By Caprice Coleman
Growing up, superheroes, Bible characters, and wrestlers were the male role models to this single-parented kid. I soon put the superhero stuff aside and focused on wrestling stars.
Rocky King was the first black pro wrestler I'd ever seen growing up. He wrestled for the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), which was the only wrestling I knew at the time. (Yes, I’m a Crockett Promotions kid. RIP Jim Crockett Jr.) It came on TV on Saturday mornings right after cartoons.
He had curly hair, muscles, and was fast. This was the first time I remember recognizing the feeling of seeing someone who looked like me doing what I loved to watch. I never noticed it before, but somehow he became a big deal to me even though he rarely won matches.
It's a feeling of relation that can only be experienced by representation. I remember a time when my dream of wanting to be a pro wrestler seemed so far-fetched to everyone around me. I remember being asked, “Do you know any black world champions?” I'd reply, “I could be the first!”
Years later, Ron Simmons pinned Big Van Vader to become the first black world champion! To me, this was the powerslam heard around the world. As soon as I saw him powerslam Vader, I knew the match was over. In my mind, this was the slowest three count in the world. He did it!
I was in 10th grade at the time and I remember expressing my happiness to my pro wrestling friends and them saying, “Why is that such a big deal? You're being racist. What does it matter that he's black?"
There wasn’t another black world champion until Booker T won the world title when I was 23 and already in wrestling.
Fast forward: I'm married with children and still in this world of pro wrestling. It's changed so much; there is diversity everywhere. Not in just wrestling, but literally everywhere.
I remember the exact time Kamala Harris became Vice President because of the look in my daughter's eyes when she looked at the TV and said, “Wow, she looks like me!”
There are children playing outside who don't have to fight about which one gets to be the black wrestler because now there are so many to choose from.
As a child, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. I believed it, but I didn't see it. In today's world, when I tell my children this, they can believe it and see it.
In any field you can imagine there is someone who looks like me doing it or has already done it. This is a confidence that can't be explained without coming across offensive to some.
This is the power of representation.
I am blessed to live in a world in which I've seen both sides. Although we still have a ways to go, the progress is enough for me to tell anybody who looks like me and is doubting their dream because of their color that the color barriers are breaking and breaking fast.
Diversity is everywhere. You can be whatever you want to be!
Just something to think about. I call it a dose of Colemanism.
Caprice Coleman is ROH’s color analyst and has been wrestling for more than 20 years. He also is an ordained minister and motivational speaker. A Dose of Colemanism appears every Thursday.