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Racism and video games 8.2.07

It’s interesting. I haven’t really responded to many fandom kerfluffles as of late, but I could have. I could have addressed the recent “Martha Mammy” kerfluffle (Doctor Who), I could’ve addressed the really, REALLY idiotic HP fandom misstep over at daily_deviant (miscegenation…whole mounds of stupid). But what’s going on, fandom? What’s going on when a Resident Evil game produces such hateful responses as, Get back into the cotton fields, you filthy niggeror  this: Blackface goes HD (read subsequent comments). I really wasn’t all that pleased with the “Brains and cornbread” comment and movie still.

And of course there’s always the fall back, “oh, (American) Blacks are too sensitive. You need to get out of the (darkie) ages.”

With comments like those I simply shake my head. People may never understand why games or situations like this are incredibly insensitive. Let me give you a hint why, for those of you who aren’t getting it. A long, long time ago, in the United States, there was a little thing called slavery. Now, despite the abolition of this thing called slavery, attitudes about it did not change. In fact, such attitudes worsened, deepend, and became ingrained in American culture to such an extent that certain things became accepted. Became the norm. People were still hurting, but  the hurting got swept under the rug. People claimed it was such a long time ago and “we have to let it go.”

But attitudes did not change, for either side. Things were not spoken. Things were not voiced. We are a “polite” society, and polite people did not bring up such ugly topics.

But what does it mean, little ducklings? Does pretending something doesn’t exist or ignoring something make it a non-entity? Why are Black Americans/African-Americans so angry? Do they/we have a right to be upset?

We do. To an extent, we do. Because even in the calm explanations, even within the scientific rhetoric, even with every doctorate behind us we still get “go back to Africa if you don’t like it.” And maybe such comments don’t occur often, and maybe there are only a select few who express themselves in such a way. But why do so many folks come out en masse whenever a kerfluffle occurs? Why do those who say, “oh, I’m not racist” suddenly give a comment that explains why Black folk should not despair over RE5 because a bunch of white people were killed in previous games…which makes the killing of Blacks in RE5 ok. Justifies it, even.

Why am I upset…?

I am upset, because again – people are not getting it. I have to get my 2×4 from under my bed and clock someone hard and be that “uppity nigger” folks hate so. If people just took a *little* African history, if folks just read a *little* about African and African American heroes beyond February, maybe things would be different. If interracial marriage or dating could get beyond the “kink” factor and hit mainstream as a legitimate, functioning relationship rather someone’s private sex joke…if people understood that seeing African or African American faces slaughtered over and over, even in a game, smacks of slavery – that we’re seen (again) as cattle and not worth saving (or worse, we’re saved by the Great White Hope)…if only people thought beyond their four little walls. If only people could be proud enough and open enough to accept Black folk in games, movies, comics, and books over and over again, without publishers worrying about sales…

Pop Quiz: If Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Captain Kirk had begun as Black characters, would the HP, Dr. Who, and Star Trek fandoms exist today?

If you can answer that question honestly, you’re closer to understanding why I am not happy with the race kerfluffles in fandom. You will understand why I feel the way I feel.

Yes. Resident Evil 5 is just a game. Yes, Martha is just a companion. Yes, miscegenation was a simple misunderstanding of the terminology. But it’s more than that…it goes deeper. The truth is, no one wants to admit that they have prejudices. No one wants to admit that they’d rather fantasize with a White face (with whom they can identify). No one wants to admit that maybe things aren’t as healed as they’d like them to be, and no one wants to admit that the past can’t stay buried as long as stupid, clueless, mindless, idiotic, pointless, and absolutely mindfu!kingly inane stereotypes keep perpetuating and self-generating.

Do you think I’m making mountains out of molehills? Maybe I am. But riddle me this, Batman: When is the last time you read a book, or a comic…when is the last time you saw a movie or a tv show in fandom that had a Black character in the starring role? When was the last time you *kept* watching and reading and participating in that fandom?

Worse still – when was the last time you found such media in active circulation?

No, my ducklings; fandom has not changed. Not by much. There are faces of color, but the patrons and the inteligencia who admire such works are sorely absent. Black folk in sci fi and fantasy are kinks, little else. So wake me, will you, when we have a thriving fandom based on a Black character? Wake me, will you, when we have a Black Doctor Who and there is no nuclear fandom war. Wake me, when Marvel or DC or Image produces a consistent, ongoing, top-10 comic where the character is Black, and doesn’t hide behind a mask, covering his or her beautiful face.

Wake me when it’s over. Wake me when freedom comes.

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4 thoughts on “Racism and video games 8.2.07

  1. I see where your coming from, and you MAY be right. People may not have gotten into some of those fads like Harry Potter or what not if the main person was black.

    HOWEVER, their are many of shows with black leads that many people of all races still enjoy and count as one of their favorites. A main character in scrubs is Turk, a black surgeon. A main character in House is also a black doctor. Also, There are plenty of shows with only black people on it.

    The black community were not the only race with hardships in this country

    Sure they were enslaved, but as you said abolition did happen, and it did end. And of course some people still wanted it. The south obviously wanted it, hence the civil war. It all started because the north wanted to abolish slavery, and they were not being led by a black man, but a white one. And there will always be racism and hatred all over the country, but not just for blacks, but for Italians, Japanese, Chinese, Germans, etc.

    You realize the Japanese were put in Internment camps during WW2 while the blacks were walking free. How is that fair. When they got out they got a bit of money and sent on their way. They had to find a new house and new way of living because of it.

    And even still they don’t complain when war games come out and use all of the slandering language.

    There is a United negro college fund, explain how that is fair. Their are scholarships for just black people, even colleges just for them. And BET. We don’t see a WET or anything.

    Oh and about Resident Evil 5, The other main character is a black woman who is the white mans PARTNER. She doesn’t have a problem with fighting. The main villains in the story are not even black, but a white man and lady.

    The game is far from racist.

    You can’t blame an entire nation for the stupidity of a few people.

    • While I respect your opinion – and honestly, I do – you’ve missed my point in some ways. Yes, other races have suffered. I agree that what happened in Japanese internment camps was both inhumane and intolerable. But I’m not Japanese, and I will never understand what it means to be a Japanese person during the World War II era. I can discuss that the Japanese weren’t forced to the United States, and that their oppression lasted a very short time in comparison to African Americans.

      Hear me: I’m not saying anyone had it worse than anyone else, because I don’t know everyone else’s history.

      What I *am* saying, however, is that there is a disparaging gap between what is offered as far as fandom and Western media is concerned. What I’m frustrated about is the obvious kerfluffle – inevitable, perhaps – when a black man could be cast as the next Dr. Who. What I’m frustrated about is the insensitivity of the media and gaming communities to not consider that they might be playing into old stereotypes.

      Yes, yes. Slavery ended in the 1800s. But racism did not, and that is the problem. The same emotions and feelings return when fangirls and boys feel their images of “should” and “must be” change. Yes, yes. There have been strides. Yes, there are black characters on television. Hoo-rah. There have been black characters on TV since the 1960s. But in science fiction and fantasy (whether games, movies, or TV programs), those numbers are few and far between – far less than the average or the norm. And *that*, my friend, is my gripe. Strides have been made, yes. But when it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I can probably count on one hand those characters who can stand out who were of color. And of those who stood out, there are pitiful few who are the top favorites of fandom. And that’s my gripe. It’s not something I can explain to someone who never personally experienced racism. I would say that for you, it might be the same as going to a foreign country and deciding to live there for the rest of your life, when you don’t know all the rules – and you’ll never know them.

      We can keep discussing this if you’d like, but I wanted to give you an idea of what I meant, and where I’m coming from.

  2. Hmm.. this is a very deep opinion, and i feel that any comments I could say to sway your opinion would be seen as apologizing for an inherent evil. I am quick to point out when something is a an affront to a culture and when it is really just a misunderstanding.

    Capcom (the creators of RE5) have been trying to shift away from using the Umbrella Corporation as their one-size-fits-all illuminati shadow enitity for a while now. There was hardly any mention of Umbrella in RE4, except for the fact that it went belly up. They are trying to get back to the real roots of zombie horror. As a Zombie specialist (self-proclaimed), I can tell you that the origins of undead history begin in Haiti, a land of predominately black human beings. With a game set in Haiti, it would make sense that the majority of non-player-characters would be black. Much like in RE4 where there character were Hispanic (it was Spain, after all).

    Second point: this game is developed by a Japanese company. Their grip on American culture is tenuous at best, and we cannot fault them for being insensitive on an issue of historical significance to a foreign country. It would be the same thing if we had a Korean protagonist killing Japanese people in a game; they’d probably not be too happy.

    Now, I realize that nobody wants to see their race being destroyed over and over in any medium. Yes, I have probably killed more white people in games than black people, thanks to early first person shooters. Hell, I’ve probably killed more orcs than any race of mortal man. If you want to fault media for being a slight to African Americans, blame the producers of “Flavor of Love” or “Charm School”. I guarantee those shows cast a more negative light on the culture than any amount of undead monsters.

    As for the “cotton-fields” remark, that is just playing into the troll law. It’s the formula that makes people say horrific and offensive things just to gain an audience and (negative) attention. It’s all apart of the John Gabriel G.I.F.T:

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/

    As far as non-white males in comics, TV, movies, etc… I agree, I think we have too much white wash. “We need the gay, black, buhddist superhero to really shake things up”, as my old African American Film History professor always said.

    • …and female. Don’t forget female: The gay, black, buddhist, female superhero. 😀

      But seriously, David, you have the right idea. And I think it’s a very good idea to give credit to Zombie lore by returning it to its Haitian roots. But I wonder if the designers were able to discuss their ideas with the rest of the storyboard team. Surely someone had to approve this game’s final installment for the American public. To make the wide-eyed stereotype for this game was dangerous; more dangerous was having (again) a few too African American heroes in the game. But I admit it, I’ve only seen the stills and they appalled me when I first saw them, way back when. And it hurts still more to see (sorry, White) gamer fanboys point out the stereotypes and make fun of them. Sure, there are only a few trolls. But you and I know just how big of an impact a troll can make – worse, if someone stands up to a troll and tells them they’re being a douchebag, you’ll have five more trolls shouting the one down.

      I like the idea of bringing the game full circle. The Haitian voodoo idea is a sound one. But I’m not so happy with the result and it further digs a hole around the stereotypical White gamer male. I know you don’t fit this stereotype, but I know you. It’s hard to have an open mind when so many things continually prove otherwise. Still – I can say the same on my end, so never mind.

      I wholeheartedly agree, however, that certain shows perpetuate the wrong stereotypes (and it makes me cringe). Along with Flavor of Love and Charm School, you may as well add “Beauty and the Geek” for geek boys and beautiful girls, and “Rock of Love” for rock chick groupies. There’s so much wrong out there and sadly the American public is too willing to be entertained over the wrong things.

      I won’t even begin to discuss Jerry Springer. :p

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