The Linda McMahon scandal du jour is her previously undisclosed payment to a New Haven alderman, Darnell Goldson, to drum up support for her 2010 Senate candidacy in black churches and throughout the African-American community.
The good news out of all this is not that Goldson proved so bad at his job. It is how this anecdote further establishes that there is not a racist bone in either Linda’s body or that of her husband Vince McMahon, the potentate of World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s all just business to them. They do not and never have had time to hate.
In my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon, I contrasted the racialist booking practices of the McMahons with those of my late uncle, Sam Muchnick, the most famous and influential pro wrestling promoter of the era before them. Sam promoted in post-Jim Crow St. Louis, when it was better to be segregationist and genteel than integrationist and exploitive. Sam treated the great crossover pro football-to-wrestling star, Ernie “The Cat” Ladd, with the utmost respect – but Sam also never wanted to risk the riot that a spot on the top of the card for Ladd might have invited.
Vince McMahon, as always, had a better idea. “Kimala,” the Ugandan Headhunter? “Slick,” the preacher? The ho’-assembling “Godfather”? Bring them on!
The same principle should be applied to the inevitable revival, in Linda McMahon’s 2012 campaign, of the debate over wrestling’s misogny. Let the word go forth, from Christiane Amanpour on down, that WWE’s job creation – excuse me, independent-contractor creation – machine is all about maximizing opportunity, by any means.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere about the soft bigotry of low expectations. But that’s a subject for another day.