Saturday, June 19, 2021

Happy Juneteenth!

From Wikipedia
I had never heard of Juneteenth before the summer of last year (2020). Like never. This probably has more to do with my geographic location (Seattle) than with the company I keep, which includes all colors of the rainbow. When I first heard about Juneteenth, it was through my wife (who heard about it through her company which is based out of Washington D.C.). I believe my introduction to the holiday was her asking me, "Have you ever heard of this?"

Now for the obligatory post on racism.

I'm a white American. I'm a racist. Not the kind that would spit on a Mexican (like someone once spit on my Mexican wife in a Seattle bar). Just the kind that you are when you grow up in a culture that was built on the blood and exploitation of other people. The kind that needs to be constantly on guard against a false sense of "everything's fine" when injustice is still being perpetrated on folks who don't look like myself.

I prefer to not be part of the problem. Part of the problem is ignoring that a problem exists. Sometimes I talk about the problem (of racism). I don't think orcs are racist. I think people are racist. I've heard stories from non-white people about white racist gamers treating them badly (treating them like orcs). Some of these people feel there are problematic parts of the D&D game that promote bad attitudes/behavior or permit/encourage such. I don't see it that way, but I understand some do. 

I have sympathy for those folks' point of view. I acknowledge that racism is an inherent problem in my culture and society.

My children are half-Mexican (not the same as black but, even so, non-white). They enjoy the hell out of D&D. They enjoy killing orcs. Sometimes they enjoy talking to orcs (and goblins, etc.) and reaching resolutions that don't involve killing. This is part of the game...combat can kill player characters, too, not just orcs. My son runs an on-line AD&D game for his friends (they are age 10). He goes to a diverse school; nearly half of his class is "non-white." 

All the players in his campaign are caucasian. His dungeons have orcs. These things are unrelated, just facts. 

Inherent racism is a problem; probably more than overt racism (though the latter leads to more violence). My children are too young (or too fortunate) to have directly experienced overt racism. But we watch the news in our home. We talk about things. We talk about the problems of racism in this country. It's worth talking about. 

D&D isn't a problem for us. For some people, it is. 

It's good to be aware of racism; sometimes, on my blog, I feel I have a responsibility to bring up the subject. Rather than ignore it. Even though I haven't been affected it by it like other people. Even though I'm a white American dude.

Or, perhaps, BECAUSE of these things.

Juneteenth is a good thing. Acknowledging and understanding our history is a good thing. Realizing that there's still work to be done to make our society equitable is a good thing. 

Hope everyone has a good holiday weekend.


  1. Great post! I'm half Mexican as well I'm sorry your wife experienced that kind of devilish behavior. Hope you and the kids have wonderful games. To all of you a great weekend 😎🎲

  2. Great post! Sorry to hear what your wife and kids (and you as husband/father) experience firsthand. Agree with you on all of this. As a white guy here, too, I'm also trying to figure out how to balance my views and experiences of gaming with those of people of color and LGBTQ folks. Just as I'm trying to raise kids who are better than me, I'm trying to run a better table as well.

  3. I'm a white American. I'm a racist. I'm not sorry.

    1. Wasn't asking you to be sorry about it.

      I prefer people work to overcome their racism, not beat themselves up about it. Educate yourself, broaden your world view, try not to do harm, help to end hatred, celebrate the differences in people.

      Being honest about your racism is a step in the right direction.

  4. It's an interesting article, thanks. I've never really thought deeply about racism in games (white male privilege most likely) but I've also never played any games with racist characters or had to challenge any bigotry at my table.

    I think we're becoming more aware in gaming; I see more games use words other than "race" in character creation and more games where players choose characters' pronouns rather than genders, for example.

  5. A good post JB, Juneteenth is a good thing and the only way this county can eventually evolve into an actual representative democracy is by acknowledging its horrific past and addressing it. Making Juneteenth a holiday is a tiny step towards that and heartening.

    As to D&D and its place in discussions of race, identity and culture in the US. Yeah it's the product of a deeply structurally racist world view - no I don't just mean that Gygax appears to have had some dubious ideas in the area, though that seems undeniable. More that it's an embodiment of white male fantasy from mid-century America. Hard for it not to contain the unconscious attitudes and themes of its sources, its culture. That doesn't make it inherently or irredeemably bad, just as the US's foundational genocides and ongoing horrific abuses of it's non-white residents(many of whom still do not have the de facto rights of citizenship, whatever de jure rights may exist)don't make the United States so. I hope both can acknowledge and examine those ingrained habits of language, mind and culture without destroying themselves ... but then a hobby or nation that can't grapple with and improve on its failings really has not purpose existing.