As we stand at the dawn of the Trump Era I have bigger racial fish to fry than this, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let everything slide.
In November 2016 Steve Williams, better known as former professional wrestling superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin, featured comedian Jim Norton and radio host Sam Roberts on his highly popular podcast, The Steve Austin Show.
Now for those non-wrestling viewers, during the mid to late ’90s Stone Cold Steve Austin was arguably the most popular professional wrestler of his era. His redneck, ass-kicking, beer drinking, anti-authority character still resonates in the form of “What?!” chants in packed arenas and still hot-selling Austin 3:16 t-shirts.
And for the record, Austin 3:16 means “I just whipped your ass!”
But back to the podcast where for the majority of nearly two-hour discussion, the trio discussed mixed martial arts and pro-wrestling minutia until Norton asked Austin about his cross-sectional popularity. In describing all of the fans he had in his heyday, Austin said, “When I look at the pie that I had in my prime, I had it all — whether it’s chicks, guys, old people, young guys, colored people, white people, this that or whatever, I had ‘em all.”
Yeah, that’s right, COLORED people!
Now granted, Austin grew up in Edna, Texas, a town that as of the 2000 census had a population of just under 6,000, so it’s entirely plausible that the good white folks of Edna took their own sweet time to make the linguistic transition from “colored” to Afro-American or African-American or just Black.
But the fact is, the 52-year-old Austin entered first grade in 1970, well beyond the point that Black people found the term colored an acceptable descriptor. During his nearly 15-year pro wrestling career Austin traveled across the country and around the world many times over. And in this time, I doubt he encountered any Black people who found the term “colored” an acceptable label. In fact, the prime of the career Austin is referring to occurred in 1998, a time when calling a Black person colored could have landed the Texas Rattlesnake in a real-life, unscripted fight.
Following his retirement from wrestling in 2003, Austin has continued working in Hollywood as a film actor, a reality show host, and star of the aforementioned podcast where he “spews the bullshit that’s on [his] brain!”
And bullshit it was. But by the standards of professional wrestling, which traffics in played out tropes and offensive racial stereotypes, Austin’s comments weren’t so bad — but it’s a low bar.
Was his comment as bad as the time WWE CEO Vince McMahon called white wrestler John Cena “my nigga” on live TV? No.
And Austin’s comment wasn’t as bad as the disgusting, racist vitriol wrestling icon Hulk Hogan leveled at his daughter’s Black boyfriend —“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some nigger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall nigger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking nigger.”
So yes, Austin’s “colored” comment takes the bronze medal, but he definitely doesn’t get a pass considering it was said in two-thousand sixteen!
I’ve never slipped up and said Kraut when I meant German or Chink when I meant Chinese. And even if we look beyond Austin, what does it say that neither of his two guests seemed to notice and the podcast producer and audio engineer also let it slide and remain in the final version of the podcast.
While I don’t think a ban or a boycott is necessary, an apology is definitely warranted.
I know that in the Trump Era we are apparently supposed to just sit back and let this new wave of racism wash over us as we ride the tide to the shores of this newer, greater America where bragging about sexual assault is dismissed as “locker room talk,” it’s ok to cast Mexicans as rapists and murderers, and Muslims as terrorists en masse.
Well even though there are plenty of those who may desire to roll back the clocks and treat us the way you did when colored was the term de jour, not only are we not going to let that happen, but when it comes to your language Austin, to borrow a phrase from The Walking Dead’s Negan, “We are going to SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN, NO EXCEPTIONS!”
And that’s the bottom line, because Tha Liberator said so!