Challenging White privilege in video games

US Census projections

Graph of projections of US population by race
Source: DailyMail

Why is it that America is becoming more diverse and yet refuses to acknowledge it in our art, books and, as this week’s readings have shown, our video games? According to US Census data, minorities make up 37% of the population and by 2043 the population is projected to be a “minority-majority” nation, meaning that minorities will make up a larger percentage than Whites.

David Leonard claims in his article “Young, Black (& Brown) and Don’t Give a Fuck” that “[t]hese games are not an assault on White youth or dominant cultural values, but rather legitimize White privilege and the current power structure” (251). I believe that his statement poses an answer to my opening question; White power is threatened by the growing minority population and attempts to alleviate this fear by either eliminating the Black body or reinforcing negative stereotypes.

I don’t mean to say that I think everyone is secretly a racist. Rather, I think White privilege is so embedded in American culture that most people don’t realize what our video games are saying about it. It takes someone like Leonard to point it out to us.

So what’s next? Do we get angry about it? Who’s going to get angry about it? Then there’s the catch-22: if Blacks and Latinos get angry about it, then Whites are probably going to point to games like Grand Theft Auto that criminalize minorities, and use it as evidence that they are, indeed, violent beings that need to be kept away from White youth.

Tanner Higgin suggests in his article “Blackless Fantasy: The Disappearance of Race in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games” that we need to direct our efforts on the gaming industry itself in order to create change in the visibility and portrayal of Blacks and Latinos. He suggests that gaming companies need to recognize its Eurocentrism and its consequences, and draws attention to the inequalities among the demographics of the industry itself. While I agree that these are useful steps towards greater equality, I worry that the White majority in the industry will be unwilling to give up their power and thus no progress will be made.

Ideally the increase in the minority population in the US will spur a change in the way that America discusses race and portrays race in our culture. I hope, though, that we won’t have to wait until 2043 until some progress is made.

Higgin, Tanner. “Blackless Fantasy: The Disappearance of Race in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.”
     Games and Culture. 4.3: 2009. 3-26. Print.
Leonard, David. “Young, Black (& Brown) and Don’t Give a Fuck.” Cultural Studies. 9.2: 2009. 248-272. Print.
“2012 National Projections.” National Population Projections. US Census Bureau. Web.

One thought on “Challenging White privilege in video games

  1. Pingback: White Students – Bow Your Heads! | ELLIOT LAKE News

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