This will not be a happy post. In fact, some may come away from it thinking that I am attacking them, even if I name no one by name. They...won't be entirely wrong.
I've been reading this morning some articles on diversity in Fantasy. Specifically, ones related to the Pathfinder Campaign setting, which has made a genuine effort to be inclusive and diverse, on several levels, in their characters. While the articles themselves have not upset me, the comments. Oh, I made the mistake of reading the comments. And while my rage has burned off, the bewilderment has not cooled.
A step back. I do not pass for White. I never have. Because of this, I have always been othered, to the extent I am now genuinely comfortable standing out in any group of people. I have embraced my square peg status, and know that the instant I open my mouth, or even just walk in a room, I have separated myself from my peers, such as they are. But I was not always so calm about it. And it's not like I like that I am made to feel strange no matter what crowd I am in.
So those rare moments when I see someone like me, or even close to me, in media, I am unnaturally enthused. I watched Teen Wolf for three solid seasons because both the titular character, and the actor that plays him, is half-Hispanic and a California native. I forgave that show a lot because that was true, and it's only now that the actor himself has made a blunder I cannot forgive or get passed that I have dropped it.
Paizo's Pathfinder is one such product that made that attempt. Really, it's pretty awesome how diverse it's characters are depicted both in its main sourcebooks and the smaller sidelines that they continually release. I think it's awesome anyways, and several others have pointed out how awesome it is. I was reading those articles, because I needed something to salve my rage over an idiot claiming that females intrinsically have different personalities than males, even in a fantasy setting where our real world gender constructs don't necessarily apply.
But, then, I made the mistake of reading the comments. Apparently, not everyone feels this is awesome. The comment that sent me into a blinking, gesticulating rage was this pair of doozies from the same person:
When people think of high fantasy, they think of a generic middle ages europe with elves and dwarves. Why force them to change their image? It's not hurting anybody.
Yes I'm perfectly fine with a game that is primarily made up of white characters because it reflects my own life experiences. [...] I don't want to buy a game which is made up of -for example- primarily black characters because I can't relate to that.
And, wow, I just pissed myself off again rereading them. So I can say with full honesty that my initial reaction is somewhere along the lines of, "go fuck yourself. No, really. Get that shovel and really work yourself over."
As it would do little good to actually tell the person this, seeing as the comments were made two years ago and the commenter in question was making a genuine effort to be honest, sincere, and non-confrontational with his overall posts, I suppose I can let it go. However, if you fail to see what's wrong with those comments, let me tell you a couple of things.
Thing 1: Privilege. It's a thing. It's not just thinking that everyone can relate to straight-white-males, it's the far more dangerous thought that everyone should. That it is acceptable for that to be the default, because everyone natively feels included when stories are about that subgroup of humanity. While this thought is genuinely accepted, even codified within our language (ever think about why male pronouns can be universal, but female ones can't?), it is a lie. It is a construct; something unnatural, something that is forced and jammed and reiterated over and over until it's not worth arguing about anymore. I won't fight it. I don't blame anyone else for not wanting to. But I will point it out for the lie that it is. And I acknowledge that it hurts people, albeit not intentionally.
Thing 2: I find it remarkable that this commenter has no problem stepping into the role of a dwarf, or elf, or dragon-slayer, but a Black person is going too far. And, actually, I don't find it remarkable. Just very, very annoying.
Thing 3: And this is the big one. Do you have any idea how frightening this kind of thinking is? I was reading another article recently, pointing out that the lack of diversity in dystopian literature, when encountered, is a bit chilling for the diverse. Because it forces us that don't see ourselves within that world to wonder if we've all been killed off. Of course, with some stories, I think that's exactly the conclusion we're supposed to reach.The Giver, for example. A Handmaid's Tale for another.
I don't have any solutions, and offer no wisdom. But please, keep in mind that not everyone looks at the world the same way. Some of us see every middle-aged White man as a possible threat, knowing they are far more dangerous than we could ever be. Because the world relates to their story, not ours.