Hi everyone, Cathy here, I want to talk about an unfortunate bit of racism I found in the character creation for Soul Calibur VI. When you go to choose a template for a character, one of the options is called Ancient Tribe, and it looks like this which fits in with common harmful stereotypes for Native people in the U.S.
I only want to provide this as the example, most of this video is not going to be showing this image because it bothers me.
So, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention that I have Native heritage, and I’m actually working to not say that anymore but embrace that part of my identity and say that I am Native, and I am Mexican. I was born in the U.S. and grew up here, but those parts of my identity are still valid. I also follow a number of Native voices on Twitter and in particular, I am thinking of the body of work of Dr. Adrienne Keene who has a blog titled Native Appropriations. One of the posts, and it is one she often cites from her other posts, is titled But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress, and I will be heavily citing it here.
That image plays into harmful stereotypes of Natives in the U.S. There were and still are several nations and this stereotype is often in reference to Plains Natives where those feathers that you saw in the headdress hold an important spiritual significance. There is a power dynamic at play here with what has happened to Native nations here and dressing up as a stereotype of them. To convey some of what I mean, take note of the fact that high school Native students have been put in a position where they are told not to wear eagle feathers to honor their graduation, which might be part of their culture, or maybe even have to choose between that and walking the stage. I was trying to think of a specific story I read on that happening, but found it is actually very common so could not find that particular instance I was thinking of. Yet here in Soul Calibur VI, the game is ready to let anyone dress up in this attire.
I need for people to understand that the Native people here are still dealing with colonialism and genocide. I grew up in this environment, seeing these caricatures of Native people all the time without grasping that meaning, and now I’ve been made aware of it, and I see it everywhere.
To my knowledge, Japanese video game companies do have localization efforts that will pull things like these stereotypes out. I’d rather they not be in the games at all, but that suggests some level of awareness of how it is disrespectful to bring these racist tropes into these games. I am not sure why this template made it through, but here we are. And to be clear, it’s not just the template, that headdress should not be an option.
So, I want you to be aware of it and think you should avoid using it because of the racist connotations that come with this specific image. Thank you for your time.