Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

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Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Pete » 3:58pm on 18 Nov 11

Earlier today I posted a brief teaser blurb concerning a WWII game set in Japanese-occupied Burma.

The source comics that I'm using for inspiration are riddled with casual racism: the Japanese often cry "Ai! White devils!"; the Japanese are often depicted as having buck-teeth; and epithets like "slanty-eyed sons of satan" and "nips" are commonplace.

I did pause for a short while to consider this rather unedifying racism before posting; but, given my privilege, I ultimately did post. A PM from a friend picked me up on the casual racism - thanks buddy - and so I thought I'd throw the issue open to discussion here on the general boards.

The tone of comics is very much Boys Own stories of derring-do, with a slightly harsher, bloodier edge. George Orwell notably railed against the casual imperialism prevalent in the Boys Own-style stories from periodicals in the early 20th-century, likening them to little more than propaganda. (I paraphrase because I cannot find a link; apologies.)

How do you feel about blowing away "slanty-eyed sons of satan"? Does the fact that the tone is Boys Own derring-do make it a non-issue for you? Or are such depictions of race rather ill-considered in this day and age?
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby dpmcalister » 4:02pm on 18 Nov 11

My personal opinion is that racism, in any shape or form, is never OK. That said, I missed the Japanese reference because I was skim-reading. I did, however, Google the title (which was a concern) and came across the source material (and Joe Darkie).
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Mick Red » 5:29pm on 18 Nov 11

I think its cool, and have no issue with it.... However this forum has some sensitive people and one or two snitchy crybabies who will go running to DPM at the meerist hint of someone using something that 'could' be construed naughty..... i play 'Fantasy' games to escape and do something a bit different, just because i kill a Japanese soldier in a game doesnt mean ill go on the rampage in Tokyo..... Ive even heard 'certain' people who will whine here use such comments against german and french soldiers in con games of duty and honour so i wouldnt worry to much about it
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Silhouette » 5:41pm on 18 Nov 11

That's a tough one, in my book. Racism, imho, is not ok. In my little liberal world where it snows where you shake it, it really has no more place. It's so last century. Right up there with homophobia and whatnot.

But. Does that mean we can't play games that take place during the Vietnam war? Does that mean I'm not allowed to call Germans funny names while I'm shooting at them in a WWII game? Or is that just in character? Speaking of which, what about Monsters and Monstrosities, because clearly playing a woman mostly out to get that eligible bachelor who has 20,000 a year is so misogynistic and aren't we all past that kind of thing?

And I guess that pretty much ends all opportunities to play a samurai, because since I don't know all that much about the samurai I'm bound to play them with a certain stereotype that someone's bound to find offensive.

For me it depends on the game, first and foremost, and the people I'm playing with it. If anyone at the table is going to get offended by anything racially sensitive that we might say, then I'm going to avoid doing so.

Wow, rambly. I can't really seem to get my thoughts straight on this one. I guess what I'm trying to say is, while I'd avoid going all out on the casual racism in a game, I'm not going to pretend that certain sentiments never occurred in our collective histories. Stuff happened. Now someone wrote a game about it. If no one cringes over the source material (or, you know, sympathizes with it too much), then why not play the game?
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Pete » 5:44pm on 18 Nov 11

I have found the Orwell essay that I poorly summarised in my OP: Boys' Weeklies. It's a good read.
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Peanut » 6:04pm on 18 Nov 11

This is something I've discussed over many pints. Where is the line drawn and why there? For instance, Jock, Taff and Paddy seem "acceptable" in normal society. Frog, Kraut, Eyetie a bit less so but aren't deemed that offensive. However once we move onto Pakistani and Black slang names suddenly we've shifted gear. Is it just down to intent (or rather perceived intent) or just PCism gone overboard? I dunno.

Personally I happily give the Frogs a damn good thrashing in D&H without a second thought that, actually, I'm being racist, casual or otherwise. It's a game in a setting that used such terminology, just as they use (apparently) roast beefs for us. In modern games I've played the use of mofo and other such delightful terms have been bandied about however I wouldn't start using such terminology in my real life dealings. So I don't consider it a problem - it's a role in a roleplaying game.
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby dpmcalister » 6:28pm on 18 Nov 11

I see where Peanut is coming from. Jock, Taff, Geordie, Frog, Limey, Yank, etc. A lot of people consider them racist names but, as much as I said above about racism, I don't think they are. It is a very fine line. Just look at the current investigations in the FA (especially the Liverpool/Man Utd one where, it apparently has been argued that what the Liverpool player allegedly said isn't racist because, in his culture, it's an acceptable term).

I suppose you could draw a parallel with films set in certain eras (even non-offensive ones such as The Untouchables have racist (or what could be considered to be depending on your viewpoint) language).

The other thing to consider (especially you Mick ;)) is that different people have different opinions. What one person would consider fair game another would be mortally offended by it. Just because they complain or raise the issue doesn't make them "snitchy crybabies" (I'm only using Mick's words because they are the most recent - this, most certainly, is not a pop at him).
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby thenovalord » 6:49pm on 18 Nov 11

Being horrid to the scots, french and southerners is prejudice.

Being horrid to japanese, black people etc is racist

But in context/genre /rpg/entertainment, is it ok? Lots of actors say the N word in pulp fiction for example

Everyone is somewhat prejudice, and possibley,somewhat less racist, id hope

I struggle. Especially if for example if i have to be all equal and diverse to a culture, that is neither equal or diverse in its outlook.

or if the thing you say is both racist/prejudice but also true

so yeah

its ok for your entertainmnet if in context of the genre as the OP quoted. The japanese where pretty horrid in outlook in WW2
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Evilgaz » 6:56pm on 18 Nov 11

I read your post about Darkie's Mob with trepidation through my fingers, half-covering my eyes - thinking "Oh God, what's the Colonial* done now!?"

There's a world of difference between what's said at the gaming table among people who've had a lines and veils discussion, and what someone should post on a public forum...

Having said that, I've generally no problem with using colloquialisms, as long as people aren't getting offended by it and know the context. Its all about interpretation and intent. There's things I know I can get away with with certain groups, that others wouldn't understand, or there's a risk they wouldn't. Ultimately you've got to be a bit careful and know your audience.

The other week I had some trying to convert me to the English Defence League, after sitting at my table uninvited. I was probably more offended by the fact he was rudely interrupting my friends discussion and so drunk he spat in your face whenever he talked than his actual politics (which didn't make sense), but regardless, I was the wrong audience for his conversation, and me repeatedly having to tell him so was an issue. Similarly if you're using certain language and someone pulls you up on it, its worth considering your choice of words in future...

I ran a game at Conception will evil baddie Germans, and put on my outrageous accent for the villains. There was much hilarity as apparently the GM at the next table spoke with exactly the same accent as my "put on" one. I'd be mortified if the guy was offended by my over the top exposition, but he seemed okay about it. Or war ignoring me. Essentially, although I didn't mean any harm by it (obviously) and was only having a laugh, if someone had mentioned they were uncomfortable with it, I'd have stopped. Simple as.

The tricky bit is reading when someone's not happy, if they're not confident enough to speak up.

Bit of a minefield area, largely folk just need to think about others and not go out of their way to piss people off. Recipe for life.


* See what I did there?
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Mick Red » 7:03pm on 18 Nov 11

Just because they complain or raise the issue doesn't make them "snitchy crybabies


Yes it does...... As one of our bearded friends might know all to well, if someone has an issue (they may be reading out of context, as in a 'certain' case) then take it up with the poster instead of hiding behind a mod imo :D man up and talk about it here
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Neil Gow » 7:15pm on 18 Nov 11

This is a thorny subject and one that I have had to put a lot of thought into because my games are usually cited thick and fast when it comes up - which is delightful. :roll:

Let me make this plain from the start though - my background, my political leanings, my education; they all come from a very leftist background and I am singularly intolerant on matters of racism, sexism, homophobia etc. Sure, I'm no saint and occassionally I slip up, but I would never condone it.

However, you then have to look at it from a historical point of view. All the -ists and -isms that people have fought so strongly to reduce in the present, were founded in the past. The words we use today are built on the practices and beliefs of yesterday. We can only know where we are by understanding where we have come from. If we don't learn the lessons of history etc. As an example, I challenged a student who used the word 'mong' in class as an offensive term. They could not understand why I was so disturbed by it as they saw it as a word meaning 'someone thick'. Little did they know that a couple of decades earlier it was an insult for someone with Downs Syndrome.

So when we play historical roleplaying games, we have to make a decision whether we portray the world as was, or a sanitised world informed by modern ideals. My issue with this is that it changes the game from historical to fantasy. A game of Duty & Honour with female redcoats, Buddhist officers and a rank system based on meritocracy and qualifications would not be a Napoleonic setting. In fact, if we looked at the modern day stances of the sides (Napoleon championing a European superstate with democractic participation at the departmental level, open education and organised trade against Wellington upholding the near feudal class system of the proto-British Empire which subdued the poor and any other country it rolled over) we might well find ourselves siding with the French! (Your mileage may vary, naturally)

However, there are limits. I have had hours trying to balance the cool of a Anglo-Zulu War setting with the fact that, essentially, it was turning an indigenous black race into orcs. The British were not the good guys in that war, no matter how you try to spin it. It was engineered for political reasons and was totally unnecessary. Those games could very easily degenerate into 'Out we go to hunt the Blacks again!' That for me is a game too far. Its unacceptable to have that sort of concept knocking around a gaming table with my name on it. But thats my call.

And Orwell is right - a lot of action entertainment is propaganda. The comics that came out around that time were just as bad if not worse but at the time they did a job and I think its a very deeper over-a-pint argument about whether war propaganda is a worthy tool to emulate. Will historians in years to come look at shows like Spooks and Strikeback: Project Dawn as anything other than well-crafted anti-Islamic propaganda?

Personally, I'm drawn on the subject. On the one hand, I think there is absolutely a place for RPGs to help remind us of the sometimes terrible places we have come from. However, putting that into the context of say, a con game, where anyone can be passing by to hear the casual 'OK, I'll run the **** nip through and then gun down his chinky mates too. Oi, Gunga din? Can you and the rest of the wallahs get a move on with the ammo while me and Chalky finish off here?' is another matter in my mind.

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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby dpmcalister » 7:53pm on 18 Nov 11

Mick Red wrote:
Just because they complain or raise the issue doesn't make them "snitchy crybabies


Yes it does...... As one of our bearded friends might know all to well, if someone has an issue (they may be reading out of context, as in a 'certain' case) then take it up with the poster instead of hiding behind a mod imo :D man up and talk about it here

To be fair Mick, if some does take offence at something you've written and addresses you directly about it, your response is, invariably, to tell them to go away in short jerking movements ;)
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby dpmcalister » 7:54pm on 18 Nov 11

BTW, I'd like to thank everyone for being sensible and, at least semi-, serious in their responses :)
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Evilgaz » 8:04pm on 18 Nov 11

dpmcalister wrote:BTW, I'd like to thank everyone for being sensible and, at least semi-, serious in their responses :)

Trying hard not to make a joke about Jocks right now... ;) :)
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Re: Casual Racism Okay Because It's "In Genre"?

Postby Steven » 8:30pm on 18 Nov 11

Urgh. Hard questions. My thoughts:

When it comes down to it, what is okay at your table is whatever is okay with the people sitting round it. If none of them are offended, then that's fine, right?

However, that's not to say that someone who heard you play wouldn't think you were a bunch of tw*ts. That's a perfectly reasonable opinion on their part and if you play with this kind of fire, you have to accept that risk.

Trying to work out what is "okay" is trying to draw a line in the sand that you can step up to and defend. There are all sorts of arguments that you can use to defend a position. But offense doesn't work like that - there's no definitive determinant of what's offensive and what's not. No-one is ever wrong to be offended by something (though I'll grant that people sometimes feint offence , which is a different issue and can be wrong.)

So, yeah. I think you work it out with your group and accept the risk that someone else might be offended. If you venture out of safe territory, then there is no "okay".
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