I Don’t Fuck with the Mainstream Cosplay and Geek Scene
I don’t fuck with the mainstream cosplay and geek scene. Not one bit. I don’t join their groups. I don’t follow their social media. I don’t read their magazines. And I don’t submit my pictures. I don’t pitch essays to them. The most that I participate in any of it is going to some conventions, and when I go, it’s usually with the intent to research or do a presentation that will address racism in some way. Sometimes, all it takes is my presence in the room to initiate that dialogue. Other than that, I do not fuck with mainstream cosplay and geek scene, because it’s too racist.
That scene is racist in every fucking way. It’s incidentally racist. Intentionally racist. Subconsciously racist. Overtly racist. The scene uses every tool in its arsenal to ensure it is white dominated, white supremacist, and anti-Black as fuck and I am not here for it. The scene has an idealized perception of what it wants to be and it is white and mostly eurocentric. Even in the body positivity groups, the ideal look is pale skin, often blond and blue-eyed, and hourglass shape…just a fatter one.
When you see Black people in these cosplay groups, they are usually racially ambiguous. You very rarely see dark brown-skinned women and when you do, they fit every other mainstream standard of attractiveness, and by mainstream, I mean popular white standard. And despite this, they get racist comments like “this character isn’t supposed to be burnt” or “stop n*ggerfying cosplay.” I’ve seen Black cosplayers catch so much hell for daring to cosplay a character who isn’t Black, and I’ve also seen communities split about defending the cosplayers.
And this isn’t limited to cosplay. I’ve seen it in gaming, modeling, comics, movies, books…the moment white people are not centered in something, they turn hostile. And usually the moderators and administrators protect hate speech and eject those fighting racism. They defend hate speech as “free speech” and call Blackface “cosplay accuracy.” I used to participate in online arguments with white geeks until I learned that these folks weren’t interested in my perspective. They were just trying to wear me out. And it worked. I left those spaces and they control them.
Why would I participate in groups that are fine with not just denigrating me, but protecting the offenders while punishing me for defending myself? The answer is, I don’t. I don’t participate in that shit because I already know the deal. Instead, I focus on spaces that center Blackness and are invested in protecting me. And when I venture into hostile areas, I do so by choice, and spend much of my time conducting periodic threat assessments because, again, I know the deal. It’s exhausting and frustrating but that’s how you survive white geek spaces — by protecting yourself when you refuse to be quiet, inoffensive, and out of the way.
But now, with the open warfare declared by white supremacists who have made clear that they are at war with Black people, non-Black People of Color, undocumented POCs, any brown person in a turban, Jewish people, and non-christians, I’m noticing white people who in the past wouldn’t say shit, actually speak up. And while a part of me is glad to see a greater number of white people finally pushing back on racism, I’m pissed that it took putting known members of the KKK in government positions for them to grow a backbone and have some fucking empathy.
I’m angry that people in my local cosplay community regularly associated with a white supremacist and didn’t know she was because she talked to Black people. I’m angry that white people are debating whether nazi cosplay should be banned from conventions. I’m angry that despite numerous, glaring signs of white supremacy, white people still spend a shit-ton of time making excuses for themselves and their friends; that they refuse to acknowledge obvious racism. Instead they explain it away, as we are watching yet again with PewDiPie’s racist ass. Like we’re seeing with those white teens in New Hampshire who fucking lynched a Black child. Like we’re seeing in New Jersey with those white people committing welfare fraud. Like we’re seeing all the damn time because whiteness protects whiteness.
So, no, I don’t trust white spaces. I don’t trust white people. I’ve spent my entire life learning how to live with them, diminishing myself so I don’t accidentally intimidate them. Speaking softer, or not at all. Navigating hostile spaces and swallowing my ego and pride in the face of overwhelming incompetence time and time again because my Blackness somehow reduces me in their eyes.
But I refuse to sacrifice the joy and comfort I find in this hobby by forcing my way into spaces that don’t want me. We’ve been building our own and it’s been wonderful. That is where I feel safest. That is where I want to be. I’ll support Black people who has the tolerance to continue pushing into these hostile, white dominated spaces, provided they don’t practice anti-Blackness, because this is a multifaceted war with many fronts. I’ve chosen where I’ll fight my battles cuz every battle won is an opportunity for someone else to win more.
Where’s your battleground?
Originally published at talynnkel.com.