Diversity

How to stick out like a sore thumb (in style)

Warning: This post concerns some serious topics of race and gender. And it will most likely make you uncomfortable. If you’re fine with that, read on. 

In case anyone who reads my blog hasn’t noticed, I’m an African-American female.

This is 100% true, I promise. Feel free to check my profile if you’re still not sure.

And I’m a double major in economics and religious studies at a liberal arts college. And I’m a perfectionist, a social media obsessed millennial, and a fan of mystery novels.

In other words, I’m just like you! But at the same time, I’m not.

It’s not a concept that many are comfortable talking about, but if we’re being honest, being black and female makes me stick out like a sore thumb. I’m currently serving as a trustee student representative and I’m taking a high-level business econ class this semester and guess what? I am the only non-white person there. This often means that I’ll get a nearly hilarious barrage of questions related to my perception of Lafayette – because it’s presumably different? – or whenever the topic of race/ethnicity/gender/etc. gets mentioned, everyone uncomfortably shambles around, hoping to not make eye contact with me.

This originally made me feel special – I’m the only person like me in the room! Then I got really annoyed – why does it always have to be me? Then I got self-conscious – now I have to be the best because otherwise, I’ll get stereotyped! And now, I just look at it for what it is: an unfortunate, but current reality of my situation.  In many situations, I will be the odd one out. And I’m not shy about offering my opinion based on my ethnicity and gender, but I will most certainty call people out for making generalizations on who they think that I am.

I can’t be anything other than who I am. And I choose to go into the fields that I wanted because I want to be a face or a voice for people like me, and people from a variety of backgrounds. Even though 99% of the time any accolades I get will be prefaced with [the first African-American female X] I’m surprisingly comfortable with that. I’ll never claim to speak for every community that I’m a part of, and I won’t let people assume that I do (or can, really).

Oddly enough, by being an individual voice – or sore thumb – I’ve learned how damaging generalizations and dichotomies can be.  I used to think in that fashion about my own identity – still do at some points. There’s no checklist that will capture who you are completely, and I urge you to give that same leniency to others.

Until then, you can stick out like a sore thumb – just like how I do.

Why are the dead more diverse than the living?

Or alternatively, why The Walking Dead video game is awesome.

So I’ll be quite honest: The Walking Dead game by Telltale was not just one of my favorite video games of 2012, but maybe one of my favorite videogames ever. Next to that is probably Persona, Silent Hill 3, and a few other indie games – you know, for all of that hipster cred. But regardless, I personally feel as though TWD did something for me that many other videogames haven’t done in quite some time – it gave me clear-cut, focused minority characters who weren’t stereotypical or secondary. It even let some of the white characters be bigots while also making them complex and multi-faceted. When playing it, I felt as though I was dealing with actual people. People who, even if they didn’t have to deal with surprise! zombie apocalypse probably still would’ve screwed themselves over in life some other way because that’s just how things go sometimes. It was amazing.

And while I get that plenty will wonder why do I care that some of them were minorities – well, look at a videogame. Any videogame. You probably feel as though you can put yourselves into the characters shoes right? Well, I don’t always feel that way. Even if the story has no definable ‘hero’ the protagonist is a white dude who drives the story line and saves/kills/punches/etc his way out of any situation. And to be honest, that gets boring for me sometimes. I’m clearly not the target audience, and on the rare occasion there’s a minority character, at some point we will be reminded that they are [insert race here]. Again, not really a problem, but also not original.

The Walking Dead game gave me something that I’d hadn’t seen in a while, and unashamedly had a variety of characters and races (though I do kind of wish there had been another East Asian character besides the one who was already part of the canon) in an unique and interesting way. I saw heroes, villains, and cowards of all races. It was an interesting sight to be quite honest. Plus all of the women (and girls, can’t forget Clementine) were awesome.

Overall, this game had elements that I hope to see in future games, and a complex story to boot. I hope that in other video game genres – fantasy, realism, sci fi, etc. that we get to see more characters who aren’t stereotyped or perfect, clearly idealized minority characters. Zombie fiction has always been about the failures of the living, and its both awesome (and sad in some ways) that a game about the dead has more complex characters than many other games I’ve seen.

And if you haven’t seen the game yet, feel free to watch this Let’s Play by Two Best Friends Play: