by Jordan Minor
There has been a lot of talk lately about the need for video games and gaming culture to diversify. But there are many different ways to do this, and without clear directions, an ultimatum could just paralyze an industry already timid about widening its representation. That is why I would like to humbly suggest one potential artistic avenue gaming should explore to expand its borders: Afrofuturism.
“Afrofuturism is the intersection between technology, black cultures, the imagination, and liberation with a heavy dose of mysticism,” says Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. “It is expressed through an array of genres including music and literature.It can also serve as the basis for critical theory around culture and/or race. It is a lens to see alternate realities through a black cultural lens.” And it is particularly prevalent in literature like sci-fi/fantasy novels and comics books, gaming’s geeky cousins. “Comic book and sci-fi fans are accustomed to connecting with metaphors, mythology, images, and time benders, so it is easy for fans to grasp the depth of Afrofuturism.”
Co-opting Narratives of the Other
“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”
This is the famous assertion made by renowned author and political activist Arundhati Roy. The term, “giving voice to the voiceless”- with which we are now all too familiar finds its roots in the contours of classic imperialist thought, where the “civilized” (essentially Western, white connoisseurs of knowledge and development) have gained more of a “self” by going out to “help” communities of the so-called third world. Of course, at the heart of this self-acclaimed charity lies the responsibility of representing the marginalized of those communities.
Representing women (as well as children) continues to be a profitable business for the Western media. Indeed, anthropologists Arthur and Joan Kleinman note that images of distant, suffering women and their children suggest there are communities incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people. This logic thus suggests the need to re-write the stories of suffering of these individuals.
And yet, whereas the old and tired variations of “giving voice to the voiceless” have sought to narrate these stories, the latest recreation of this phenomenon is to provide the platform from which women can narrate their stories of suffering themselves. This is done in a space sponsored and confined by the same Western discourse that has continued to dictate representations of their communities.
By now the identity of these communities is a no-brainer; they are the communities of the “global south”, the “third world”, of any essentially non-Western community. Among many, anthropologist Homa Hoodfar notes that for the past two decades, Muslim women in particular, have been the most pervasive subjects of discussion in Western media. She attributes this phenomenon to the notion that,
“Failing to contextualize non-western societies adequately, researchers simply assume that what is good for western middle-class women should be good for all women.”
Due to this tendency, as well as a general fixation on the lifestyles of Muslim women, marriage and the veil (the two topics most dubbed as features of otherness in Muslim culture) are the most enduring subjects covered by western media.
by Amika Shah
by Amika Shah
It’s not often that grime legend Wiley’s Twitter account is seen as a place for reasoned debate. However, over the weekend, the BBC’s urban radio station, BBC Radio 1Xtra released what it calls its ‘Power List’ – a list of the most influential artists in British black music, which seemed to be full of white artists, including Ed Sheeran at the number one spot. This went unnoticed until Wiley tweeted that the list ‘bumped’ black artists – the tweet has since been deleted, in true Wiley fashion.
It might make some uncomfortable to define music by race, but 1Xtra once seemed unafraid to do so. From the beginning, it had no qualms about calling itself a ‘black’ music station and not using any euphemisms like ‘urban.’ The station’s slogan until it rebranded in 2010 removing all mentions of race, was ‘Love black music, love 1Xtra’.
Recently, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party criticised the way stations such as Choice FM – now called Capital Xtra – have ditched their policies on black music and talk shows for the black community, axing DJs such as 279 and reggae DJ Natty B in favour of Tim Westwood and chart house DJ Avicii. Just last week, in a response to Okereke, 1Xtra’s music manager claimed the station had a ‘commitment to black music and specifically black British artists.’ Yet when defending the power list, 1Xtra claimed that ‘anyone wanting to bring race into the discussion is a bit misguided.’
by Huma Munshi
Diversity has been leading the news this week: from women bishops, to the Conservatives Cabinet reshuffle. Listening to Bonnie Greer in conversation with the MP Linda Grant at the National Theatre recently about her memoirs, brought home why representation and the ‘D’ word matters.
The audience at the National Theatre was a rare mix in that it was mainly filled with women of colour. I was reminded that having a space for diverse voices to share their stories matters. It matters because racism and sexism exist and society cannot have art and culture devoid of this. When we have the arts, culture or political structures for that matter that are predominantly white, straight and male, they are unreflective of the many cultures and stories that should be shared and heard.
In the industry of teaching English abroad, people of colour don’t exist. Or at least that’s what you might think from reading articles like Vice’s White People with No Skill Sets Wanted in China. In the piece, Walker and Hartley suggest that Chinese people believe all white people can teach English well. They have, however, failed to acknowledge the harmful role that the English teaching industry and western media have had in painting the image of ‘good English’ as a domain reserved for white people. Whilst this image serves to fuel entitlement amongst whites it also renders English-speaking people of colour invisible and fundamentally deficient by way of their race. Clearly, since the rise of English as the language of empire, it can no longer be considered as synonymous with white. Perpetuating this perspective leads to situations where people ask me
“Oh? You’re an English teacher? But I thought you were black.”View More
by Fiona @fifibones
David Cameron’s reshuffle is a manoeuvre to make British parliament appear less Pale, Male and Stale – a long overdue consideration. However, it seems parliamentarians who make big decisions on how our country is run are not the only ones who need to better reflect society at large. The BBC is also guilty of suffering from this highly contagious Pale, Male and Stale syndrome. The BBC website proudly shows off its specialist experts but what is there to be proud of when all but two of them are white and male? One would not have thought this incredibly difficult to do, how does a publically funded body naturally exclude large proportions of the public’s demographics? Where are the women and where are those of African and Asian descent? One female out of 20 (a mere 5%) just does not cut it. The BBC have banned all male panels on comedy shows, this is definitely a step forward but there’s something unsettling about comedy being taken more seriously than the News and current affairs.
The BBC’s largely exclusively white, male and middle aged list of experts not only creates and perpetuates an old boys’ network culture, which surely breaks every rule in the book of equal opportunities at work but this also inevitably fails to represent a diversity of thought, experience and perspective. Without a shadow of a doubt this selection of experts also fails to represent the general public whose hard earned taxes go towards funding the much hailed ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ British institution of which we are meant to be so proud.
By clicking along the topic tabs at the top and scrolling down you can see the BBC experts of each field.
Here’s the UK expert;
and the Northern Ireland expert;
Here is the Scotland expert;
Here are the Wales experts;
Here are the business experts; hold on did I spot a rare species? It seems the BBC have bothered to include a female’s voice.
Here are the politics experts; yep back to an all male line up
Science / Environment experts, yes you’ve guessed it;
And last of all, entertainment and arts expert
Something is VERY wrong here! And there are several things you can do to change it. Firstly, you could complaint to the BBC directly via this link
Secondly, you could complain to the Parliamentary figures on the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee by clicking the following link but be warned; as we have already identified Parliament and the BBC share a common affliction so as you scroll down to the 11 members you will see improvements in diversity are dying to be made here too. I’m sure Lenny Henry would have felt quiet disbelief sitting in front of this panel as he recently gave evidence on how TV shows could be more representative of its audience;
In other news; LBC were recently exposed for their lack of diversity. If only we had a term that fittingly exposes the institutionalised exclusion of Black and minority groups’ voices and experiences… The Macpherson report anyone?
Sister Sister actor Tim Reid talks about his move behind the camera
by Zaneta Denny
Growing up one of my favourite shows was the American sitcom Sister Sister, about two African-American teens with adoptive parents. Regular laughs and relatable family dramas encouraged me to tune in weekly with my own family. Sister Sister was part of a slew of nineties African-American sitcoms that provided positive, fun representations of black family life, a stark contrast to the sombre and often criminal images of black people in UK prime time. Dare I mention The Bill?
Actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry are now both married and still enjoy the limelight in Hollywood, occasionally popping up in the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ but the nineties child within me wondered what on earth happened to their screen parents?
I have been fortunate to travel extensively in my adult life. There is no better way to appreciate a culture than to live within it.
When the Euro stifled my tourist-buying power, I turned my sights toward Central and South America. It was in December, in the middle of their summer, that I landed in Santiago, Chile with the intention of flying home from Buenos Aires, Argentina 25 days later. Seven hundred miles and a treasure trove of adventures separate the two cities.
How did the Africans disappear?
Although slavery was abolished in Argentina in 1813, many Afro-Argentine were still held as slaves. Emancipation was promised to those who fought in Argentina’s wars. Most African men signed up with hopes of winning their freedom. They were sent to the frontlines. Most perished while fighting for a country that did not recognize their rights.
Until 1853, the law forced slave owners to cede 40 percent of their slaves to military service. The promise of manumission was offered to those slaves who completed 5 years of service — a promise rarely kept.
by Huma Munshi
It’s been a strange tale of race relations of late. On the one hand, research indicates that one in ten relationships are between people from different ethnic backgrounds. Yet on the other hand, the effects of institutional racism are as potent ever.
It can come as no surprise that we are seeing more people in relationships from a different ethnic background. In cities with a high population density, mixing within diverse communities is very much the norm. In London, the 2011 Census showed that the BAME population outnumbered White British for the first time. Within that, however, there are pockets where there is significant segregation of communities. The groups that are least likely to be in mixed relationships are Bengali and Pakistani. So even within the context of mixed race relationships there are anomalies.
But this is just one small piece of a complex jigsaw.
By Huma Munshi
As I was listening to Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, I found myself gritting my teeth in frustration. The subject of black children and their aspirations was being discussed following recent research by Newsnight which shows that 21% of black children feel their skin colour would make it harder to succeed compared with 2% of white children. Shockingly(!) the white male presenter could not understand the impact of racism, even at such an early age, on young black children’s aspirations.
What the presenter on Today could not fathom was that race could be a critical determinant. He suggested that poor white children face the same issues in terms of aspirations and life chances. There can be no question that poverty has huge impact on life chances. Poverty can be a vicious cycle which feeds into greater levels of exclusion. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to experience food poverty which has a knock-on impact on their ability to perform well in school. Statistics indicate that in the UK, by 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE than their wealthier peers which impact their earning potential over the course of their lives.
But to disregard the impact of racism on young people, when the structure of racism is so glaring within society, is wilful ignorance. It can come as no surprise that young people feel the colour of their skin will be a barrier. Police forces are up to 28 times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people. And the media simply adds fuel to this: black people are disproportionately depicted as dangerous violent criminals.
by Yassin Assoudani
“We need to be far more muscular in promoting British values and the institutions that uphold them.”
- said David Cameron in a Mail on Sunday article.This was a response to reports of extremism festering in schools in East Birmingham. The ‘Trojan Horse’, a letter that detailed an apparent coupe d’etat of 8 schools by radical Islamists. Since then, it has been described as a hoax masking a witch-hunt, but it gave Education Secretary Michael Gove enough reason to advocate a “more muscular” approach to enhance British values on the curriculum.4.8% of Britain’s population identify as Muslim. However, the second city’s percentage of Muslims is four times higher than the national average at 21%, most of whom are densely crammed into communities in the East of the city. Park View in Alum Rock, is one of eight schools accused of plotting to replace secularism with a radical interpretation of Islam.Assistant Principle, Lee Donaghy, wrote in the Guardian “after the Ofsted (education regulators) inspectors first visited Park View in early March, they left us with a list of mild recommendations for improvement”So, how can the same school, in the space of 3 months, end up implicated in a radicalisation plot that has spawned front-pages on political magazines such as this one?