Happy MLK day! Let’s talk about race through the lens of games. Oftentimes, I can categorize race talks in one of three games: The Game, Whack-a-Mole, and Among Us.
For the uninitiated, The Game is quite possibly one of the stupidest games ever. It never ends, and essentially you lose it every time you think about it. This is how many people addressed racial issues pre-2020: simply, if no one’s talking about it, then we must be winning! Of course, the problem with this logic is that people have always talked about it, only the number of listeners ever change.
A great and terrible part of The Game is that it never ends. One of the core tenets is that everyone is playing The Game whether they know it or not, and in this way it actually does apply to racial issues. Racism must be unlearned as it is baked into many facets of modern society, from birth to death. Still, often we live our lives as though it does not exist—for some as a form of denial and for others a form of coping.
Next up is Whack-a-Mole. This classic arcade game relies on reflexes and the quick identification and quashing of moles. If we view the moles as racism—sporadic, obvious, and quickly addressed—then we can rest assured that while racism surely exists and will pop-up occasionally, we will see it when it happens and squish it.
It doesn’t take an sociologist to see the issue with this approach. Racism is not always obvious, it’s definitely not sporadic, and it is often ignored. It would be easy to list how racism plagued Obama’s presidency and takes thousands of lives each year through medical, police, and political racism, but instead I’ll just say two words: Donald Trump. Even ignoring the racial undertones that have belied republicanism since the Civil Rights era, Donald Trump has shown that even those who claim to not be racist will tolerate those who are.
This will not be an easy issue to address. In fact, the act of even learning about and understanding racism this year resulted in the phrase “ally fatigue.” I understand being overwhelmed far too well, but no one said being an ally was going to be easy. Being marginalized certainly isn’t. Much like exercise, saying that ally-ship is fatiguing is nearly redundant because literally no one has ever said it was going to be easy. It’s more than putting #BLM in your Twitter bio. As such, the whack-a-mole version of racism is one of the hardest viewpoints to address.
But not all games are so ill-suited to analogize to racism. One of the best parts of 2020 was the rise of Among Us, because not only is it tons of fun, but it provides me my final game analogy. In the set-up of Among Us, there is a group of 6-10 people with 1-2 impostors. The impostors look totally normal, but their mission is to kill and sabotage everybody else, all of whom are trying diligently to complete their tasks.
There couldn’t be a more perfect analogy if I tried, and it’s demonstrated clearly by what happened at the Capitol on January 6th. While (hopefully) you and I were minding our own business, trying to complete objectives, these “impostors” were actively trying to terrorize American officials (if not actually kill them) and overturn the election. And it wasn’t just “rednecks from the South*,” there were a number of white collar folk too! People who work with large corporations and have “good” jobs. People who could have been working with me—with anyone, really.
All of this to say that racism has no one look. Racism is baked into the US and has been since its inception, starting with the Constitution itself. The idea that we’re above racism is just that, an idea. It is certainly not reality. Racism is among us, and it has been for centuries.