Back in 2003, a group of well-known Counter-Strike players (mostly White and Asian) decided that it would be fun to masquerade as an African-American Counter-Strike team. They created fake names, used fake profile pictures, and proceeded to compete in an entire season of league play while pretending to be African-American. When the players were finally exposed, the Counter-Strike community reacted to the incident with more amusement than anything else, and I - an avid member of the CS community at that time - was shocked and offended. I expressed my shock and disappointment in an op-ed, which was received somewhat controversially. While I was disappointed enough in the community's initial reaction to the incident, I was even more disappointed at its reaction to my comments. It was extremely disheartening to witness the cultural values, or lack thereof, being displayed by my peers.
Almost ten years later, I am a proud member of the StarCraft community, a culture which I find to be far more intelligent, conscious, and respectful than the Counter-Strike community was in 2003. And, while what I'm about to say may be odd to hear, given that EG's sponsors have been bombarded with complaints from StarCraft fans and players over the past 24 hours, I can say with complete honesty and sincerity that
I have never been prouder to call myself a member of the StarCraft community than I am at this moment. I'll explain why further down in this write-up, but first, bear with me as I offer some context.
My undergraduate degree is in Black Studies, Sociology, and Social Justice. And, while I'll never claim to understand what life is like from the perspective of anyone other than a straight, White guy, I'd like to think that I have a pretty solid academic understanding of how race and racism function in contemporary society. My own credentials aside, I think it's really important to point out that racism today is not what it once was; not in the sense that it is any less widespread, or that it has any less of an impact on people's lives, but rather, in the sense that it functions very differently today compared to how it functioned twenty, thirty, forty, or more, years ago.
Take, for example, the term "racist," which I think is a rather antiquated word, and one that's been injected with so much hyperbolic meaning and stigma over the years that it is now almost entirely devoid of any actual, useful meaning. Traditionally, using the term "racist" in describing a person, action, or statement implies intent, or belief in a racial hierarchy, or belief in the superiority of one race over another. These are the objective criteria standardly utilized in labeling something or someone as being "racist."
But at this point in time, in contemporary society, there are relatively few people (especially compared to how things were in the mid-to-late 20th century) who actually believe in the aforementioned kinds of objectively-racist systems of thought. Aside from White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis (who still very much exist, don't get me wrong), and other extreme examples, most people in our age group just don't believe in that kind of racism. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that most of the people reading this post were taught that racism is bad, that racial equality is good, and that you shouldn't be racist. The fact is that these days, most people don't think they're racists, and don't want to be identified as being, or doing something racist. And yet, racism still occurs, and we all still say and do things to perpetuate it, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally. There's a great book about this sociological issue called "Racism without Racists," and if this kind of subject matter interests you, you'd be wise to check it out.
Anyway, the bottom line is that, despite this change in how we view racism, it's still everywhere. It's still incredibly powerful, and it pervades most - if not all - aspects of our society. It's just, for the most part, much more covert than it was fifty years ago. Nowadays, it usually takes the form of stereotypes and institutional policies, rather than racial slurs and violence. And correspondingly, in my opinion, it has become far too complex to be accurately described by the term "racist." We've all witnessed arguments about whether a particular joke someone made was "racist," or "offensive," or "insensitive." The question I always ask is, are any of these adjectives really accurate or appropriate? I don't think we've developed a functional verbal toolset to appropriately discuss contemporary, covert racism. With this in mind, I try to entirely avoid labeling people as "racist," and I define something as being "racist" only if it plays a functional role in perpetuating racism (for example, I'll call a joke a "racist" joke if it plays on stereotypes, because stereotypes function as the foundational pillars of race and racism).
Now, moving on to points more relevant to the happenings of the past several days, let me be clear: it is my personal opinion that n----- is the ugliest, most repulsive word in the American-English vocabulary. I have never said it, typed it, or written it. If it's used in my presence, I immediately speak up and demand that it not be used again in my presence, regardless of context or circumstances (and for the record, I am equally sensitive about who can and can't say n---a, but that's a different discussion entirely). There are many valid reasons to find the word n----- offensive and repulsive, but for me, the overarching reason is that there is no other word that so efficiently and effectively captures such extreme human injustice and inequality. There is an inherent power dynamic/discrepancy contained within the act of saying the word n-----, and its use sets its subject apart from its object to a greater extent than any other word we have is able to. As such, if you prescribe to my contemporary definition of racism outlined above, there is no more racist word in existence than n-----. By its very nature, it is the essence of absolute racism, in its most extreme form, encapsulated in a noun. In my opinion, with few exceptions, it doesn't matter who says it, to whom, in what context. It's a racist word. If it has a subject and an object, I find its use to be inexcusable - again, with very few exceptions.
In line with this, earlier today, Orb, who had been contracted by EG to anchor our Master's Cup broadcasts, was informed that he has been dismissed of his position and will not be invited back. I apologize to those of you who feel that we took too long to make this decision, but we wanted to make sure the allegations were true before acting, and as recently as 24 hours ago, their validity was still in question (as Scott explained on Live on 3 last night). While Orb's inexcusable comments occurred before he was contracted by EG, and they (of course) did not occur on an EG-affiliated broadcast, neither of these points accounted for our delay in dismissing him. We were never looking for a loophole, here. It didn't matter to us where or when these actions took place. We just wanted to make sure the allegations were true before moving to act and formally parting ways. And, it should go without saying that if we'd ever known that Orb had used such language in the past, or was prone to using such language, we wouldn't have contracted him in the first place.
For the record, I do want to point out that I don't think Orb is "a racist." As mentioned above, I think that to make such a claim would be to misunderstand the nature of contemporary racism. This, of course, does not lessen the severity of his actions, or the extent to which they are unacceptable and inexcusable, but it's still an important distinction to make. As also mentioned above, I think that it's possible to make a racist comment without being a card-carrying Neo-Nazi - the latter is not a necessary condition for the former - and I hope that all of you will consider - whenever it is that you're done expressing your very justifiable outrage - forgiving Orb, if he apologizes sufficiently. While no amount of penance will land him back at the EG broadcast desk, he's a very talented caster, and I hope that he learns from this experience and eventually rebounds from the trouble he's gotten himself into.
In many ways, a culture's icons reflect its core set of values. Being granted celebrity status, and being allowed to represent an entire community, or a portion of a community - these are privileges only given to individuals with whom said community identifies and whose perceived values said community respects. I mentioned at the beginning of this post how disappointed I was in the Counter-Strike community back in 2003, because the community still allowed that team of players to retain its celebrity/icon status, even after their true identities and transgressions were exposed. Their actions violated my core values, and as such, I felt that they should be publicly condemned, and have their celebrity status revoked. The majority of the community, however, felt the exact opposite, and further celebrated the team for their behavior. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that the community's cultural values were not in line with mine, and that was a disheartening realization for me.
However, almost ten years later, as I also mentioned at the beginning of this (very long) post, I've never been prouder to be a part of the StarCraft community (or of any gaming community) than I am at this very moment. And I feel this way because, despite the fact that you guys have been peppering my sponsors with complaints*, your outrage shows me that we do have a set of core values (one of which is that racism isn't acceptable), and we expect our icons and celebrities to share those values; otherwise, they won't be our icons and celebrities any longer.
The eSports industry, and especially some of its respective communities, still have a lot growing up to do before they're truly ready to become mainstream. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the fighting game community at the heart of some major controversy because its culture seemed to condone overt sexism and sexual harassment; these forms of discrimination, in fact, were cited by many members of the FGC as part of what makes fighting game culture what it is. In that regard, the FGC revealed the immaturity of its cultural values, and showed that it still has a lot of growing up to do.
I think we all already knew, prior to this incident, that the StarCraft community was one of the more mature gaming communities out there, but it's still refreshing and encouraging to see that maturity reinforced by how (most of) you guys have reacted over the past few days. I urge you to continue to stand up for what you think is right, and help make this community a safe, comfortable space for everyone.
I can say, with unwavering certainty, on behalf of everyone at EG, that we are absolutely, 100% committed to doing our part to achieve those goals.
...Now, I just wish you guys would also get this upset when people use the word f----t, so that we could start fighting homophobia, too, and show people that it, like racism, also doesn't belong in our community .
CEO, Evil Geniuses
@ottersareneat on Twittrr
*For those of you who complained to our sponsors: if you're satisfied with what I've written here, please re-contact them to let them know you're happy with us - really, please do it.
For those of you who didn't initially complain, but are satisfied with this post nonetheless, I'd also ask that you contact our sponsors to let them know you support us.
I would also ask that, in the future, if you're unhappy with something that happens in eSports, you guys give the offending party a chance to respond and/or act before seeking vigilante justice via contacting said party's sponsors.
In this case, I promptly informed everyone that we'd be issuing a statement and were taking the matter seriously, but some of you still decided to contact out sponsors before hearing me out. I don't think that's fair. Please try to be more patient in the future. It's hard enough to bring sponsors into eSports as it is - we as an industry don't need angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs making that task any more difficult .