Tag Archives: colonialism

Videogames as Story-telling: Protagonist Love Interests & Race

Well, last time we saw how racist myths can be kept afloat in videogames, even through anthropomorphic means. This post will be different , but yet the same, in that the central issue uniting all these problematics in these virtual narratives is one that sets that which is white as “default” and admirable.

There are myriad videogames one could choose to illustrate any of this. However, I’m going to stick with my experience and what I know.  As with the last post, I mentioned playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog games, in this post, I’ll feature a game whose narrative had a great impact on me and that I greatly enjoyed – Custom Robo!

I’ve always been into the battling robots  concept for as long as I can remember. Whether it was Gundam, Power Ranger’s MegaZords ( they looked like robots) , Medabots (which more people need to know about!), I seemed to have always been enamored with the concept of commanding/controlling a mecha-robo to engage in futuristic combat. Perhaps I’ll save what I think the significance of the mecha-robo combat is for another post…

Continuing with my interest in robot-combat fiction/games, I first played Custom Robo around Middle-School and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the futuristic aesthetic in the graphics and the music and character designs, etc. The story ( which, again I may cover in another post because it has significance) was captivating and I still remember it all so vividly. But what I also remember vividly, was the main character , called ‘Hero’ by default, looking like this:

He’s supposed to be the archetype of the honest-eyed, bon-homme (good-natured boy) – and he also happens to be a jolly white boy. And so being the honest, impressionable, and oft-naive bonhomme your main character is made to be, you naturally will need aside-kick, who may need to be a bit more worldy to round him out. Enter, Harry:

Yup. This is Harry (*sigh*..) Now we can go and deliberate all day as to what his race/ethnicity actually is because of his blond hair, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know the motif of blackness being a side-kick to whiteness- Custom Robo isn’t the only place we see it.

Now, in Custom Robo, he serves as more of a guide/mentor to the hero joining the local Custom Robo mercenary squad. He’s a charismatic, entertaining character to interact with,although he is portrayed as a wily, sloppy, lazy, womanizing guy. You know, like many black man side-kicks we see….

His character actually doesn’t bother me as much as another one… or rather what seems to be the game’s disposition towards her.. Harry’s sister, Mira

She’s the head commander of the Police Squad in this game and she’s a black female. And much like her bro, Harry, she’s got a sweet funky hair color! Anyways, in some ways her character makes me happy- it’s good to see a strong , black female who’s actually reverred and respected in the story. What I don’t like, however, is the message her character sends about black females being perceived as beautiful and objects of male affection- esp. when they have natural hair styles.

Throughout the game, these are the women that the womanizing Harry and all the other gentlemen of the game are gawking over are the white, flowy-haired women, wearing more effeminate clothing. It’s almost as if to say that black women , with their natural hair texture, cannot possibly be seen as effeminate and desirable to men. I find it interesting that virtually every other female in this game wins the affection of a guy except Mira. And before someone would like to wrestle me concerning the colonialistic gaze on black natural hair and beauty, perhaps I should remind you (or bring to your attention) Meteorologist Rhonda Lee :

 

If you’d like to check out some of the game’s lunacy for yourself, with good commentary, I recommend you follow the youtube user who actually inspired me to do this post, Black Preon:

Until next time!

Whiteness & Emergence Christianity: Tony Jones, Jason Richwine, And Other Race Science Hustles

THE WORLD OF RACECRAFT AS ROLEPLAYED BY WHITE “PROGRESSIVE” CHRISTIANS

English: Cross

English: Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“So many (and again, not all) privileged people (and, honestly, though I focused on two dudes in this piece this often includes privileged white women as well) who claim to be progressive Christians act like they want a world where everyone has a “seat at the table.”

But they want it on their terms.

They tell oppressed groups what they can and cannot say. They tell oppressed groups what words they can use to define their oppressions. They even dictate whether or not the experiences and thoughts of oppressed groups are valid.”

– Sarah N. Moon, Tony Jones, Peter Rollins, and the trend of “don’t call me racist!”

“He seems to write about his understanding of the gospel as if it’s objectively better, rather than experientially better. We should all remember that whether we like it or not, religious experience is subjective. The quality or value of a doctrine or belief is determined by one’s own context and experience. I think it’s okay to say that an interpretation of the Bible is more culturally palatable, more accurate (as is conceivably possible when translating from one language to another), or even more useful in one’s own context… But Jones’ progressive interpretation of the Bible is only “better” in the sense that we live in a society which is becoming more progressive.”

– Crystal St. Marie Lewis, White Men Can’t Jump Out of the Frying Pan that Easily

Today, I was just minding my own business at work when a friend sent me a facebook message informing me of his disappointment in Tony Jones’ latest blog post,I am Tired Of Being Called a Racist, in response to Cristena Cleveland’s first post in her series, “Diversity Repellent” “We Have a better version of the Gospel than you: Diversity Repellent.” Jones complains that he was misquoted, he said “better” not “best”: good better best, never let it rest, til your good is better and your better is best. Jones’ defense is that it is more of a referent, and not comparative. Fair enough, the correction was made, so what is the big fuss over anyhow?

One would think that when Cleveland editted her post, admitted she had editted at the bottom of the post (which is good Christian blogging ethics by the way), that should have ended the squabble, no? Does this change the problematic nature of Jones’ comments today or in the past? Um, no, it does not. Jones at Fuller Theological Seminary a couple of years ago was confronted for his problematic approach to the Global South Pentecostalism at a conversation of “emergence spirituality.” If you watch the video in its entirety, the framing of the discussion was very much Euro-centric, and void of any talk of place or context (except when historian Lauren Winner was speaking). Part of the invisibility of white supremacy in progressive groups is that whites do not have to talk about race or context or place at all. This is a big problem with much of the emergence Christianity literature I have ran into: see for example Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis.

On another level, by comparison, Tony Jones’ view that the Global South’s theology reveals a colonizing gaze for a few reasons I would like to discuss. When you have this idea that the West, North American religion/society in particular, has a “high level intellectual Christianity” with a “more sophisticated theology” than them down there, and YOU have to ask if it is colonialism or not, you are participating in the history of white supremacist propaganda against People of Color. The dark art of racecraft has a long history, but in short, as Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing, meaning it must continue to justify itself. White supremacy in even progressive mainline religious circles finds a way to rear its ugly head under the guise of concepts such as “People in the 2/3rd’s world are not intellectual enough,” they are economically poor and therefore need some of the West’s white theological fatness. Take for example Jason Richwine’s pseudo-scientific research that was exposed this week: he made the argument that Latin@s are less intelligent than whites, and therefore, we should have closed borders. If people of color from the Global South are seen as nothing but bodies, things without minds, they must be treated as a threat to the purity of white U.S. American society. Jason Richwine was making academic arguments, in fact, a PhD dissertation in working to justify white supremacy of the conservative sort.

Likewise, Tony Jones also made his arguments in an academic setting: “I made a statement of preference, that I think the nascent Pentecostalism practiced in much of the Global South would benefit from being in dialogue with the older, more developed theologies of the West.” The defense of his position is not borderline racist; it’s just plain rank imperialism. The exchange is not mutual, and presupposes that there has been some theological vacuum in “Latin America.” Is good theology only owned by white male bodies? What about Leonardo Boff? Pope Francis the First? Gustavo Guttierez? Joao Chaves of Brazil? Are not these theologians who have a “developed” theology who were or have been placed in the “Global South” at one time or another? Why do “these people” need you? The invisibility of location and context that is glaringly familiar in white liberal Christian literature makes its way here once again. The Christianity of “high intellectualism” that Tony Jones is stressing here is culturally bound by an epistemology (way of knowing) grounded in the racist history of superior Western, white male rational subject.

FYI Mr. Jones, I’ve read that you have “global experience” and that you “have good friends who are Pentecostal” but Racism 101, heard it all before “but I have a black friend

“2. I have a black friend.

variant a. I have an Asian child.

variant b. I have a non-white boyfriend/girlfriend.”

OR ANY other version thereof does not excuse the exercise of colonizing gazes in the name of “theological arguments.” Just by even bringing up your context of American and Western, there is no such thing as a “purely” theological argument. But of course, as an “Incarnational” Christian you should know that.

Speaking of Incarnation, to get back to the root of the problem, the notion of the “highly sophisticated” and uber-intellectual white subject over and against the mindless Pentecostal bodies of color: 2 things: first, at the Incarnation, Christ does not let us forget our particularity, and we should very well remember Jesus’ place as well, where heaven and a 2nd century Jewish human are united and tied together for the sake of saving Jews and Gentiles together in reconciliation. Secondly, the Incarnation according to John 1, teaches us that people are more than bodies, that they are more than the good minds (Logos/logos/logic/wisdom) that God has given them. In that light, I am tired of black women being called emotional and angry, as you and your commenters suggested in the past and today. I am tired of women being silenced when they stand up to both institutional sexism and men’s personal sexism. I am tired of reading books by and listening to white progressive Christians who don’t want to talk about their own place or race or context.

Good better best. Never let it rest. Til your good is better, and your better is best.

😉

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Israel's Self-Defense, Borders, and Statehood

From the Jesus Creed: this link.

And video:

And quote from Scot McKnight:

“Andrew, though I disagree completely, for many defending Israel is close to the heart of evangelicalism.”

On this issue, I have a large amount of conflict. On the one hand, as a post-colonial theologian, I recognize the rights of all persons to self-determine what communities they belong, i.e., create nation-states, congregations, freedom of assembly/expression, yada yada. As a pacifist, I abhor most forms, okay, okay, all forms of nationalism, even if it is of yet-to-be country variety (like Palestine). I fully affirm a two state solution and the current borders as they stand. I know it is of no controversy to defend Israel’s right to defend itself, I mean, that’s the evangelical Christian line. I think Israel is best served defending itself (i.e., its reputation as a democracy) by becoming a decolonizing force in the world, as a republic–and respecting human rights. Maybe the United States, that shining light on a hill, could better persuade such action by dismantling its world-wide military installments. I stand by my post, 100% on Sunday; people should stop pretending they are pacifists (and condemning Israel for being violent) but defending President Obama’s war-mongering.

It is sickening and hypocritical.

Nonviolence is a matter of believing in the sanctity of life (another heart of evangelicalism)- you are either for us or against us. No middle ground.