No, it’s not just a joke.
I’m sure many of you white folks out there feel similarly to me right now, the frustration at another white person walking away alive after an act of fatal racist terrorism. We can feel sympathy for our Asian friends, but we also have to realize that we are complicit. No matter how much we try, a ton of us are responsible for the acts below that line. We live in a society that thrives on white supremacy, we benefit from it every day. Even those of us who actively work towards being anti-racist benefit from it.
I wanted to share this excellent image because it truly shows the extent to white white supremacy moves our society. I want you to consider this in your every day life. The overwhelming amount of covert white supremacy in our society leads to the acts of terror and violence that we see constantly. Yes, racist mascots and tokenism and cultural appropriation lead to the loss of life. Because we don’t challenge this covert white supremacy we ultimately default to undervaluing people of colour and the more extreme white people take this as implicit acceptance of their actions.
So, we really have to make an effort on this. Understand we’ll make mistakes, but do the work. And try to learn more – this post has excellent resources. As terrified as it makes me, I am going to take the steps to do some bystander training. I remember seeing a video about this at the Immigration Museum in Victoria, Australia – it was so uncomfortable to watch. Imagine being on the receiving end of the racism every single damn day and having nobody step in, though.
Below this image I’m going to dive a bit into the covert white supremacy in the board game community, because it’s really got to change.
Back in 2016, I was part of a vocal group of people who spoke up about a “comedy” video that some folks had made about the Japanese-themed Ontiama. Tropey, cringey and downright racist, the group removed the video after the feedback. Unfortunately myself and a number of other people who were critical of the video were targeted for our “harassment.” Yes, I was angry – but ultimately, I feel like if I can’t call out fellow white people for their racist mistakes then what can I do? If I don’t challenge these things I am complicit in covert white supremacy.
It’s tiring, but there’s a good number of these covert sorts of white supremacy that turn up in board gaming fairly often. From podcasters putting on accents (“it’s just a joke!”) to tropey racist representations of Asian culture in games (walking a line between tokenism and cultural appropriation) to the tired “Chopstick font” you see on the cover of boxes of Asian-themed games, there are endless macro- and micro-aggressions against folks of Asian cultures. (And I’m using a generic “Asian” term here because that’s really how board gaming approaches it, rather than respecting the specific peoples within that term – I mean, this applies to the world more broadly too, but it’s something I see a lot in gaming.)
These are behaviours and things that can be easily changed. They aren’t just jokes, they aren’t just games. They are everyday reminders to our Asian board game community members that they aren’t welcome. They are slights and they are unnecessary. If you’re critiqued by another white gamer about this, listen and ask questions – I have personally been trying very hard to approach this stuff reasonably and calmly of late. We all have to learn, and keep learning. If you’re approached by one of the Asian members of the board game community because your actions/product/etc causes harm that falls within this very broad spectrum of covert white supremacy, don’t take it personally. Our society has comfortably conditioned us to be this way and (in most cases) we don’t choose to be deliberately shitty. It’s really hard for these folks to even bring this stuff to our attention and we should be thankful to them for the learning experience.
I just want to leave you with this image, as it really gets to the core of what I’m getting at with always learning about ways to improve.