Square Enix Responds to "Racist" Deus Ex Character

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I see no racism here, is there something I'm missing?

I'm just gonna go right ahead and say it: THERE ARE PEOPLE IN REAL LIFE WHO TALK LIKE THAT. Real black people, who actually do talk with that kind of slang. I know a few personally. This is just an excuse to press the rage button, and should be ignored.

Incidently, however, the voiceover/slang would be a lot better if she actually looked the part, rather then looking like a slightly dirty suburban woman. Her look and voice just don't match up at all.

If anything, She's speaking in the Pagan dialect of Thief series.

The woodsie folk are offended by theeses :c

I object! As a Detroiter I would like to say that there is absolutely no racism in Detroit! Ahahaha even reading that made me laugh a bit...

Come on, this accusation is coming from the dude who thought having black zombies in an African setting in RE5 was racist. Clearly he is an alarmist dingbat.

Evan Narcisse is an idiot by the sound of it,if Letitia had been caucasian and her accent was russian would he be saying that its racist?...oh yeah I forgot about the RE5 zombie thingy, Evan Narcisse is definetly an idiot but im too tired to make my point so you'll just have to trust me on that

Anah'ya:

I was horribly offended by the German accents I ran into.

...

No, I wasn't.

I was offended by the fact that the last antagonist was a woman, that is so sexist.

No. Wait. I wasn't.

Sorry for quoting you here, but you seemed to be both dismissive of the whole idea, yet understanding where he comes from. Though I do NOT understand where he comes from. I support the theory that everyone is allowed to be treated equally. Whether that means we have white antagonists, black antagonists, German antagonists or characters with "stereotypical"... I mean, am I allowed to be offended when a white woman is painted in bad light? No. But a black person is allowed to be offended when another black person in a GAME is painted in something they consider offensive.

If everyone has to start turning over their writing five times to make sure it is fully "offence free" we will stop seeing single moms, adopted kids, drug victims, rape victims... and the list goes on.

So.

Yeah.

No offence, but being offended by a game is ridiculous.

No need to apologize for quoting or making an argument...that's the point of a forum, afterall. But again...the argument isn't whether you're personally offended. I am Not. Narcisse is. But he still loves the game. The point is that, on an almost completely objective level, the character is racist. Why? Because she almost EXACTLY mirrors the degrading, derogatory minstrel show depictions of black people that permeated the media in the early 1900s (YouTube Amos & Andy, Black Face, minstrel Show, The Dave Chappelle Pixie sketch, the list goes on...). I was one of the first people in my circle of friends to buy this game, and people came over JUST to watch me play and decide if they should pick it up. When Letitia opened her mouth, we ALL cracked up...the racism there is TRULY palpable. But we found it funny. Others found it offensive. Some find it accurate. But your reaction to it doesn't change what it is.

Was it intentional? Probably not, the woman's just a horrific voice actor who took what probably should have been a southern, slurred drawl and butchered it until it resembled something that was uncomfortably familiar to anyone who has seen the right films, or takes two seconds to run an internet search to see WHY someone might have this viewpoint. You don't have to be offended by something to think it's racist, but to just claim it's not there and you can't IMAGINE why someone might think that way seems ignorant or overly dismissive because of bias, and ultimately damages the position you're trying to make because it ignores the very apparent relation to something very real and tangible. I love this game. Best single player experience I've had in years. And I don't want people to decide against buying it based on this EXTREMELY minor character or what people may think of her. But I'm not going to dismiss a valid point with largely close minded, nonsensical, and generally irrelevant counter-arguments.

Like the mind boggling "It's not racist because sometimes it's true" argument I brought up before, or this "Oh...BLACK people are allowed to be offended when 'X' happens, but I'M NOT allowed when 'Y' happens" schtick. Who says you're not allowed? Where are these people? Is someone going to arrest you? Are you going to be fined? Is Jensen going to cloak into your room and jam his elbow blades through your lungs? Is there a law somewhere that I missed? Granted, people with no sense of historical or cultural relevance might decry your argument on the internet, sure, but...oh wait...that's happening here too. But that doesn't mean it's not allowed. It means someone disagrees with you. And that's perfectly allowed.

There's nothing wrong with being offended in degrees by a female character whose "armor" covers no more than 2% of her body. There's nothing wrong with being offended by a gay character who speaks in lispy showtunes and hits on every male character who so much as shoots hime a cursory glance. And yeah, it's most CERTAINLY okay to NOT be offended by anything of these things...and it's important to note that THAT'S not the same thing as claiming that the problem isn't there at all. Ideally, you try to be fair, and see the complete game for the trash or treasure it is. And if you DO have a valid beef, then fine, bring it up and let people evaluate for themselves, and give all opinions a fair shake. Many people have rightfully pointed out that there are many OTHER black characters in this game who are far from offensive, and many more (Helloooooo Shanghai) who as are much worse as a whole. But that doesn't make Letitia any less of a very classic, observable example of racism that's fair game to point out. Especially when (And again, I sincerely HATE that I have to defend someone who says that putting black people in Africa is racist) HE REALLY LIKED THE GAME AND GAVE IT A STELLAR REVIEW.

And don't even get me started on that "Racism doesn't still exist" argument someone made earlier. Was that a joke? Seriously.

I'll bite, she reminds me of those ravens from Dumbo..

Makes me think Evan Narcisse is the real racist here.

So many people, myself included, didn't see or hear anything remotely racist in that character, and especially not in the game as a whole. It had never even occurred to me that her accent might be taken as racist.

I noticed the character in question was black, and had a funny accent... the same way I might notice if someone was tall or short, has blue eyes or brown, or perhaps had an accent from another country. These are all traits that make a person, but nothing inherently wrong with any of them.

So Evan, why do you have a problem with her accent? Why do you find it insulting?

There should be a new rule to the internet. If it exists, someone somewhere is offended by it.
It may be a stereotype but my problem is it's not actually racist unless there is actual hatred behind it. This is just a black woman with an accent.

I find it just a bit sad really, does everyone just spend there time looking for things they can pick out and say "Hey, that's racist!"?

And another thing, so far I've only seen people talking about the voice.. I was actually a bit surprised because i thought they'd be saying something about the fact she's always digging through the trash and you're always handing her beer?

Oh well...

Greg Tito:
Letitia is fairly well dressed for a "Trash Lady." In playing through Deus Ex, Adam Jensen will meet her on the streets of 2027 Detroit and when pressed she will offer her insight on what's happening in the city. She does so by using a colloquial mode of speaking that is perhaps more identified with 20th century deep South, and her accent caused Evan Narcisse of Time's Techland blog to write a scathing attack on the developers for including such a "racist stereotype" in an otherwise excellent game.

Poor black people? In my future Detroit?

It's more likely than you think.

Greg Tito:
I can't speak for Evan Narcisse who also objected to the black zombies in Resident Evil 5, and I have yet to play through all of Deus Ex, but I can see people arguing that there is nothing overtly racist with the clip in the video above. Letitia is certainly a strange character, but her exaggerated speech is not that different from many of the people that I encounter in North Carolina - both white and black. What do you think? Is Letitia a harmful racial stereotype?

He also objected to black zombies in RE5? The article should have ended right here, because it's about a man who was offended by black people in a game set in Africa.

Greg Tito:
Narcisse compares Letitia to the caricature of Amos and Andy and minstel shows of yore, but I don't think you can equate a single character in a videogame with hundreds of years of racism and discrimination, especially when there are other characters of a similar ethnic background in the same game who do not act this way.

"The horrible broken English Letitia speaks is so far removed from any actual slang that it renders the character practically extra-terrestrial," Narcisse said. "It's not from an alien planet, though. That slang harkens back to the worst blackface minstrelsy of the last century."

I couldn't care less about this for the same reason that I don't care about the flamboyantly-gay stereotype or the Mr. Miyagi-Asian-wiseman stereotype: people like that actually exist. Like, a lot of them do. I only have a problem with it when all the characters of that denomination are like that, because stereotypes are only bad when you depict an entire group as it.

Seriously, guys, the author's name is "Narcisse." Why are we giving attention to an easily-offended idiot with a last name that's derived from "self-obsessed"?

...

This is offensive? Maybe I'm not quite affiliated enough with 'right's groups' or 'political correctness' or stuff like that to understand the bigger picture here, but I can't imagine anyone really getting offended over this. If it's just one character in a sea of many characters, it's just some kind of accent that the voice actor was either asked or wanted to adopt for that certain character. It doesn't seem to be directly implying anything about the character, since besides the accent, she still seems like a relatively intelligent individual, so I don't really see what anyone would have a problem with.

xXCrocmonXx:
You're from the northern states, aren't you? If so, that'd explain your refusal to accept that people actually do talk like that. I went to a high school that was predominantly African American (was formerly a school created for the sole purpose of Segregation), and it was either ebonics or this that I heard from that ethnicity. To be fair, it was the older people that spoke like this.

Yes, I'm from the north, but I have spent time in the south, and I maintain that there is an appreciable different between the way Latisha talks and the way real people talk. But at this point we're just telling each other unverifiable things about our personal experiences, so we're not going anywhere.

My point was that it doesn't matter how many people you know who sound like that, or how many people I know who don't. The argument I'm making doesn't have anything to do with that--again, this is not about realism--so there's no need to make the "if only you knew black people like I know black people" argument.

AdumbroDeus:
Frankly, it's supposed to be comparable to homeless people in real cities because that improves the immersion. To use upper class british accents for random real people is immersion breaking.

You're making two big assumptions there:

1. The developer wanted Latisha to sound like a real homeless black person.

2. The developer thinks that having Latisha sound like a real homeless black person would increase immersion.

If those two things aren't both true (and we have absolutely no reason to believe that they are), then none of what you're saying about realism or immersion is addressing the actual text.

AdumbroDeus:
I don't think that Deus Ex claims to be post-racial, though racial issues didn't directly come to the fore, deus ex doesn't imply those issues have been solved or gotten worse. And different dialects of english will always be present.

Again, I'm not taking issue with the fact that a character has something other than the Omaha Accent. I'm taking issue with the specific, historically situated dialect they chose for this particular character.

But you're right that post-racial is probably the wrong term. I was just thinking of when the developer described "the diversity of the world's future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds," which is generally a coded way of describing a "melting pot" future where race is abstracted or borderline-irrelevant.

And they're not historically situated, the fact that it bears ANY resemblence to historical archtypes is because language evolves over time. The way that she said "sheeeet" alone identifies her as a product of modern urban culture.[/quote]
"Historically situated" and "evolves over time" are not opposites. They're one and the same. My point is that some of Latisha's phrasing is not evolved from minstrel-speak; is is minstrel-speak. The fact that she says "sheeeeet" is not an example of what I'm talking about, but neither does it disprove what I'm talking about.

AdumbroDeus:
As far as the fact that it doesn't match your image of urban culture has a lot to do with the fact that Hollywood's image of suberbia doesn't represent actual suberbia. Media and fantasy are one thing, reality is another.

First you're talking about urban culture, and then all of a sudden you're talking about suburbia-by-way-of-Hollywood, so I'm not really sure (1) what you're saying here or (2) why it's relevant.

AdumbroDeus:
Finally, your implication of that it's generally infantile is disturbing and racist in and of itself. That the language marks you as poor and uneducated is patently false, it's just part of urban culture and people who hold that culture have a wide variety of educational levels. But ebonics is present regardless, not the dialect of ignorant people but the dialect of a culture.

My "implication" that the language of minstrelsy is infantile is not racism on my part; it's racism on the part of minstrelsy. My point was that that manner of speaking was designed to be infantile, comic, and impossible to take seriously. That is the whole reason it exists: First to make it seem as though black people were content as slaves, and then, once they were no longer slaves, to make it seem as though they were nonetheless incapable of participating in public life.

Pointing out racist institutions doesn't somehow make me racist. If you want to argue that I'm wrong about the proximity of Latisha's speech to the language of minstrelsy, then fine. But if you're arguing that there is nothing inherently racist about minstrel dialects, and that the dehumanizing and infantilizing aspects of minstrelsy are something I'm projecting or imagining, then you're simply incorrect.

AdumbroDeus:
This is yet another attack on ebonics cloaked as an attack on racism, and these attacks on ebonics while ignoring all the other dialects that are spoken by primarily white populations. Frankly, it's sickening.

This is a huge, accusatory statement that really came out of nowhere. So calm down for a second and let's unpack it.

AdumbroDeus:
This is yet another attack on ebonics cloaked as an attack on racism,

Such attacks definitely exist, but as I've said more than a few times, this discussion we're having now isn't about Ebonics. Even if you consider minstrel-speak a subset of Ebonics (which would not be right, in my view), I would still only be talking about that subset.

AdumbroDeus:
and these attacks on ebonics while ignoring all the other dialects that are spoken by primarily white populations.

What "other dialects that are spoken primarily by white populations" are at issue here? And what do they have to do with what we're talking about? Are you seriously arguing that what's at issue here is diversity, and that you're a crusader for downtrodden dialects of the English language?

AdumbroDeus:
Frankly, it's sickening.

Frankly, you're confusing me.

Are you sickened by the idea that I'm equating minstrelsy with Ebonics? Because I'm not; if anything, you are, by claiming that an attack on minstrel dialects is really an attack on modern black speech.

Or are you sickened by the fact that I'm seeing racism in something that you consider harmless? Or by the fact that I'm failing to recognize that the way Latisha talks is just as valid and beautiful and snowflake-like as any other way of talking?

I know that we're on a message board, and that message boards inherently favor disagreement, but there's really no need to get hostile--because it's not as though we're deciding who's a wonderful, enlightened warrior for diversity and who's a bad, evil racist. What we're discussing is a (really complicated) system of representation. There are mostly just people muddling through, as opposed than heroes and villains.

If you want to explain where you're going with the Hollywood argument, or some other way in, then go for it. But the "it's not racist; you're racist" stuff gets us nowhere.

PhoenixVanguard:
[No need to apologize for quoting or making an argument...that's the point of a forum, afterall. But again...the argument isn't whether you're personally offended. I am Not. Narcisse is. But he still loves the game. The point is that, on an almost completely objective level, the character is racist. Why? Because she almost EXACTLY mirrors the degrading, derogatory minstrel show depictions of black people that permeated the media in the early 1900s (YouTube Amos & Andy, Black Face, minstrel Show, The Dave Chappelle Pixie sketch, the list goes on...). I was one of the first people in my circle of friends to buy this game, and people came over JUST to watch me play and decide if they should pick it up. When Letitia opened her mouth, we ALL cracked up...the racism there is TRULY palpable. But we found it funny. Others found it offensive. Some find it accurate. But your reaction to it doesn't change what it is.

Was it intentional? Probably not, the woman's just a horrific voice actor who took what probably should have been a southern, slurred drawl and butchered it until it resembled something that was uncomfortably familiar to anyone who has seen the right films, or takes two seconds to run an internet search to see WHY someone might have this viewpoint. You don't have to be offended by something to think it's racist, but to just claim it's not there and you can't IMAGINE why someone might think that way seems ignorant or overly dismissive because of bias, and ultimately damages the position you're trying to make because it ignores the very apparent relation to something very real and tangible. I love this game. Best single player experience I've had in years. And I don't want people to decide against buying it based on this EXTREMELY minor character or what people may think of her. But I'm not going to dismiss a valid point with largely close minded, nonsensical, and generally irrelevant counter-arguments.

Like the mind boggling "It's not racist because sometimes it's true" argument I brought up before, or this "Oh...BLACK people are allowed to be offended when 'X' happens, but I'M NOT allowed when 'Y' happens" schtick. Who says you're not allowed? Where are these people? Is someone going to arrest you? Are you going to be fined? Is Jensen going to cloak into your room and jam his elbow blades through your lungs? Is there a law somewhere that I missed? Granted, people with no sense of historical or cultural relevance might decry your argument on the internet, sure, but...oh wait...that's happening here too. But that doesn't mean it's not allowed. It means someone disagrees with you. And that's perfectly allowed.

There's nothing wrong with being offended in degrees by a female character whose "armor" covers no more than 2% of her body. There's nothing wrong with being offended by a gay character who speaks in lispy showtunes and hits on every male character who so much as shoots hime a cursory glance. And yeah, it's most CERTAINLY okay to NOT be offended by anything of these things...and it's important to note that THAT'S not the same thing as claiming that the problem isn't there at all. Ideally, you try to be fair, and see the complete game for the trash or treasure it is. And if you DO have a valid beef, then fine, bring it up and let people evaluate for themselves, and give all opinions a fair shake. Many people have rightfully pointed out that there are many OTHER black characters in this game who are far from offensive, and many more (Helloooooo Shanghai) who as are much worse as a whole. But that doesn't make Letitia any less of a very classic, observable example of racism that's fair game to point out. Especially when (And again, I sincerely HATE that I have to defend someone who says that putting black people in Africa is racist) HE REALLY LIKED THE GAME AND GAVE IT A STELLAR REVIEW.

And don't even get me started on that "Racism doesn't still exist" argument someone made earlier. Was that a joke? Seriously.

So REAL PEOPLE who talk like Letitia are actually a racist depiction? Someone should go tell them.

If my wife eats a meal of fried chicken and waffles with some watermelon for desert, is she actually being racist against black people whether she knows it or not? I'll explain this asinine theory of yours to my in-laws just to get their hilarious reaction. Thanks for the laugh.

mokmoof:

xXCrocmonXx:
You're from the northern states, aren't you? If so, that'd explain your refusal to accept that people actually do talk like that. I went to a high school that was predominantly African American (was formerly a school created for the sole purpose of Segregation), and it was either ebonics or this that I heard from that ethnicity. To be fair, it was the older people that spoke like this.

Yes, I'm from the north, but I have spent time in the south, and I maintain that there is an appreciable different between the way Latisha talks and the way real people talk. But at this point we're just telling each other unverifiable things about our personal experiences, so we're not going anywhere.

My point was that it doesn't matter how many people you know who sound like that, or how many people I know who don't. The argument I'm making doesn't have anything to do with that--again, this is not about realism--so there's no need to make the "if only you knew black people like I know black people" argument.

You didn't seem to understand what I said below, so let me clarify.

To say that the vocal style of a wide variety of people in a wide variety of social classes who live in urban centers and are african-american is infantile and uneducated is racist. It's attacking the vocal style essentially because it's not how white people speak.

AdumbroDeus:
Frankly, it's supposed to be comparable to homeless people in real cities because that improves the immersion. To use upper class british accents for random real people is immersion breaking.

You're making two big assumptions there:

1. The developer wanted Latisha to sound like a real homeless black person.

2. The developer thinks that having Latisha sound like a real homeless black person would increase immersion.

If those two things aren't both true (and we have absolutely no reason to believe that they are), then none of what you're saying about realism or immersion is addressing the actual text.

And have you disproven either of them? That would be the governing assumption for a game set 20 minutes in the future like deus ex is.

AdumbroDeus:
I don't think that Deus Ex claims to be post-racial, though racial issues didn't directly come to the fore, deus ex doesn't imply those issues have been solved or gotten worse. And different dialects of english will always be present.

Again, I'm not taking issue with the fact that a character has something other than the Omaha Accent. I'm taking issue with the specific, historically situated dialect they chose for this particular character.

But you're right that post-racial is probably the wrong term. I was just thinking of when the developer described "the diversity of the world's future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds," which is generally a coded way of describing a "melting pot" future where race is abstracted or borderline-irrelevant.

Perhaps you need to change your vocabulary then, because illustrating diversity is very different from saying that race issues are gone.

And they're not historically situated, the fact that it bears ANY resemblence to historical archtypes is because language evolves over time. The way that she said "sheeeet" alone identifies her as a product of modern urban culture.

"Historically situated" and "evolves over time" are not opposites. They're one and the same. My point is that some of Latisha's phrasing is not evolved from minstrel-speak; is is minstrel-speak. The fact that she says "sheeeeet" is not an example of what I'm talking about, but neither does it disprove what I'm talking about.

You're attempting to use semantics to not address my point.

It has some vestiges that have remained in modern ebonics because language evolves over time.

You want mistral speak? Watch a Shirley temple movie that includes an African-American. This bears only a small resemblance due to vestiges in modern ebonics.

First you're talking about urban culture, and then all of a sudden you're talking about suburbia-by-way-of-Hollywood, so I'm not really sure (1) what you're saying here or (2) why it's relevant.

I'm saying that if your only expirience in modern african-american urban culture is hip-hop, then no wonder you don't realize that she's talking in ebonics. You only are familar with the hollywood version.

My "implication" that the language of minstrelsy is infantile is not racism on my part; it's racism on the part of minstrelsy. My point was that that manner of speaking was designed to be infantile, comic, and impossible to take seriously. That is the whole reason it exists: First to make it seem as though black people were content as slaves, and then, once they were no longer slaves, to make it seem as though they were nonetheless incapable of participating in public life.

Pointing out racist institutions doesn't somehow make me racist. If you want to argue that I'm wrong about the proximity of Latisha's speech to the language of minstrelsy, then fine. But if you're arguing that there is nothing inherently racist about minstrel dialects, and that the dehumanizing and infantilizing aspects of minstrelsy are something I'm projecting or imagining, then you're simply incorrect.

This is a huge, accusatory statement that really came out of nowhere. So calm down for a second and let's unpack it.

Such attacks definitely exist, but as I've said more than a few times, this discussion we're having now isn't about Ebonics. Even if you consider minstrel-speak a subset of Ebonics (which would not be right, in my view), I would still only be talking about that subset.

What "other dialects that are spoken primarily by white populations" are at issue here? And what do they have to do with what we're talking about? Are you seriously arguing that what's at issue here is diversity, and that you're a crusader for downtrodden dialects of the English language?

[quote="AdumbroDeus" post="7.310500.12593196"]Frankly, it's sickening.

Frankly, you're confusing me.

Are you sickened by the idea that I'm equating minstrelsy with Ebonics? Because I'm not; if anything, you are, by claiming that an attack on minstrel dialects is really an attack on modern black speech.

Or are you sickened by the fact that I'm seeing racism in something that you consider harmless? Or by the fact that I'm failing to recognize that the way Latisha talks is just as valid and beautiful and snowflake-like as any other way of talking?

I know that we're on a message board, and that message boards inherently favor disagreement, but there's really no need to get hostile--because it's not as though we're deciding who's a wonderful, enlightened warrior for diversity and who's a bad, evil racist. What we're discussing is a (really complicated) system of representation. There are mostly just people muddling through, as opposed than heroes and villains.

If you want to explain where you're going with the Hollywood argument, or some other way in, then go for it. But the "it's not racist; you're racist" stuff gets us nowhere.

I'm not saying that you personally are racist (well, beyond the most academic sense of the term which is morally neutral it's impossible to discuss modern race issues without being able to see things in terms of race), you merely have no expirience with modern African-American urban culture beyond the "hollywood" version of it that's presented in hip-hop.

The people who do know are the racists.

This is not mistral-speak, this is ebonics. The small similarities are only present because evolution in language resulted in some vestiges remaining in the modern language.

Why is this sickening? Because this is yet another example of people attacking ebonics, classifying it as uneducated and uncouth and implicitly classifying everyone who uses it as such.

What makes it even worse is that this time, they suckered a bunch of well-meaning people who merely were unfamiliar with the culture of modern urban centers into protesting in favor of this view that ebonics means the speaker is uneducated in order to cement it into the popular consciousness, when it is clearly false.

That is tragic and sickening.

AdumbroDeus:
I'm not saying that you personally are racist (well, beyond the most academic sense of the term which is morally neutral it's impossible to discuss modern race issues without being able to see things in terms of race), you merely have no expirience with modern African-American urban culture beyond the "hollywood" version of it that's presented in hip-hop.

The people who do know are the racists.

This is not mistral-speak, this is ebonics. The small similarities are only present because evolution in language resulted in some vestiges remaining in the modern language.

Why is this sickening? Because this is yet another example of people attacking ebonics, classifying it as uneducated and uncouth and implicitly classifying everyone who uses it as such.

What makes it even worse is that this time, they suckered a bunch of well-meaning people who merely were unfamiliar with the culture of modern urban centers into protesting in favor of this view that ebonics means the speaker is uneducated in order to cement it into the popular consciousness, when it is clearly false.

That is tragic and sickening.

Six things:

1. Not to be a stickler, but "racist" does not mean "seeing things in terms of race." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." To see race as a social and historical circumstance is not the same thing as ascribing intrinsic characteristics or innate superiority to people based upon their racial backgrounds. To talk about race, then, is not an automatically racist pursuit.

2. How you can presume to know what personal experience I have "with modern African-American urban culture" is totally beyond me--unless you're assuming that anyone who disagrees with you must simply lack the wisdom and experience necessary to agree with you.

3. You've yet to explain how exactly "Hollywood" enters into this conversation.

4. As I said, it's entirely possible that some real people sound more or less like Latisha. I've never met one, and I've met plenty of people who speak in what could reasonably be called Ebonics and who sound nothing like Latisha, but the black people whom I happen to know do not somehow represent the Platonic ideal of all black people as such--nor do those whom you happen to know. For someone going on about diversity, you seem to be pretty convinced that there is an absolute linguistic sameness among all black people who live in all cities everywhere.

5. As succinctly as possible: To question the specific way that Latisha talks (even if that manner of speaking is indeed a subset of Ebonics) is absolutely not an attack on the whole of Ebonics, which is in any case a linguistically imperfect category that refers to lots and lots of different ways of speaking, rather than some cohesive, unified, downtrodden mono-accent.

6. It is baffling to me that you would be so offended by a perceived attack on Ebonics (because you see it as an attack on a racial minority), and yet see nothing at all wrong with perpetuating racist character cliches (which historically have constituted an attack on racial minorities).

Wow, this got really heated.

Seriously though, even if this was racist, and intentionally so, who gives a shit? It's a fucking video game, someone should just tell this guy to go get a real fucking job.

mokmoof:

AdumbroDeus:
I'm not saying that you personally are racist (well, beyond the most academic sense of the term which is morally neutral it's impossible to discuss modern race issues without being able to see things in terms of race), you merely have no expirience with modern African-American urban culture beyond the "hollywood" version of it that's presented in hip-hop.

The people who do know are the racists.

This is not mistral-speak, this is ebonics. The small similarities are only present because evolution in language resulted in some vestiges remaining in the modern language.

Why is this sickening? Because this is yet another example of people attacking ebonics, classifying it as uneducated and uncouth and implicitly classifying everyone who uses it as such.

What makes it even worse is that this time, they suckered a bunch of well-meaning people who merely were unfamiliar with the culture of modern urban centers into protesting in favor of this view that ebonics means the speaker is uneducated in order to cement it into the popular consciousness, when it is clearly false.

That is tragic and sickening.

Six things:

1. Not to be a stickler, but "racist" does not mean "seeing things in terms of race." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." To see race as a social and historical circumstance is not the same thing as ascribing intrinsic characteristics or innate superiority to people based upon their racial backgrounds. To talk about race, then, is not an automatically racist pursuit.

2. How you can presume to know what personal experience I have "with modern African-American urban culture" is totally beyond me--unless you're assuming that anyone who disagrees with you must simply lack the wisdom and experience necessary to agree with you.

3. You've yet to explain how exactly "Hollywood" enters into this conversation.

4. As I said, it's entirely possible that some real people sound more or less like Latisha. I've never met one, and I've met plenty of people who speak in what could reasonably be called Ebonics and who sound nothing like Latisha, but the black people whom I happen to know do not somehow represent the Platonic ideal of all black people as such--nor do those whom you happen to know. For someone going on about diversity, you seem to be pretty convinced that there is an absolute linguistic sameness among all black people who live in all cities everywhere.

5. As succinctly as possible: To question the specific way that Latisha talks (even if that manner of speaking is indeed a subset of Ebonics) is absolutely not an attack on the whole of Ebonics, which is in any case a linguistically imperfect category that refers to lots and lots of different ways of speaking, rather than some cohesive, unified, downtrodden mono-accent.

6. It is baffling to me that you would be so offended by a perceived attack on Ebonics (because you see it as an attack on a racial minority), and yet see nothing at all wrong with perpetuating racist character cliches (which historically have constituted an attack on racial minorities).

1. Hence "the most academic sense". Academics define technical terms differently then average people do for the purpose of effectively examining things, just like engineers do.

2. Because your argument doesn't attempt to explain individuals who DO use that variant of the english language. It just assumes that this based entirely on mistral-speak.

3. I'm equating knowing about urban african-american culture from hip-hop to knowing any other culture solely through hollywood. Pop culture is not the same as culture and any representation gleaned from it will be grossly inaccurate.

4. You're drawing a conclusion that I never stated. There are substantial linguistic variances based on regions and even within regions. That said, her language is distinctly identifiable as ebonics.

5. Because every commentary on ebonics follows this exact same assertion, that it is uneducated and uncouth. This attempts to differentiate itself by saying that it bears a resemblance to mistral-speak which is passing at best.

6. Because it's NOT a racist cliche, it's a normal homeless person with a normal way of speaking for that area that follows normal patterns of behavior. If this was the only context that African-Americans were presented in within the story then it would be suggesting that all african-americans were homeless with all that implies. As best I can tell, it doesn't, so she's within acceptable variation of characters within the game.

When you suggest that she as a singular character by her speech pattern perpetuates African-American steriotypes by speaking in ebonics, then it becomes an attack on the vocal pattern and in turn an attack on African-Americans as a racial minority.

Mister Linton:

So REAL PEOPLE who talk like Letitia are actually a racist depiction? Someone should go tell them.

If my wife eats a meal of fried chicken and waffles with some watermelon for desert, is she actually being racist against black people whether she knows it or not? I'll explain this asinine theory of yours to my in-laws just to get their hilarious reaction. Thanks for the laugh.

Yes, we get it, you have a black wife. You should subtly work that into your argument more to add validity. Subtly. Subtlety. Subtle. Be more subtle. Really.

But back to the the point, I think someone already made this argument, let me find the quote...oh yes, here it is.

PhoenixVanguard:
I'd just like to clarify something to those dozens upon dozens of you using the defense that essentially boils down to, "Well I know people who actually talk this way so it's not racist." This argument does not in ANY way, shape, or form qualify something as not being a racist stereotype. Stereotypes emerge BECAUSE there are a large number of people fitting the given epithet. What, do you think people make up random character qualities about a group of people and then HOPE they come true so they can all laugh at it later? Really now. Lots of people from all races enjoy fried chicken and watermelon, are good with math, and try hard to save money, but that doesn't mean that these aren't stereotypes aimed at SPECIFIC groups of people. Please, please, PLEASE stop making this ridiculous counter argument. It's utterly baffling to me.

So to review...again...stereotypes are GROUNDED in reality, so no, the fact that they are sometimes real doesn't counter the argument. If anything, It only supplements it. Going further...fulfilling limited number of characteristics within a stereotype does not instantly make one a stereotype, no. But being a cut and paste caricature of a very old, frequently repeated racial epithet is worth examining, yes. I don't think I'll bother repeating this again...this thread is long enough with responding to the same silly argument ad nauseum. So if anyone else is going to quote me and I don't respond, just assume what you;re saying is irrelevant and has already been addressed at some point.

I'll leave you all with this. Study hard; http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/a/WhatIsaStereotype.htm

PhoenixVanguard:
[So to review...again...stereotypes are GROUNDED in reality, so no, the fact that they are sometimes real doesn't counter the argument. If anything, It only supplements it. Going further...fulfilling limited number of characteristics within a stereotype does not instantly make one a stereotype, no. But being a cut and paste caricature of a very old, frequently repeated racial epithet is worth examining, yes. I don't think I'll bother repeating this again...this thread is long enough with responding to the same silly argument ad nauseum. So if anyone else is going to quote me and I don't respond, just assume what you;re saying is irrelevant and has already been addressed at some point.

Obviously missed my point entirely. A single instance of a dialect in a game with many characters of multiple ethnicities DOES NOT FIT THE DEFINITION OF A RACIST STEREOTYPE. Because it is ONE character. Among MANY. Like the REAL WORLD. If all black characters in the game spoke a certain way or behaved in some sort of negative fashion, there might be an argument that the creators were making a statement.

Eidos addressed this and their point was spot on: the game represents a VERY diverse cast and does not assign ANY blanket stereotypes to any of those groups. Letitia does not exist in a vacuum and any ONE person speaking a certain way CANNOT be a stereotype.

So thick.

How many black people there are in Deus Ex: HR?

Do most of them act stereotypically? If they do, it's a problem. If not, it isn't.

AdumbroDeus:
Your argument doesn't attempt to explain individuals who DO use that variant of the english language. It just assumes that this based entirely on mistral-speak.

My argument doesn't "assume" any such thing. We've all seen the clip of Latisha, and I provided a clip of an archetypal mammy talking in a very similar way. If you don't see the similarity, then fair enough, but there's no assumption there. Just juxtaposition.

As I've said multiple times now, how people talk in everyday life is not in any way the point. The point is that it's loaded to make a subservient black character, of low socioeconomic status, talk that way in a movie or a game.

You're responding angrily to an argument I'm not even making--no one has ever sounded anything like Latisha, and anyone who did would sound stupid--and ignoring the argument I am actually making: Latisha's speech sounds rather close to a specific tradition of black characters whose functions were essentially racist.

AdumbroDeus:
I'm equating knowing about urban african-american culture from hip-hop to knowing any other culture solely through hollywood. Pop culture is not the same as culture and any representation gleaned from it will be grossly inaccurate.

I now understand what you're saying, but I still don't see how it applies to what we're talking about. The very fact that you and I are having a literate conversation about minstrelsy (among other things) demonstrates that neither of us is getting our information about black people exclusively from hip-hop, or about other cultures exclusively through Hollywood, or whatever.

AdumbroDeus:
Because every commentary on ebonics follows this exact same assertion, that it is uneducated and uncouth. This attempts to differentiate itself by saying that it bears a resemblance to mistral-speak which is passing at best.

I offered an example that sounds quite similar to Latisha. You have not done that so far. I'm not asking you to take my word for it here. I'm putting two things next to each other and explaining why I think they're similar.

Also, I'm not willing to accept that Latisha's manner of speaking "is distinctly identifiable as Ebonics" with no supporting evidence of any kind. I'm not a linguist, and I'm assuming that you're not, either, so give me some examples of Ebonics that sound like Latisha--YouTube's good for that kind of thing--or link me to an article explaining why what sounds to me (and to plenty of others) like minstrelsy actually isn't. The burden of proof is on you, as far as that goes.

AdumbroDeus:
Because it's NOT a racist cliche, it's a normal homeless person with a normal way of speaking for that area that follows normal patterns of behavior. If this was the only context that African-Americans were presented in within the story then it would be suggesting that all african-americans were homeless with all that implies. As best I can tell, it doesn't, so she's within acceptable variation of characters within the game.

The issue is not "suggesting that all African-Americans [are] homeless" in the world of the game. Who said that? Again with the responding to an argument I never even made.

AdumbroDeus:
When you suggest that she as a singular character by her speech pattern perpetuates African-American steriotypes by speaking in ebonics, then it becomes an attack on the vocal pattern and in turn an attack on African-Americans as a racial minority.

And again with the arguing about something way, way over yonder. I never said Ebonics = Sterotypes = Latisha, and the reason I never said that is that that would be a stupid thing to say.

I've explained why Latisha strikes me as a racial caricature. Your only counter-argument seems to be but that's what homeless black people are really like. To which I can only respond:

1. Seriously? Regardless of whether or not you find her racist (I know that you don't), you don't find Latisha at all over-the-top or wacky? She just strikes you as a reasonable, balanced portrayal of a homeless black woman?

2. Latisha does align neatly with the trope of the helpful, subservient, non-threateningly sassy black female. No argument I have made here is concerned with how closely that trope does or does not align with the circumstances of real people. You knowing a homeless lady who talks and acts just like Latisha (or whatever) is irrelevant. Even if you were right about every single thing you're saying, the choices that Edios made with Latisha would still be really loaded in a way they, the developers, clearly didn't intend or understand when they made those choices.

Is it really that terrible? I've put about 20 hours into that game and, though not all of the voice acting is "good", I find most of it effective. Am I so tone deaf? :-/

Mister Linton:
Obviously missed my point entirely. A single instance of a dialect in a game with many characters of multiple ethnicities DOES NOT FIT THE DEFINITION OF A RACIST STEREOTYPE. Because it is ONE character. Among MANY. Like the REAL WORLD. If all black characters in the game spoke a certain way or behaved in some sort of negative fashion, there might be an argument that the creators were making a statement.

Eidos addressed this and their point was spot on: the game represents a VERY diverse cast and does not assign ANY blanket stereotypes to any of those groups. Letitia does not exist in a vacuum and any ONE person speaking a certain way CANNOT be a stereotype.

So thick.

Actually, I think you've missed the point of everything I've said, mokmoof continues to say, and it looks like you didn't even read the original Narcisse article at all. No one's saying anyone at Square or Eidos is trying to make an intentionally racist statement. And no one's saying the entire game or any other character in it is racist (Okay, I AM saying Hengsha's a little racist, but I digress). In fact, Narcisse goes out of his way to say the character is so out of place in an otherwise well put together game that she's almost alien. The ENTIRE argument being made is that this character is a jarring example of an old racist stereotype in the game. And yes, one person CAN be an example of a racist stereotype. Direct quote from the article;

"I can't imagine anything Eidos Montreal would say that would make the existence of Letitia understandable. The problem generally tends to be one of under-representation. If there's only one black character in a game and he acts in wince-inducing fashion, then your construction of that character's going to be called into question.

But that's not to say that there's a magic algorithm that diffuses upset. Jenny Alexander-Adam Jensen's old police buddy-speaks in full, understandable sentences and she's apparently black. Even if there were five noble, upstanding black characters, it wouldn't make one insulting persona okay. Because the insulting one still isn't a human being.

Some people reading this might counter with, "Ok, fine, Letitia's just a poorly drawn character. What's the harm in that? Weak character construction isn't racist." But it's what this particular weak character construction draws on that makes it so appalling. Making her a black, jive-talking street person echoes decades of racist imagery about poor African-Americans."

Before you respond with the same thing everyone's been saying again and again and taking it on a personal level, read the article in full, look up the black face minstrel behavior he says it's alluding to, and make a genuinely informed statement related to the argument that anyone is actually making.

If you can't make a well reasoned counterpoint to pick apart any similarities between the two, then you don't have an argument. At least not one to the point being presented. That's all there is to it.

I don't really have an issue with this in a racial context, but I sure as hell have a problem with it from a voice acting and dialogue perspective, as you stated. I mean, come on, this is clearly something that could have been handled far better. I mean, everything she says seems lazily written and poorly performed. Trash Lady indeed.

It's really just silly and draws you out of the experience, that's all. Hell, you want to see better done, lower class black characters L.A. Noire does a great job (they have the benefit of better actors though).

Captcha: What the hell is an omega symbol doing there?!?

Ghengis John:
Okay, so an easily offended lack man was just offended.

FREUDIAN SLIP!

I'm just amazed that in a game as hyped and followed as this was, Squeenix didn't have someone catch this and say "You know, this may border the line of racial caricature too much. Probably best not to put it in the game." I'm not saying that they don't have the right to put it in, but what was the point of it?

I will say, though, that I am surprised that this gets press attention while "THE COLE TRAIN" is allowed to continue being AWFUL.

SuperMse:

Ghengis John:
Okay, so an easily offended lack man was just offended.

FREUDIAN SLIP!

I may not be as perverted so I don't get it... zur?

Ghengis John:

SuperMse:

Ghengis John:
Okay, so an easily offended lack man was just offended.

FREUDIAN SLIP!

I may not be as perverted so I don't get it... zur?

It wasn't a sexual comment at all. As much as Freud focused on sex, the term "Freudian slip" can be applied to a multitude of topics. Anyway, I found it amusing that you called a black man a "lack man." There are so many different ways to interpret that, and all of them are offensive. That is not to say that you are being racist, but rather me jokingly calling you out on a typo that denotes a feeling that black people are inferior. It's in such a fitting topic, too.

Stilkon:
The first time I talked to her, I thought "Wow, a transsexual character! What a nice touch of diversity!"

Never played the game, but after that YouTube clip, I thought the same xD

I think I'd be more concerned about how awful the Blokes voice is, it's really, really bad lol

Ive tried to write a number of different responses to this, but Ive given up.

Now Im just left wondering if this PC fascism and self-hating guilt mongering by left wing nutcases is a uniquely western sickness, or if you can find these people no matter the country they live in.

Since every "race" has a past history of crimes longer than anyone can read, do they have sad pathetic individuals looking to link it to every unrelated modern day excuse they can find.

Its a poorly voice character. Every sane, non-pc liberal agenda obsessed person will most likely view it thay way. To those who are fabricating a racist issue out of this: thats your own fucking problem. Stop forcing it on other people who can play this game without trying to guilt trip themselves or others over the smallest fucking things, and dont need you people to do it for them.

Bribase:

Carlston:

When is the last time a GERMAN was in a name and NOT a nazi? Hmmmm?

Hmmn... 2000?

image

Great pick.

I was going to say "Sie" from Alpha Protocol, which is more recent, but that works too.

Goldeneye too.

Thedek:

hooksashands:

Thedek:
That kind of depends on the area. May be in eastern KY but it ain't in western. We still have accents but they aren't quite to THAT level.

Nonsense, my friend. I've only been here three days and already heard someone use 'hootenanny', plus you all seem to enjoy crawfish like it's going out of style. Stereotypical? Yes. Offensive? Only if you accept it like I'm trying to be mean.

I don't take it offensive. I just question the validity is all.

Granted I use the word "reckon" I great deal. So I'm not saying I'm exempt or nothing. I would think crawdad's are like shrimp and I don't much care for those. You sure you aren't thinking about cajuns? Granted there ain't much a canjun WON'T eat.

Mm mm cajuns. You're making me hungry. I can't speak for the vadility, it was one of those conversations you hear over in the next booth at a restaurant... but I could swear the lady said 'Don't you bring up that hootenanny.'

I reckon the problem is: People have been misled to think the way someone talks gives away all you need to know about them, when it really doesn't. Letitia's voice is somewhat over-the-top, yes, but I really can't pinpoint anything about her character that stands out as stereotypical. The fact that she is a stranger in the street having a perfectly friendly conversation does put me on edge though.

I'm pretty tired that whenever someone points out something in a game is tasteless, or questionable, or appalling, there's legions of reflexively anti-political correctness players who shout it down with "it's just a game, it's no big deal." Yet they're probably the ones qq-ing the most whenever ol' Ebert doesn't consider their precious Bioshock or Portal as art.

If you're going to claim that video games are art, then you're going to have to take some level of responsibility in terms of taste. That means dealing with accusations of racism. That means reexamining portrayals of people in games. If you can't deal with it, if all you're going to do is shout ad hominems, then get your ass back to Tetris and quit claiming that video games is a legitimate medium.

This is more or less directed to all of the uppity players who can't take some social commentary.

I'm offended that they included such a stupid character in the game. This is the Deus Ex equivalent of Jar Jar Binks.

And the shit-pot continues to stir...and stir...and stir...
Be careful not to shake it though. You don't want that on your shoes, do you?

People will play the race-card at the drop of a hat. Especially if they're lashing out against anything popular or critically acclaimed.

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