I play a lot of free trials for computer games during the holidays and I’m both surprised and upset at how they’re casually racist.
A typical example is found in almost any game where you have to settle the west or build up a desert island. The games themselves are charming, with clicking to build houses, collect food, or collect resources to make your city grow, and some of them have clever ideas.
However, the protagonist is almost always white, and despite being a newcomer, they’re better at the native culture than the actual natives and they lead them around by the nose and marry the chief’s daughter despite the fact that she was promised to another warrior—much like Pocahontas or Avatar.
The native trader in Rush for Gold: Alaska is a caricature that makes the mascot for the Washington Redskins look subtle. He lives in a tepee (never mind that tepees were only used by Native Americans on the plains), wears a feather in his hair, and addresses you with, “How!” when you click on him.
The most shocking example I’ve seen, however, comes from the “Cradle Of…” franchise, where, in Cradle of Persia, one of the power-ups that can be improved is a stick of dynamite that can be used to blow pieces up and further your progress in the game.
Let me repeat: they put a power-up that makes things explode into a game set in the Middle East. Who ever, ever, ever thought that putting dynamite as a power-up in a game set in a Middle Eastern country was a good idea? Patronizing a race and resorting to stereotypes are racist behaviors that are as unacceptable and hate speech.
It’s racism in the same vein as the pictures shown around Halloween in the “This is my culture, not a costume” ads plastered all over campus, and this is so obvious it’s amazing and horrifying that people are still getting away with this in the twenty-first century. We are supposed to be smart, and we are supposed to be enlightened, and racism is something that should be confined to the old days of the 1950s when people were ignorant and society was oppressive. We are a more liberal society, so why do these stereotypes keep cropping up?
We need to learn that just because we are at war with a country does not make their citizens or their culture automatically evil. There are heroes and villains on both sides.
Do the people behind Al-Qaeda fall firmly into the villain category? Yes. Do the families living in Muslim countries, whether they raise goats or live in luxury, count as villains? No, most Muslims or people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent are pretty decent people, much like human beings here or anywhere else.
Vilifying a culture that belongs to a country we are at odds with is something racist and wrong.
Even stereotypes from cultures that are our allies or live in the US are wrong. Asians, for example, are not naturally smarter or dumber than anyone else, but the stereotypical examples generally come from an environment where hard work and high-paying careers are valued. Not all Latinos or Hispanics are Catholic—there are Spanish-language Lutheran and fundamentalist churches both in Larimer County and in Mexico, among other places—and they are certainly not all of them dirt-poor migrant workers.
Now, as the song from Avenue Q reminds us, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” mostly through ignorance. The people in power are usually white and rich, and they are usually oblivious to things outside of their experience. If they don’t understand it, it’s immediately vilified, whether it’s race, culture or economic status.
Speaking as a dumb white woman, my privilege and ridiculous good fortune compared to almost everyone else in the world means that I don’t try to be mean or say insensitive things or make ludicrous assumptions, but it’s because I really have no clue what it means to be in that situation, and being enlightened would be great.
This is another reason why college education should be mandatory: as President Obama told us last year when he visited CSU, “A college education is a right, not a privilege.” We have our horizons expanded and we discover that there’s life outside our little town of Podunk, USA.
The more interesting, unique and different things, ideas, and people we are exposed to, the more accepting and tolerant our society will be.
Allison Chase is a junior Creative Writing major. Please, please, please send letters and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.