From the very first moment that Resident Evil 5 was shown at this year’s E3, along with the building excitement it has been dogged by a harsh criticism: That it’s racist according to the Village Voice.
For some it’s a no-brainer. The video shows the white hero killing the evil black villains. Surely that’s racist, right? The Resident Evil series has never had a black playable character, and now all the enemies are black Africans!
The problem with taking this stance is twofold. First of all, we don’t know much about the game’s plot. We don’t know why Chris is in Africa. We don’t know who or what is behind this new threat. For all we know, Chris could be in Africa trying to stop the villains from spreading this evil in order to save the citizens of Africa. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that the spreader of this evil, the true person who is victimizing the black Africans we see in the game, is none other than the evil and very pale-skinned Albert Wesker.
What we do know is that people are being transformed against their will. We see a struggling victim held down and turned into one of these monsters. For all we know the process is irreversible. For all we know Chris is putting these poor people out of their misery.
The second problem is one of perspective. Why did no one bat an eyelid at the hundreds of Hispanics that Leon killed in Resident Evil 4? Is it because their skin color is more similar to that of a Caucasian American?
Race doesn’t just mean skin color despite what many may think. Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa. Therefore, it’s not only reasonable that most of the natives are black but also accurate. I’d be more likely to tar the game with the brush of accused racism if it were set in Africa and we hardly saw any black people.
So if the game is accurately representing the racial demographic of Africa, the question becomes one of “why is the game set in Africa?”
We don’t know the answer to that at this point, but just because we don’t have an answer to it doesn’t mean that it is only set in Africa to excuse the slaughter of black people.
Without knowing why Chris is in Africa, without knowing the intent of the developers, we can’t call the game racist. To claim it must be racist just because of the skin color of the protagonist is almost as short-sighted as racism itself.
Since we haven’t seen the game portray Africans in a stereotypical or negative light (as we’ve only seen the infected Africans doing anything violent), it is inexcusable at this point to point the finger and harm the reputation of the game and it only lessens the impact of pointing out true racism for the evil that it is.
If you’re unsure, why not check out the full version of the RE5 trailer on Gamersyde to make your own mind up. I think people are filling in blanks by thinking the worst, but decide for yourself right here.
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