All the RE5 discussion needed was a Nice White Gamer

Dear Nice White Gamers,

I am glad that you, unlike the Not Nice Gamers, understand that we don’t live in a post-racial world. It’s nice that you’re able to see the the word “racism” in the same paragraph as “video games” and not launch into the “it’s just a game!”-type knee-jerk reactions that can be summed up as, “”Gamers want games to be taken seriously until they’re taken seriously, and then they don’t want them taken seriously” (hat-tip: Kieron Gillen via Brinstar).

But, Nice White Gamers, you do not deserve the plate of cookies you’re passing around. And, even if you did deserve those cookies, you should not be passing them around. This is because (among other reasons) white people patting other white people on the back for being aware of racism is, in itself, kind of racist.

If a post, written by a Nice White Gamer over a year after the first criticism (made by a POC 1 I might add) was linked in the gaming blogsphere, that offers a shallow interpretation and no links to the more in-depth criticism that has been posted is “the first time I’ve read people actually thoughtfully examine the perception problems of RE5″, you need to stop and think about why it is that you are ignorant of the plethora of writings made by POC (especially when a simple google search of “racism” and “Resident Evil 5″ will at least give you a starting point). I’ll give you a hint, it’s something referred to in anti-oppression circles as privilege.

On that subject, it is a Nice Person fallacy that “considerate” conversation is praiseworthy in every situation. Yes, I know we’re taught the whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” line, but “politeness” isn’t a neutral concept. Praising someone who said something bigoted for phrasing it and/or the ensuing discussion “politely” privileges politeness over not saying something bigoted. It puts you on their side instead of the side of the non-privileged individual/group that was targeted by the bigoted remark.

Let me give you a tip, from one Nice White Gamer to another: you aren’t as nice as you think you are. Being one small step above the Not Nice Gamers, who are blatantly racist and/or deny that racism is still a problem, is not praiseworthy; it’s the bare minimum. And, as long as you continue to be satisfied with having only the bare minimum level of awareness, your continued cluelessness regarding oppression and how it operates (and how you, as a white person, benefit from racist systems) will continue to perpetuate harm on POC. In the grand scheme of things, that puts you not on the side of anti-racism, but rather on the same side as the Not Nice Gamers.

For those of you who want to raise the bar and confront your own racism and privilege (in the process hopefully becoming an ally), I’ll give you some advice. Take a breather from posting your thoughts on racism and start doing some reading on the subject. Lurk in forums that regularly have discussions on race, racism, (and for bonus marks, other issues such as gender and sexuality), but don’t participate in those discussions until you have at least a base level understanding of how racism/oppression works and how people (including you) wittingly and unwittingly contribute to it.

Even if you aren’t interested in raising the bar, for the love of little green apples, at least have the decency to keep your thoughts (as they are on something you know very little about) to yourself. If you think a discussion on racism is something you want to post about on your blog, then link what other people (preferably POC) have said on the issue. But don’t act as an authority on the issue (or allow yourself to be praised as one) and don’t act as if your thoughts are new or revolutionary when they’re not (hint: linking other people who have said similar things avoids this misconception).

Seriously.

Sincerely,
A Pissed off Anti-oppression Activist Gamer Nice White Lady


1 POC stands for Person/People Of Color; it is the current standard in most anti-oppression movements for referencing anyone who isn’t white. Sometimes, especially in feminist spaces, you will see the term WOC, Woman/Women of Color. Note to Nice White People: know these terms, use these terms.

* My title is a reference to the “What These People Need Is a Honky” trope, which can be summed up as:

White guy flees from his own culture for personal reasons (to set him up as different from those with white privilege). White guy meets natives. Natives educate white guy. White guy learns the way of natives, possibly also converting a native person who was originally doubtful of him, thereby proving white guy’s worthiness. White guy fights for naties. White guy makes dramatic escape while the native guy dies, possibly trying to help the white guy. The movie then ends with a dramatic coda and captions that inform the audience that despite white guy’s triumph, the Situation Remains Dire.

The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy’s personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy’s epiphanies.

I leave it to you, Nice White Gamers, to figure out the connection between that and my open letter.

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This entry was posted in Anti-oppression activism, Privilege, Racism, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to All the RE5 discussion needed was a Nice White Gamer

  1. Tablesaw says:

    O won’t somebody think if the children slightly unresponsive controls!

  2. slav says:

    There’s context and place for everything, and timing too (thanks to recent embargo releases and a demo that everyone’s had a chance to play, new content is posted — a two year old discussion on nothing but a video demo is hardly relevant.) Just as I don’t see any critical argument of the mechanics and controls of the game here, I don’t think I should expect a well researched content about the history of racism, with bibliography, in what is an appraisal of a game. They acknowledge it, which is good, but the place for THAT discussion is elsewhere (in a more cultural context rather than a mechanical one, which is what most videogame writing still is.)

    And do I qualify as a POC since, historically speaking, POSDs like me (People of Slavic Descent) weren’t historically considered “white”? We’ve certainly been oppressed, historically (where do you think the word slave derives from?) I’m not sure what to call myself and whether I am privileged enough or whether I should just shut up and keep my opinion to myself.

  3. no one important says:

    That. Is. Amazing.

  4. Pingback: A Good Post On Resident Evil 5 « Token Minorities

  5. Johnny Boy says:

    I learned something from your comment and this short letter of shorts.

    My comment on brainy gamer was actually the first time I had ever jumped in the whole RE5 race issue (not to feel “good” about it, but there is no other discussion going on at places like ign or or anywhere that I had known of. the “domain” of the “not so nice gamer” involves lots of caps locks. a smattering of p-13 words. ) I was unaware of the discussion that had gone on previously. ( as a pc gamer, RE5 didn’t have much to do with me so I largely ignored the whole game,) I have since partially corrected this by reading this. An interesting discussion to say the least. Gave me a few things to think about.

    Anyway, I can clearly see that I will have to devote some time to amount of literature about race and white privilege that is in the link you provided. I have started to read some and it has already given me the beginning of a new perspective. On me being white (got me) and yes even male.

    So yeah, today POC are enlightening this white guy, but no cookies yet. Movie’s not over yet (for at least another 60 years hopefully) so we’ll have to see how it goes.

  6. Cola says:

    As a Nice White Gamer who blogged about this last year, I’m a little confused by this. Look, it’s hardly malicious for people to have been ignorant of this issue until now. I get that Nice White Gamers should give due credit to the POC gamers who first raised their voices about this game, but you seem to suggest that those who aren’t aware that it’s been an issue since last year are being negligent instead of just behaving as most do on the Internet (only mentioning it when it comes to their attention and only linking to the first person they saw mention the issue). Not everyone reads Kotaku (and I personally don’t anymore because they’re a bunch of sexist douchebags, so thank goodness).

    Just to be clear, when I blogged about it, I blogged about the response N’Gai Croal was getting from the hordes of unthinking white babies at Kotaku. It’s a big issue that matters of race are ignored until a Nice White person stands up for them, but who exactly is patting themselves on the back for doing so? There has to be room for white people to express their opinions on these issues, and there are better ways of making them more self aware than shaming them for every effort to be better than they are. We can be direct, honest, and assertive.

    But I guess I can’t tell if you’re talking about NWGs who are calling out the racism, polite and impolite, who haven’t given due credit to the POC who have already talked about this issue, or if you’re talking about the people propping up the game’s racist imagery with polite language (which, again to be clear, I agree is just as bad as the Not Nice WGs). If I’m going after the wrong issue here, please, enlighten me.

  7. Llencelyn says:

    tekanji, thank you for writing this post.

    (Sorry, I haven’t got anything to add to what you’ve already said so eloquently.)

  8. Falconer says:

    Good on yer.

    My wife and I are so disappointed in Capcom and RE5 right now. We’re considering boycotting Capcom. You know, just a little protest. Nothing that makes us give up our copy of RE4. :P

    Also, “What these people need is a honky!” made us both laugh. We needed a good laugh. Bills are due.

  9. tekanji says:

    slav says:

    I don’t think I should expect a well researched content about the history of racism, with bibliography, in what is an appraisal of a game. They acknowledge it, which is good, but the place for THAT discussion is elsewhere (in a more cultural context rather than a mechanical one, which is what most videogame writing still is.)

    I think you missed the point of my post. I’m not saying that every discussion on RE5 needs to be some in-depth research paper, but rather that if you’re going to give your opinion (especially as a white person) then you need to try to avoid being ignorant. I may have been addressing a specific incident here, but the truth is that this problem is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a greater pattern. If you’re interested in how the same basic problem can play out in a much worse fashion, I would recommend checking out RaceFail ‘O9.

    And do I qualify as a POC since, historically speaking, POSDs like me (People of Slavic Descent) weren’t historically considered “white”?

    Answering that could be a whole post (or series of posts) in itself. The short answer is that what we in predominantly white countries tend to label as “white” privilege is actually a few different privileges bundled into one: the privilege of passing for the “default”/”normal” ethnicity, dominant culture privilege, and Anglo privilege. I’m of Jewish descent, but I still consider myself “white” because I benefit from most white privileges.

    Johnny Boy says:

    Anyway, I can clearly see that I will have to devote some time to amount of literature about race and white privilege that is in the link you provided.

    Good luck. As someone who is an anti-oppression activist and ally I can tell you that it’s a lifelong process. I know a lot of people don’t like the “shut up and listen” advice (no matter how nicely it’s phrased), but it’s advice that I, and other allies, subscribe to. No matter how much you know (or think you know) on a subject, sometimes the best thing to do is just listen.

    In terms of other links, I would recommend the “Privilege 101″ links on the blogroll. I normally don’t recommend the “Dear Privileged Groups:” links for people just starting out on this subject, but if you found this post useful then you might find them useful too. Most of them are a bit more snarky than I went here, but they’re good reads.

    Cola says:

    Look, it’s hardly malicious for people to have been ignorant of this issue until now.

    I never called, or implied, that the NWG are malicious. In fact, in my opening paragraph I acknowledged the opposite. Racism isn’t just about maliciousness, it’s about well-meaning people hurting others out of ignorance. But, regardless of intent, the person/group was still harmed and that is the problem. I would highly recommend that you read Privilege Analogy #1: Entitlement In Action and Unintentional sexism to educate yourself more on this matter.

    It’s a big issue that matters of race are ignored until a Nice White person stands up for them, but who exactly is patting themselves on the back for doing so?

    On top of the explanation I did in my post, I did link the relevant threads. Although the latter thread requires a bit of backtracking to figure out why it’s so anger-making.

    There has to be room for white people to express their opinions on these issues, and there are better ways of making them more self aware than shaming them for every effort to be better than they are.

    Holy privilege, Batman! No, there does not “[have] to be room for white people to express their opinions on [non-white] issues”. Please read Forcing all spaces to be privilege-oriented spaces and Do we have the right to express our opinion anywhere, anytime?. Both of them are on slightly different subjects, but the same basic principle applies: it is highly problematic for you (as a person of a privileged group) believe that it is your right to air your opinions on a subject that does not directly concern you simply because you want to.

    Obviously there is often room made for privileged people to discuss the issues of non-privileged groups (exhibit: me and my dayglow whiteness), however that room given to us should be seen as a privilege and not a right. These are not our issues. No matter what we say or do, at the end of the day we aren’t directly affected by what we’re discussing; the non-privileged groups are. Until you, as a white person, can understand and acknowledge that you are a guest in conversations about race — and should conduct yourself accordingly — no, there does not have to be any room made for you to express your opinion.

    But I guess I can’t tell if you’re talking about NWGs who are calling out the racism, polite and impolite, who haven’t given due credit to the POC who have already talked about this issue, or if you’re talking about the people propping up the game’s racist imagery with polite language (which, again to be clear, I agree is just as bad as the Not Nice WGs). If I’m going after the wrong issue here, please, enlighten me.

    I am addressing both.

    Falconer: I’m currently boycotting Capcom, despite the fact that my (continued and vocal) criticism of the company might have a negative impact on my future ability to get a job. My school is kind of a feeder to Capcom and I might end up applying there to work when I’m done with my program… But I’m glad you enjoyed the “What these people need is a honky!” I also found it a hilarious, and accurate, description of the trope :)

  10. oliemoon says:

    I just love this post so much. I could eat your brains, tekanji, I really could. :-D

  11. Eleniel says:

    @oliemoon: Funny, I thought the exact same thing! OM NOM NOM!

    Thank you for this post, tekanji!

  12. Godless Heathen says:

    I’m not sure you’d be happy working at Capcom, tekanji. While they occasionally do something neat, I think of them as being on par with EA in terms of innovation. Sure they’re a large corporation with established clout in the industry, but their size and clout have made them lazy and stagnant, and have insulated them from the kind of criticism that could have kept them from making RE5 so blatantly racist. I know you wanted to get into creating games to push boundaries and move in new directions, and it just seems like Capcom won’t be doing any of that.

    I know it’s a competitive job market and everyone has to work, but I just think you can do better.

    I’m sorry that had so little to do with the original post.

  13. tekanji says:

    Godless Heathen: You’re probably right. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to apply yet, but larger companies (like Capcom, Intelligent Systems, etc) are probably more likely to allow for upward mobility and seem like a good place to start to get experience. I’m also interested in how smaller companies operate, seeing as I’d like to start up a company of my own one day, but I’m not sure how much of that I’d see if I were stuck being a programming monkey because they’re too small to be able to take on a new game planner.

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