Posts Tagged ‘idiots’

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The Litmus Test for New Racism

April 11, 2008

MTV Multiplayer is back with two new interesting pieces, one of which is the extension of the Black Professionals in Games series – an interview with Felice Standifer, of Sony US, on being a black woman in the industry. It’s a good read, and I dig that it opens up the race and gender angles a little more, especially after the first two pieces were with black men.

The other piece is N’Gai Croal of Newsweek’s Level Up, again, this time on the Resident Evil 5 controversy that I posted on way back when.  This piece, and the subsequent trainwreck of a discussion that ensues in the comments field, is typical for practically any conversation about race, but especially race and video games, that happens on the Internet. Sadly, plenty of people are convinced that if you’re not wearing bedsheets or gassing people of the Jewish faith, you’re not a racist, and anyone who talks about racism these days is “making it an issue”.

So! In the spirit of public education, I’m going to offer a brief questionnaire. It’s like one of those stupid quizzes from Cosmo, except this time you get to out the insidious racist depths of your soul. The test is simple: first, read the article, then go ahead and give yourself one point for each of the following sentences you could conceivably agree with:

“People who call this racist are being too politically correct. Relax! It’s just a video game. Save your energy for fighting Real Racism – talking about things like this could just make people not like you.”

“How come it’s only racist if there are black people in it? I think THAT’S racist. No one cried foul when the white zombie inhabitants of Raccoon City were killed by the dozen. Or the Spanish villagers in RE4!”

“It was made in Japan, so it can’t be racist! They probably didn’t even know what they were doing!”

That’s it! Got your score tabulated? Let’s see…

3 points: You’re hopeless. Stop reading this blog now. You’re probably one of the dozens of annoying commenters I’ve added to the spam filter.

2 points: Also hopeless, and one of the annoying spam-filtered commenters, but you might have slightly better sense than the 3-point people. Still, you should probably go. That way.

1 point: I was pulling for you, you know, the way you made it through two of the sentences without agreeing. 1 point? Really? Was it that profound that you just had to nod your head? Get out of here.

0 point: You’re probably writing this blog entry.

As you may have figured out, those three sentences were all paraphrased from the comments section; in general, the detractors have all more or less fallen into at least one of those three groups. Let’s take another look at these responses and see what we can dig out of them:

People who call this racist are being too politically correct. Relax! It’s just a video game. Save your energy for fighting Real Racism – talking about things like this could just make people not like you.”

1. This way of thinking presumes that we have finite amounts of energy when it comes to locating racism. Wrong! It’s actually surprisingly easy, once you get the hang of it, because there’s so MUCH of it.

2. You’re right that it might make people not like me. However, the people who wouldn’t like me because I point out that it’s racist are, well, racist. Suffice to say that their opinion doesn’t make me sleep any worse at night.

3. I am relaxed – you’re the one getting all defensive over something that’s “just a video game”. Maybe you’re getting defensive because you’re, um, racist? Just a thought.

4. You’re drawing distinctions between “real problems” and “not real problems”. Protip: Yes, starving children in XYZ country is indeed a problem. But so is an industry that makes billions of dollars off of exploiting racist imagery. Especially when the people who consume those images are the people who are in general positions of economic privilege, and who will eventually end up in a lot of the world’s important places. Besides, if you want to preach at us like that, sell the PS3 and join the Peace Corps. Then maybe you’ll have a leg to stand on.

“How come it’s only racist if there are black people in it? I think THAT’S racist. No one cried foul when the white zombie inhabitants of Raccoon City were killed by the dozen. Or the Spanish villagers in RE4!”

1. Because most of the people doing the commenting on this are commenting from an American perspective, and the USA was built on the backs of black people in chains. This country has a legacy of systematic oppression of people of color – a legacy that continues to this day, mind you – so of course history is going to affect the way we read certain images. And no, saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so.

2. As my previous post indicated, shooting white people is a surprisingly popular activity. That’s why most people didn’t complain about the previous REs. Everyone loves shooting white people. We people of color felt kinda bad about the Spanish villagers in RE4, but that was because they were poor, and we knew what that was like. They’re still white.

3. I think you’re a moron. A racist moron. 

4. Ever wonder why there weren’t that many zombies of color in Raccoon City? Probably because we all had the sense to GTFO at the first sight of white people doing crazy shit like eating brains. You’d be surprised at what kinds of survival skills brown people pick up when living among the color-challenged folk.

“It was made in Japan, so it can’t be racist! They probably didn’t even know what they were doing!”

1. The original intent of the author doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as the cultural and historical context in which the text itself is being consumed. That is to say, it doesn’t matter if Capcom Japan knew what they were doing or not when they created the RE5 trailer, it’s still being watched by Americans with a certain racial common sense.

2. I can’t think of many parts of the world where black people haven’t had to put up with some racist shit or another. Certainly Japan has its own racist baggage with black people, so even if we were to say that the author’s intent did matter, it hardly lets them off the hook.

3. You clearly don’t know what you’re doing, but that doesn’t make you any less of an asshole.

Peace and love,

pat m.

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