“Dammit Felix,” I said to myself as I saw the Gamespot article, “PewDiePie Uses Racial Slur In Livestream, Game Dev Says He’s “Worse Than A Closeted Racist” come across my Facebook timeline. In that moment I took a breath and asked, “Who did he offend this time?” Unfortunately, the sky is the limit with the variations of racial slurs out there, but usually I assume it’s the “n-word”. I just kind of assume these things because the “n-word” tends to be the go to slur to express anger, rage, hatred, or the state of annoyance towards a particular entity, most likely a person.
I clicked on the article, scrolled down, and watched the attached video. The Gamespot article quotes what Felix said, but I knew hearing it would bring an audible context that I greatly wanted to hear. I listened, and waited, and waited, and then boom he drops the “n-word” bomb like it was nothing. Now, to be fair he did say sorry for using the word immediately afterwards. So what is the problem? He apologized right? Let’s move on shall we?
First of all, no we cannot simply move on. A white male saying the “n-word” is nothing new, especially a famed white male. So, what is the argument about? The argument as it relates to Felix is his lack of understanding and usage of words and imagery. Simply put, he fails to understand the brevity of his actions until after he makes them. He fails to understand why certain jokes simply cannot be told from his perspective because these jokes are culturally sensitive. I am not saying a white person cannot tell jokes about minorities. I am just saying do not expect those groups to except the mindset that it’s coming from. It would be too challenging to tell if the comedian is poking fun of a culture that they grew up in or making fun of a culture due to a severe lack of cultural understanding. Basically, is the comedian laughing at the group or with the group?
Next: the coveted “n-word”. In full disclosure, I have a bias towards the word in which I do not use it all and do not allow people in reference to me. Yes, this includes other African Americans. I get it. I get why Felix used the word. The word is known to be offensive towards people of the African American Diaspora, yet he probably hears that word being used by African Americans as a term of endearment, in a fit of anger, or disagreement. It is a word that has been reclaimed by African Americans, yet socially forbidden for those outside of the culture, especially white people. Therefore, to further express his anger towards a particular person, why not use a word that expresses his frustration, yet tantalizing enough to use the word he has been socially forbidden to utter.
I have heard several arguments about the usage of this word and why some racial groups can say and others cannot. One known argument being, if the “n-word’ is so bad, then why do African Americans still use it? Another argument being the “n-word’ is just a word, therefore I should be able to say it too, right? If Felix did not use the hard “er” version would there still be controversy? Lastly, if people stop giving the word such power, then we won’t have this problem?
I get where those arguments are coming from. As an African American male who refuses to use the word, I still contemplate why the word still holds so much power. However, I also have a firm grasp of African American history and contemporary racial politics. That is to say, I am still confused, but I understand how the “n-word” has such power and longevity. Sociologically, the “n-word” has been marked to be forbidden to particular groups, especially those coming from and/or resemble those who have historically and systematically used the racial slur to ensure that the powerless never feel powerful. So, does this incident make Felix a racist? I don’t know. Does this incident make him look stupid? Definitely.
But this is a videogame blog; so how does it relate to gaming? Look at what Felix represents to people outside of gaming culture. He is another famed white male saying and/or doing racially insensitive actions and he was playing a videogame while doing it. Gaming culture is notoriously known for people saying and doing things to make others, generally minorities, feel insignificant, unintelligent, and simply inferior. Again, Felix said this during a frustrating interaction between another game player. Those of us who play videogames, especially online, know the frustration of dealing with trolls, cheaters, and acts of randomness that brings you to a disadvantage. I have been there several times and will continue to have my moments of frustrations using expletives to vent. However, I am still mindful of the impact certain words and phrases may have, especially words rooted in bigotry and ignorance.
The creators of Firewatch issued a DMCA takedown of all Firewatch and future Campo Santo content footage from Felix’s channel which is still up in the air at the time this article was written. You can read more here. Basically, if this DMCA goes through this could start a chain reaction of other gaming companies doing the same. This would not be good for him for it maybe the biggest push to start the beginning of the end for PewDiePie.
So let us keep questioning the use of not just that word, but other forms of racially insensitive language, as well as question the state of mind of the person or people who say it.