Over It: Why YouTube Gamers Don't Deserve Passes for Their Racism
If you're even slightly plugged into the gaming community, you've likely heard about popular YouTube gamer Pewdiepie's latest racist "accident," where he called another player the N-word in a now-offline gaming livestream. The stream was watched by over five million people, so understandably, many gamers and fans were outraged by it. However, many others have defended his actions, calling Pewdiepie's slur usage a mere "slip."
To that, I say, "Nah, bruh." No one uses a racial slur--especially one well-known around the world for its disgusting, negative connotation--by accident. That's racist, plain and simple. And yes, you are most definitely a racist if your auto-response is to use a racial slur.
Now every POC knows that the general gaming community is not somewhere for us to get comfortable. It's never been welcoming for us, especially for those of us who are WOC. Though people have attempted to help fix that, not much has changed over the years. We're subject to racial slurs so often, that we expect it every time we chance playing online. And for us black people, there are tons of articles, blogs, and even books about gaming while black. The abuse many of us have been subject to while simply trying to have fun playing video games is heinous. There's even a trope: The inevitable adolescent white male gamer with a penchant for using racial slurs.
But there's a problem with that trope, and the problem is that society already treats white men--grown men--as kids every time they do horrible things. (See: Treatments of Stanford rapist Brock Turner, criminal Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, and D. Trump, Jr.) Not only is it unfair to POC, who are automatically depicted as violent, threatening adults even when we commit minor infractions, it's another way of absolving white men from the blame they deserve when they commit grievances. People tend to give children some leeway when they make mistakes because they're still developing into adults. Grown men are already adults, and by painting white men as silly kids who just don't know any better, society is sending the message that nothing that they do is "that bad." Just some harmless mistakes! Kids will be kids, amirite?
Well, with YouTube gamers, it's worse. This is the golden age of social media. YouTubers have a vast reach--some, like Pewdiepie, with subscriber counts in the millions--and a frighteningly high portion of their fans are not only fiercely loyal to the point of being disturbing, but also young and easily influenced. Parents can only do so much to monitor what kinds of content their children are exposed to online. If adolescent fans are constantly shown that there are little to no consequences for despicable behaviors, they're likely to become desensitized. So you've got a racist big-name gamer, a legion of racist gamer followers, and a whole lot of white kids learning how to be just like their favorite gamer and fellow fans. Not a great mix.
Then you have white gamers (and a few ridiculous POC) claiming that the gaming community is fine, that there's only a TEENY, TINY amount of racism, and that saying the N-word is NBD because "it's ajust a word and black people say it all the time." (Amusingly enough, those are the same kinds of people who kick up a fuss when we black folks tell them that they have no right to say the N-word since it isn't their slur to reclaim or discuss.)
But sure, go ahead and keep handing out oopsy-daisy passes to the over-twenty-year-olds who "don't know any better."