I Am A Person Of Color. I Am A Gamer. (Opinion)

I am a person of color. I felt my heart cry out this year at the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and years previous when we lost Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and many, many others. I still think of these names and faces and it brings tears to my eyes. It could have been me. It still very well could be me.

But this year has been different. There is change in the air. Some of it is good, but some of it pulls at the darkest parts of humanity to that gooey, ugly core.

Like many Americans, I turn to the consumption of video games for purposes of entertainment and sometimes therapy. Just to forget the world around me for a bit is more than a blessing. That is, until I can’t.

I can no longer count how many “Get Out” moments I’ve had this year, people telling me that they don’t see color, that they miss Obama, that they feel for my struggle among many other cringy nuances that they feel need to be shared. Then there are the moments in which racism rears it’s ugly head in the middle of a Rainbow Six match where people feel the need to throw racial slurs at me, telling me to go back to where I came from and that Trump will make sure the police kill me. I genuinely wish I could say I was making this up, but it’s a sad truth for many people of color in the video gaming world, especially in the year 2020.

While riots are taking place and while some of us feel the need to hide ourselves behind a monitor, our sense of safety is gone. We never really had much of a safe space to begin with, but the last four years have truly peeled back the curtain of this country and allowed closeted racists to have a massive, and unsightly platform. That platform has gained an intense voice screaming “All Lives Matter” while neglecting to understand that statistically speaking, I am viewed as a lesser being because of the amount of melanin in my skin.

Yes, all lives do matter and I’m not taking away from that. But by crying out Black Lives Matter it means I see and recognize that your life matters more than mine. If I committed the same crime as a white person, I’d be punished more harshly. If I echoed something negative said by a white person, I’m seen as a bully, a brute or a thug. It happens all the time in public and in the games I seek solace in. To add insult to injury, I am a woman. I see the ugliest that keyboard warriors have to offer. I cannot tell you how many times people have threatened to commit an act of sexual assault against me and as soon as I open my mouth in defense of myself, my skin color and gender are thrown in my face.

I find myself less likely to interact with people on a multiplayer game if I don’t have someone with me. I like to think that I have a thick skin (I attribute that to the ridicule I had gotten when I was younger from family members and outside entities) but there are only so many verbal bullets I can take before the armor is shattered. I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve began to gravitate more to small pockets of gamers who are people of color because we understand each other. While we silence ourselves on a regular basis alone, together our voice is more powerful. I can sit in silence with my brother or sister and we will know exactly what the other is feeling without saying a word. There had been a point where I had been oblivious to the inherit racism of being the “token black friend” and how I was often used as a scapegoat for nonchalant racism because they “had a black friend”.

In the gaming community I have become a mere whisper to avoid the discomfort in those who say things to try to relate to a struggle they have no idea about and those who say things to tear me down based on the color of my skin.

And don’t get me started on the bombardment of PR friendly corporate Black Lives Matter emails. While I was happy to see the support, a lot of it felt forced from obligation rather than belief. I’m sure that’s not the case, but my outlook on the gaming industry as a whole is skewed through a biased lens based off my upbringing and what I’ve learned as I grew. The gaming community has never been kind to people of color, and that was seen in the 2016 Hearthstone tournament with Terrence Miller.

Gaming is meant for everybody. It’s not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability or otherwise. I truly hope for a day that all are accepted and that myself and other people of color don’t feel that we have to consistently edit ourselves to seem more white, or fall into line with behaviors that are unacceptable for us due to the color of our skin. I hope for a day that we can genuinely see each other as people and judge on a basis of character.

I didn’t ask to be born this way. I didn’t ask to be born at all. But here I am, here we all are. Hear our voices and our cries. Know that in this crazy world all we want is to be seen and treated as equal members of society and that includes the games we play.

The next time you come across one of us, just talk to us like you would to anyone. Please.

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