On the Failures Of Black Men Writers In Games Media
Monday, October 12, 2015 at 1:05PM
Isaiah T. Taylor in Blackity Black Blackness, Criticism, Games Journalism, Social Media, The Internet

I want to preface this by saying I have hope for games writing. I have hope, because I see Evan Narcisse, Zolani Stewart, Sidney Fussell, Austin Walker and the great catalog of work they’ve built over the years. They, among other men of color in games writing, have worked without a shred of the recognition they truly deserve to get on platforms like Kotaku, Boingboing and Giantbomb where their voices grow stronger. There are a number of black writers and specifically black men who write critically about games, but these are my favorites to reference when delving into today’s topic. Honestly, they’re my favorites in general.

So, we kinda suck when it comes to writing about black women.

I was reminded of this a couple days ago when spreading an article by Sidney and his perspective on the fear of black bodies in games media. I was soon reminded as to why we have so much work to do when it comes to representing black women. This isn’t a call out of Sidney’s recent work. We’ve shared thoughts for years on how we as black men need to do better. I’ve seen him boost black women writers and devs, but this doesn’t absolve him, or me of criticism. After it was pointed out to me, I DO believe his piece would have been stronger had black women been included.

So why do I have you here? Well, to apologize. That moment I had. The moment in which I read a friend’s work, process what I like and then become damn near evangelical about boosting and spreading it to whomever will listen happens -- probably every day. Had not a black woman pulled me aside and said, “well, no.” I probably would have gone on about my day with the same thought process.

Why is this important?

This moment probably took five to ten minutes tops. This is coming from one black man  taking time to spread another black man’s writing -- something I encourage you all to do. This was writing, which didn’t include black women. Nor did the writing include a link to folks who’ve talked about this at length.

Aside: Linking to other folks work is essential for a number of reasons. Typically the excuses we hear from progressive men and especially black men is that ‘they’d rather black women tell their story in their own words.’ Yet, men, by and large refuse to hire women to write on these major platforms. In a lot of cases men will use the knowledge they’ve acquired from women in their own work. So, yeah, there’s that.

I thought about how often that happens. I thought about how often that happens with me. So, not only is the problem with black men writing about a section of art and entertainment which often erases the very existence of black women, but the problem is magnified when black men -- like me -- uncritically spread the work.

Just to make this crystal clear I’m not saying Sidney, or any of my favorite writers do this constantly, but it’s something I’m noticing more with writers I like and don’t like. I’m placing the blame on black men writers because I expect more from us than anyone else. Also, we can always do better in how we decide to cover topics of this nature.

I’ve noticed it with Cornel West. I’ve noticed it with Michael Eric Dyson. And I’ve noticed it recently with Ta-Nehisi Coates. They’ve all, at one point in my life, been people I’ve looked to -- to guide me as a writer and artist. They’re also figures I’ve seen not adjust well to criticism given to them when in regards to their commentary on black women. I have hope for them too.

It stings more when black men are writing about how we’ve been disenfranchised by a Japanese, European and American dominated industry, when we’re literally erasing black women with our [lacking] commentary.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m rarely motivated to publish my writing -- ESPECIALLY my thoughts on games. It’s definitely not a cool time to write about personal concerns in games for fears of being branded by an industry that clearly doesn’t want me in it unless I play ball and show my pearly whites. It took me feeling absolutely sick over this issue -- and an extended lunch break at work today to purge these thoughts. So I’m hopeful the regular black writers out there will have an easier time addressing this issue in the future.

Even now, I know I’m leaving stuff out [break is almost over] and I am absolutely open to being critiqued about my words here. I’m here for it. I have to do better.

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