sign of repentance or punitive measures. Whether the posts in question are ill-informed inside jokes in the case of Havok or some straight-up Stormfront shit like Schreiber's appear to be, it's fair to take them at face value until some kind of context comes forward. But what is good for the goose is more than good for the gander, and WWE is full of racism to the point where it could be considered an institutional pillar, and it's fair to say WWE hasn't changed enough that someone like Schreiber can be considered an outlier.

And that's where the self-congratulation on taking her down, especially if/when she gets punished by WWE for the posts, feels hollow, the same as the outrage over Havok. On one hand, all racism and bigotry should be tackled, but taking on a Performance Center student who JUST made her house show debut and a potential signee is like knocking over a pawn on a chessboard or battling Slimes and Drakees around Tantagel Castle in Dragon Warrior. It needs to be done, but it's rudimentary.

WWE is a company that still employs Michael PS Hayes, a man who freely has used the N-word against people of color. The only thing that was done to punish him was to suspend him with pay, which if you're counting at home, is nothing more than a vacation. Black wrestlers have sparsely been pushed to the main event, and until very recently, few of them have been able to portray characters that weren't stereotypes. Hell, WWE's. initial reaction to Alberto del Rio clocking a racist employee was to appease said racist employee instead of firing his ass along with del Rio's. WWE is a quagmire of racism (among other toxic -isms), so expecting to act with the moral hammer against low-level grunts feels disingenuous, even if that action is absolutely necessary.

When looking at it through that light though, it becomes an even trickier matter. The shit hits the fan and needs to be cleaned up, but if WWE can't be trusted to do it, who can? No easy answer is available other than hoping that maybe Triple H and Stephanie McMahon might run a better ship once they are put in charge. But then again, McMahon was the one who gave Hayes his paid vacation in response to his racism, and Schreiber is currently under the NXT purview that is Trips' baby. The ugly truth is that American racism is a problem that pervades every facet of society, and it's hard to offer a solution that won't shot down.

Which in some respects, maybe the best way to go is to hope that Schreiber will get some kind of punishment that will more importantly lead to rehabilitation, even if the people meting said punishment don't have the moral authority to do it. WWE certainly didn't have the authority to scrub Hulk Hogan from its history, but at the same time, he needed to pay a price. If you're waiting for someone with moral authority to be giving out the punishments, you're going to be waiting a long time in most cases. It's frustrating to say the least, and that's coming from someone who lives in a privileged class. I can't speak to how awful it is for a Jewish fan to see Schreiber's bullshit make light or Black fans to experience WWE's bullshit and so on and so forth, which is why this whole situation is so gross.

The fact of the matter remains that WWE needs to get on the ball. It can start by ridding itself of the clearly racist elements within, starting with Hayes. I doubt it ever will, at least if Vince McMahon remains in charge. It's a disgusting situation, but life can be pretty terrible, even in these United States. Well, I should say especially in these United States.

ETA: Zahra Schreiber has been fired for the pictures coming to light. This move is not surprising at all, and it's not undeserved.