Opinion: Racism undermining esports' strongest attribute - inclusivity
However you feel about race, racism and ‘political correctness’, there is a universal truth that needs to be stated in the wake of the most recent esports racism scandal. Kids make mistakes, as we all know from experience, but not all mistakes are equal, and there has to be a delineation between the little mistakes made and the stories that maybe speak to a wider problem.
Before we go any further, let’s give a couple of examples to demonstrate the difference. As a child of less-than ten, this writer’s younger brother once asked what the word "wanker" means at Sunday lunch, much to the amusement and consternation of the other guests, depending on their state of mind. This can be considered a childish, if not entirely accidental transgression, similar to wishing harm on a person when you are tilted about a loss in game.
On the other hand you have the Swedish Twitch personality/kid we’ve all met on Xbox who seems to react to many different and disparate situations with the same six-letter words. Be they words beginning with N, or sometimes F, there is a sense that this person is expressing some deeper loathing for their fellow mankind, and often that they genuinely believe the worst thing in the world would be to be born black, or gay.
You don’t get a second chance after using a racial slur in the vast majority of jobs you’d want to spend time doing
Now, it is a noble and correct position to take to say that kids do deserve second chances, but that can’t be where it stops. When a player or esports personality racially abuses a person, it has to be treated with the same level of severity it would in any other workplace. And no, before anyone disagrees, you don’t get a second chance after using a racial slur in the vast majority of jobs you’d want to spend time doing.
What we’re really trying to say is this: very few people accidentally use a racial slur, to the point where you can basically dismiss the "it was an accident" line of reasoning. It is unreasonable to ban for life a player who has made a single mistake and it may be that condemning them off one incident is going overboard, but calling a person an insult based on their birth is equally not just a childish mistake we can move on from.
Instead, it needs real work and evidence the player in not just committed to change, but also aware of exactly what they did wrong. The time for explaining that a word used to have a different meaning 100 years ago is over and ended as soon as it became very obvious few, if any, esports pros have the first clue about the historical context of language. And it matters that we show this desire to be better, for all of esports.
Simply put, this wonderful world built on the blood, sweat and tears of nerds is not a club full of jocks with pants full of socks, all competing to see who has the biggest cojones, but an inclusive ecosystem with no real physical barrier to entry. Go to any event and you will see people of all shapes and sizes in attendance, happy to know they are among an accepting and normally pretty diverse crowd of like-minded folk.
For this reason, esports is already far and away better than any sport, where accidents of birth gift advantages to people, and those not born the right shape can never become truly great. If we throw that away and act like it’s normal, or at least understandable to use a slur we risk sending the message to future stars of the scene that this is not the place to be different, and they should look elsewhere.