Saturday, July 2, 2016

Role-Playing Games, Talking Apes, Pathfinder, and Racism (Revisited)

I enjoy sharing the hateful emails and other missives that are sent to me by angry white folks and yes, some people of color too. I also find pleasure in the unintentional "teachable moments" provided by white supremacists, so-called "colorblind" racists, and unfortunate black and brown folks who have internalized white racism.

Several years ago, I shared a piece on the controversy surrounding the role-playing game Pathfinder and its creators' decision to feature an "Africa-like" world populated by talking apes. This imagery is directly connected to some of the oldest and most pernicious stereotypes about black people and has been used to legitimate white on black chattel slavery, Jim and Jane Crow, as well as anti-black violence in the present. There should be no controversy about what is so plainly obvious. 

Online writing has a life of its own. Several days ago, the following comment was posted on my commentary about apes in the role-playing game Pathfinder. How many racist tropes, evasions, and rhetorical strategies do you see deployed below?


Allirog (Guest):

Wow, sorry - But you really read into this way too deep - Sometimes a fantasy game is Just that - A fantasy game. Intelligent talking apes have been a staple in many genre - not just fantasy roleplaying games. Not all (fictions) ape characters have to be from Africa - especially with legends like bigfoot and saquatch and yeti - in fact many stories of large apes come from China as well. Apes are played because their fun to play, as apes (gorillas) or otherwise and have no connotations to Black people at all. Ape characters are loved - Usually as noble or strong warrior types, sometimes they are the villain (which I personally never play, because it stereotypes them as "bad" like many Hollywood stories.) In the past there may have been racist "blacks to apes" connections b ut this is the twenty first century, please! I would never associate Blacks with apes - Not because it's offensive but rather, to defend apes - which are their own being - and deserve to be respected as their own being and possible future culture in evolution. I have studied gorillas my entire life and know them on a personal level, and to understand them and their behavior is extraordinary. It's ironic that the only connection I find between apes and black people are usually from references by black people. As far as Lord of the Rings is concerned, you stated that black folks from "somewhere else" were viewed as wicked or evil? Where did you get that nonsense from? There was never a mention of this. It is Euro-based history (fiction) so of course there would be no mention of Africa or it's people - because the world in LOTR is centered in a limited territory. Who says it's even on Earth. It's Fantasy-Fiction not based on real world events, other than that created by Europe an writers imagination. I don't see any white people or references in most African legends and stories - are they racist against whites? (and yes - I do read them, in fact I am very interested in others cultures.) I'm suspecting you like to find "racial" problems where they don't exist, just for attention or maybe another agenda, I don't know. When I roleplay or write about my particular ape characters, I use a lot of different "human" cultures in their origins - I use Native American, African, European, South American and Asian in a very diverse way. I'll keep my apes, thank you - you can go wave your race card somewhere else.

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