The Soapbox: Yes, here

    
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The Soapbox: Yes, here
This guest Soapbox was commissioned through MassivelyOP’s original Kickstarter back in 2015; the writer has chosen to remain anonymous. The opinions in guest Soapboxes traditionally represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself, although in this case, we stand with our reader.

Over the years I’ve considered a dozen possibilities for what to write here. I knew that whatever I chose, I wanted it to represent the parts of the gaming community that I love the most.

Gaming has been an enormous part of my life for a long time. Playing World of Warcraft and helping create and run guilds is my favorite hobby. I helped create a community that has spanned multiple MMOs and games and is going six years strong now. Our current home is WoW Classic.

My guild has always taken a hard line against keeping real-world politics out of the game. It’s a policy that I probably made up myself, years ago, to avoid those uncomfortable and often alienating conversations among my friends. So no one was more surprised than me when I found myself breaking my own rules: Among the council that runs my guild, I unilaterally made a decision to address the racial inequity that we can no longer avoid.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t received well – initially. Some of my guildmates argued that it was too political, that it broke our rules. I understood that argument, even if I found it willfully off-base. I defended my point initially, saying that I believe this particular issue transcended politics. I argued that there were people of color in our guild who deserved to hear that we are behind them.

I admit there was a part of me that wanted to back down. I wanted to accept that this wasn’t the place and avoid the conflict, to stay comfortable with my friends. That is not a part of me that I’m proud to show, but I have to be honest that it’s there because I can’t move forward unless I examine it.

But I made a choice. I asked myself if I really wanted to be better. Did I actually want to make a difference, or did I want to look like I was making a difference? They are not mutually inclusive concepts.

The short version of the rest of this story is that I chose to leave rather than stand down. I chose to leave the guild I founded and the people I loved. I told my leadership privately that if this was not a space that was open to recognizing the humanity of our players even if we only know them by their avatars, then it wasn’t my home anymore.

I am exceptionally lucky that once the issue hit the light of the rest of the leadership team, it gained significantly more traction. I am lucky that I didn’t have to stand alone. The rest of my friends helped me fight for the right to take a stand in our tiny corner of the internet.

The fight won’t be as easy elsewhere.

I’m not writing this for self-congratulatory back pats. I’m keeping my own name and my guild’s name out of this story for the express purpose of making sure the focus stays where it needs to.

We, as humans and citizens of the U.S., have spent a truly embarrassingly long time saying “not here” when confronted with race issues. We carve out these spaces and say that they’re “not appropriate” for politics. We lump anything that makes us uncomfortable into that “political” bucket so we can avoid it.

So after years of wondering what to write, I realized last night that this is the only thing I want to write. This is the only message I have right now that I think is worth reading. We need to stop saying “not here.” We need to face the discrimination and systemic mistreatment of our fellow humans of color. We need to have these tough conversations and use these spaces to encourage change.

One of my friends asked me, “Why here?” He didn’t mean it critically, and he didn’t mean to discourage me. He just wanted to know, why here – in video games – and not in your city or out at a protest? What makes this meaningful?
One of my friends asked me, “Why here?” He didn’t mean it critically, and he didn’t mean to discourage me. He just wanted to know, why here – in video games – and not in your city or out at a protest? What makes this meaningful?

The answer is really simple. I’m a small person. I’m a normal person. I don’t have a platform or a voice anywhere. I have a small circle of friends in “real” life, and most of them already think the way I do. But I have influence in one tiny corner of Azeroth and the internet. I made a name for myself there, and only there do I have voice that is louder than others. This small space is where I can make the biggest impact.

And I believe it is an impact. I believe that my small victory is just a tiny symbol of bigger victories happening everywhere. They’re happening because people like us are using our privilege and our platforms, however small they are, to speak up. We are long past the time when all of our jobs are to grab a bullhorn and make a good show at a protest, though I don’t undervalue the folks who are out doing that – Godspeed. For most of us, our biggest job is to have these conversations in uncomfortable spaces and force each other to face and accept what impact we’re having on the movement. We are at a point in our collective experience that silence is complicit.

What I’ve heard from my friends of color is that they do not need or want us to come to them and say “I’m an ally” and expect that to be meaningful. What they need is for us to turn to our peers and challenge them to show up.

We’d like to thank our donor for supporting MassivelyOP and for their thought-provoking essay. We encourage our readers to educate themselves and their gaming friends on how they can make a difference for racial justice and how to donate to organizations doing the hard work to be a force for good in the world right now, such as Black Lives Matter, bail fund charities, and even Itch.io’s gaming fundraiser. There are plenty of ways to help!

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Zero_1_Zerum

“Dang, doesn’t it suck how the Alliance and Horde can’t seem to get along.”

“Yeah, I mean, we fight one big bad guy together, and then we’re at each other’s throats again. WOW needs better writers.”

“You know what sucks? Systematic racism.”

“Dude, keep the politics off this chat.”

….

Art is inherently political. WOW is all about politics, it’s called World of WARcraft. There’s two political factions in the story which are almost always at war with each other. And the reasons why they’re at war are political. You can’t keep what is inherently in something out of something. You play WOW to try to escape real world political issues, you’re escaping into a fictional world with its own political issues inspired by the ones IRL. Are you really escaping at all?

I can understand wanting to escape. It’s the main reason I play video games. I have health issues IRL, and playing video games allows me to escape from them, or at least makes them easier to ignore. But, the health issues don’t go away, I’m still ill, even when I’m running around and getting into trouble in ESO.

Racism doesn’t go away when you’re playing a video game. It could be part of the story, “this faction is racist against the other faction, and that’s bad.” It could be other players droppng the “N-bomb” in chat. There’s no way to escape it, unless it’s fought against.
I want to live in a world, someday, where racism shows up only in textbooks and stories inspired by IRL historical events. If that’s ever going to happen, it needs to be fought against, even in video games you’re playing to try to escape.

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François Verret

You did the right thing. We do have to stand up and say that it’s not OK. If your guildmates felt that message wasn’t welcome in that place, then it’s not the place where you belong, and, honestly, they’re part of the problem.

Stefan Hayden
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Stefan Hayden

thanks for standing up for this. just as some wish politics were not in their games some people can’t escape politics. It’s a small victory for you but it will take small victories from everyone to make the world a safer place for everyone.

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Mordyjuice

10 years ago I used to believe that, hell I thought we were well on our way to a progressive age with Gay Marriage being legalized, we had an African American President, at one point Democrats controlled both houses of Congress; I honestly believed all we had to do was wait for the old people to die and the GOP would just fade away like the Whig Party.

Now I honestly think the only thing that’s going to fix our country is if the Blue and Red states go their own separate ways and form their own countries, they’ll be fine Texas has money; maybe the Hand Maiden Tale can license Gilead to the new Red Stat nation.

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Bruno Brito

As much as i respect Obama for trying to be a decent president, it’s pretty weird that the US population still think that there are left and right parties in there. There aren’t. The US is not, nor will ever be, a left country. It was founded by right-wingers, it was kept by right-wingers, and the democratic party is just a more moderate version of the center-right. There aren’t left parties in the US, that are worthy mentioning.

Obama pandered to corporations, kept the war in the middle-east going and didn’t close Guantanamo, which was pretty much THE pebble in the shoe that was his entire presidency.

It’s time that people accepted that already. There won’t ever be a communist takedown of the US. The US will never be a leftist country. The maximum you people can do is to safeguard some social reforms, but the country itself, as it’s established, won’t ever be anything else than liberal capitalism with some tweaks.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

If I’m in game I don’t want to discuss or hear anything about politics, I get why the author did what he did (hell I commend and respect what he/she did) but what’s happened is a complicated mess that would take me more time to articulate and discuss each point of view than time to actually enjoy my escape from reality.

Let’s start with the Police, it’s a corrupt part of the Executive Branch of Government that needs to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up to the AG. Police should be required to get as much education as an entry level RN, 2 years with a requirement to get 4 years within a period of time. The police need to be demilitarized, the police need to police their own communities so that they know and live with the people on their own beat, racial profiling needs to not only be eliminated but cops found suspected of either brutality or murder need to be charged with a Hate Crime, and finally the most important piece would be to break Police Unions like Bane broke Batman’s back.

As far as the Protesters are concerned, while I support them under normal circumstances, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and this will only lead to another massive spike in Covid 19 cases (and as a Healthcare Worker this really pisses me off).

As far as the riot/looters are concerned, they’re ass holes and no amount of rage justifies that kind of behavior . . . period; no budging on this one, I’ve had friends unfriend me on Facebook over this that I’ve known since the mid 1990s from College.

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Bruno Brito

Let’s start with the Police, it’s a corrupt part of the Executive Branch of Government that needs to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up to the AG.

That’s not complicated.

Nor is it understanding that the entire police force is derivated from the slave squads that rounded up fugitive slaves, and that cops go through mere months of training, and that the US has a story of putting minorities down, forged and kept.

Nothing here is complicated to understand. What is complicated is to remake everything since there’s already a system in place.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

The fucked up thing is some of these officers being arrested are clearly minorities, the Police culture is so fucked up that minorities begin to look at other minorities as being subhuman, I kid you not I had an African American Retired Cop that was a regular patient that watched Fox News and had nothing good to say about Black people including his own family.

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Bruno Brito

I’m pretty aware of that. It happens here.

But since america is more divisive than Brazil, given you guys are not as mixed as we are ( i have black and indigenous blood in my veins ), then it’s more of a novelty there. I’ve witnessed black cops hitting black kids and calling them racial slurs, because the cop was lighter-skinned than the kid.

It happens a lot here.

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Arktouros

If that works for you, great.

Personally it’s never really bugged me that people want to escape things when they come into gaming. Life can be pretty shitty, and some people got it pretty bad. Not going to begrudge anyone if they wanna take 15 off from the shittiness and just do their thing. If you keep people “on” all the time and never let them unwind or decompress you’re going to find them more against the cause even if they naturally would lean towards supporting it.

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Utakata

You can never really escape it though. (You can block it out, as I’ve done…but it’s still in the background ever biting folks in the asses. Just saying.)

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Arktouros

You can however take a break.

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Utakata

That’s what I do when I block it out. In that, I even forget I have the Trade Chat raging in the background. o.O

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Bruno Brito

Wanting to escape is not the problem.

Bemoaning people for saying that they can’t escape and should discuss the issues is.

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Arktouros

The problem here is that people seem to think they have the right to demand how you spend your free time. You wanna discuss heated issues of our day? Great. Have at it. I hope you find you’re looking for. However that is not enough for some people. For some people these issues must and have to be discussed and your non compliance or resistance to discuss them is belittled into wanting to pretend the problems don’t exist or you’re avoiding the problem entirely. However what should be plainly obvious in any scenario is if you force people to do things they will end up resenting you and your cause for it.

It seems a far more practical answer, all things concerned, that if your needs and desires have changed then it’s you who should change what you’re doing and who you’re with to better suit you. Like it’s just straight up disrespectful to decide you want to discuss such things and therefore the environment you’re in should change to suit your desires and other people be damned. Especially given how little we often times know about the daily struggles and experiences each person has and what they may have to go through.

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Bruno Brito

I mean, i agree with you to an extent, but we’re talking about MMOs here. If people are discussing politics in chat, they absolutely have the right. If you don’t want to see it, it’s your right, either block/ignore, or go play single-player games.

But as much as someone wants to be free of the real world, other people want to make others aware of it. They have as much right as we have to flee from it.

Like it’s just straight up disrespectful to decide you want to discuss such things and therefore the environment you’re in should change to suit your desires and other people be damned.

Ok, so it’s also disrespectful to completely berate people for wanting to mobilize and make a change with all the platforms avaliable. Who is more disrespectful? Why is your gaming time more valuable than mine?

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Utakata

Well said. And thanks for sharing. /bows

Politics is a perfectly legit conversation to have in guild chat…as long as you are not planning to troll with it.

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Utakata

“Couldn’t you say a bit more, Uta?”

Why? I’m mostly enjoying what everyone else has to say on the matter.

So this is one of those articles where I should quickly say my pigtail’d piece, then get out the way. :)

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Tobasco da Gama

Thanks for posting this, it’s very important to share. And it’s a very good reminder, too. The world doesn’t change all at once, it changes bit by bit. If all you can manage is to try to change your bit of it, that’s plenty.

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Paragon Lost

Great read and thank you for sharing. I’ve been saying for the past couple decades that this country will break your heart. I grew up believing in a dream of what I thought our country was. As I became an adult and traveled around the country and the world while in the military I learned differently. I learned that what I thought was my reality wasn’t. The reality was much darker, grimmer and hypocritical.

It slowly broke my heart to look around and see what we said we did versus what we actually did were two different things more often than not. That the dream was only for some of us and not for all of us. That equality and fairness were pipe dream for far to many. The lack of investment in “all” our citizens and non citizens is short sighted and foolish at best and racist and hateful at worst.

I just don’t get this country, I guess I’ll never get it. I’m retired these days and looking back over the past sixty years I can only stop and heave a sigh. I just don’t see much united about the United States and I don’t see us wanting to make things better in a productive solid way for everyone. I tend to fret and worry for my adult children these days and for any grandchildren that they might have. I have no answers anymore only sad questions of why…

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Jim Bergevin Jr

The problem is that we continue to fail to learn from our history as a country. The United States was built on the backs and blood of the “less civilized” peoples on the idea of escaping intolerance, yet intolerance was the modus operandi of those trying to escape it in England.

Instead of learning from our mistakes and growing better because if them, we try to hide and forget them. You cannot move forward and improve as an individual or as a society without fully acknowledging where we have been and where we need to go. We would just rather sweep everything under the rug. It won’t be long until people are shouting from the rooftops that we need to cover the entire southern US under a big blue tarp because if its involvement in slavery.

Nothing in this country has changed from systemic racism to gun control because we would rather hide and escape from the truth instead of fighting it head on no matter where we are it what venue we are in.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

The Titanic of racism is a helluva big ship and turning it won’t be easy, but it sure won’t happen if we don’t recognize the need for it and start that turn.

The rest of this is part of my own story, which you can read or not as the spirit moves you.

I grew up in a post-WWII middle-class suburb in southern California. My family was part of the great post-war Westward migration from the economically depressed old East, coming west on Route 66. After some tumbling about we settled in a new-built neighborhood we could afford because of government loans for vets. Everyone in that neighborhood was from somewhere else. Baptists from the mid-west, Jews from New York, Catholics from the east, and even an atheist. We all spoke with different accents, went to different churches and kept our lawns green.

There were also in our neighborhood two Mexican families and one Japanese family. For those that don’t know, California was once part of Mexico. (Big clue here: Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego.) Hundreds of my classmates over the years were Californios (native Californians of Mexican descent). I frankly never gave it a second thought while growing up. Mexican heritage was all around us; we studied California history in school and did outings to important Mexican heritage sites near us. My playmates were as diverse as our neighborhood. So, I have very, very little patience for people who are stupid about “the Mexicans”, and by stupid I mean willfully ignorant of America’s history. We took over Mexican national territory throughout the Southwest, and the people who lived there. Every time I see some white dude or dudette screaming at a brown person to “go back”, I want to eat my computer screen.

But what about that Japanese family? The Tokunagas. In the 1950s, the war was still very near. Yet, the Tokunagas were American and I never heard or saw any form of prejudice against them. We (the gang of kids) never had any prejudice against our contemporaries. Good ball players were always welcome.

Until that new family moved into the neighborhood. The new woman met my mother on the front lawn one day while we were pulling weeds. I didn’t hear what the woman said, but my mother’s reaction is seared into my memory like it happened yesterday. “No, I want no part of it. The Tokunagas are good people and good neighbors. The war is over. I don’t want to hear anything about this ever again.”

I have no idea how the new woman wanted to punish the Tokunagas for being Japanese. I only understood that my mother defended them against it. The incident stayed with me because I didn’t fully understand it. Only later as I saw more of the world and the smallness of some people that I fully understood what my mother had spoken against.

I have several times fallen short of my mother’s example, but I am lucky to have her to remind me of the right and wrong of things. Not everyone is so lucky. Some have no guideposts to point in the right direction and others have only those that misdirect. That’s why those who can see the guideposts need to encourage those who do not to try a different path from the one they are on.

Alyn
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Alyn

I think, Ashfyn we are near the same generation. I grew up in Texas which is part South and part Southwestern in flavor. My mom and dad were educators, Mom with a master’s degree was the highest on that level of education for her side of the family and my dad had a phd in education. Thus the household I grew up in believed strong in reading, writing, and expressing oneself.

My mom taught for years in Hispanic and Black neighborhoods. My dad was influential in teacher training outside of the college atmosphere. He actually taught classes at public schools where there was room. Near the end of his career he established a science program for inner city kids along with the Physics and Biology departments and the university where he taught. His best friend was an elderly Hispanic fellow that taught my dad so much about now to repair cars as my sisters and I started needing transportation in our teens. On the holidays my dad smoked a turkey for his friend’s family and the mechanic’s wife made a couple dozen home made tamales for us. That was a tradition for us for well over a decade.

I learned about patience and that people are people regardless of what they look like. We are ALL the same on the inside. Our heart beats the same way. I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. The surgeon that saved my life was a Haitian woman and my oncologist was a Muslim doctor. I feel strongly about the Human Race. I say we aren’t about color, but that we are ALL members of ONE RACE: The HUMAN RACE.

Thank you for your story, Ahshfyn. It caused me to think back on my days as a youngster.

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Paragon Lost

Thanks for sharing. :) Sounds like we have a similar story as an aside. I miss Southern California sometimes having left at the beginning of the 1980s when joined the military to see the world and serve something greater than myself. Your mother was a good person. I wish more were like her, getting out into the rest of the country I quickly learned that good people like her were more uncommon then I would have hoped.

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Tee Parsley

Grew up in a military family. Many relatives military. I remember the words of my father when I asked him a question about race relations while we were driving to a new assignment in Alabama.

He said, ‘When you are in the foxhole, and the bullets are flying, you don’t care if the person next to you is white, black, red, yellow, pink, green or purple. All that matters is whether you can count on them.’

How folks treat other folks pretty much lays my baseline opinion.

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Dug From The Earth

Human life can thrive and exist fine without politics.

Human life cant thrive or exist fine with racial inequalities.

I think people just chalk up any hard topic that they want to hide from as being “politics” because its an “Easy out” of having to confront or deal with it.

Good on you for not wanting to hide and ignore the problems that matter.

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Bruno Brito

Human life can thrive and exist fine without politics.

I get where you come from, but i disagree. Everything is political because politics are mainly about the well-being of a group. That group can range from the entire human species, to a select few white bastards.

We can’t live without politics. We can, tho, prevent it to become more corrupt than it already is.