I don’t think I’ve experienced anything more polarizing than Blizzcon.
I tried and failed several times to write a Minority Report feature on it. Why wouldn’t I? It was my first Blizzcon, it was on my birthday, and my best friends surprised me with a supreme Brigitte armor set, complete with a mace to put directly in your face. I expected to write about me cheering for Australia instead of USA during World Cup (I was made an honorary Australian, don’t @ me), being pissed that Ashe was the new character (B.O.B is cool though), and struggling, first-world-problems style, with how the Brigitte armor significantly decreased my New York walking speed (I was called “Speedy” in high school for a reason). The whole weekend went by in a flash, but I remember a lot of smiles, a lot of incredible support for my cosplay, and a lot of time surrounded by the best friends a woman could ask for.
But like the Grand Finals, my smiles hid a lot of pain. During that same week, I was hit with a heavy dose of reality in the form of a series of unfortunate events. I was in a car accident, I lost my job, and I also began to sink into a deep, anxiety-ridden depression due to the consequences of the personal risks I took. Now, being Briggsy, how did I react?
Well, I didn’t. I couldn’t. The stress took its toll on me, and after coming back from Oakland for California Cup, my body physically broke down. I was gravely ill for weeks. It took me nearly losing it entirely to realize that I desperately needed a break.
I stepped away from everything, let my brain sort itself out, and tried to figure out what was really bothering me. I got into an accident, but no one was hurt, so what did that matter? I lost my job, sure, but there are always other jobs, and I was fortunate to be in a good enough financial position to survive the loss. And my anxiety and depression were easily countered by picking up hobbies that I loved, including boxing, which I recently was able to begin again after a long-term injury. After allowing myself to mourn these setbacks, something I had never done before, I slowly began to return to myself. I reaffirmed my close friendships and my reputation, I fixed my car, and I even got a new, cushy job by the beach. I never gave up, knowing that I was and would always be the type of person to focus on the solutions rather than the problems. I felt like I was back on track and it showed.
Fear and Justice
Then the Washington Justice released their first video. And brought my progress to a screeching halt.
In my first and third Minority Report articles, I expressed the fear, nay, the belief that my skin color, my gender, and my race would be taken advantage of in the Overwatch League. That my natural passion for things that I love and care about and my expressive faces would be seen not as a woman enjoying herself and showing people that it’s okay to do so in public, but more as a tool. An instrument to entice people of color to spend money on their product at the cost of no longer being seen as a human being, but as a marketing ploy.
The story of minorities being packaged up and sold as a product for consumption is a tale as old as time, and I tried very hard to convince myself that it didn’t matter to me as long as those who came after me never had to experience the same thing. But as any member of those minorities can tell you, we are hundreds of years from that kind of enlightenment, if it ever happens at all.
Not to mention that we are living in Trump’s America. No matter what political party or beliefs you have, there is no denying that the disadvantaged in this country are suffering and dying because of his administration’s inhumane policies. There is no denying that those policies enable those with racist thoughts to antagonize and become violent against people of color. I am not afraid to admit that the United States is not a great country. In fact, I honestly can’t remember a time when it was, as it has never truly advocated for equality for all once in its long, sordid, murderous history.
So you can understand why the Washington Justice team’s execution of this video was nothing short of tone deaf:
Courage, honor, loyalty, sacrifice. But most important is justice ⚖️
— Washington Justice (@washjustice) December 3, 2018
As my friend said, honestly, the only thing it was missing was Trump himself.
Go ahead. Come at me for this. But I’m telling the truth, and you bloody well know it. In this era, this is two seconds shy of pure American propaganda. Watching this video, I found its efforts to instill this much national pride for a country whose president authorized removing children from their parents by force and throwing them in cages completely sickening and upsetting. I felt like I’d suddenly been transported to the setting of George Orwell’s 1984 – maybe I’m being dramatic, but by the time the narrator had started talking about the “path to righteousness”? I was honestly expecting to be forced to accept Big Brother before I took a bullet to the back of my head, just like the protagonist’s fate at the end of the novel.
There was no way, I thought, that this could possibly be any worse. The media team had to have some self-awareness, right? It’s not like they would use footage of me and then immediately follow that up with a graphic of a prominent African American figure–
Guys. Come on. It’s bad enough that you used what amounts to actual propaganda to promote a new Overwatch League team. I’m also going to ignore, but just barely, the fact that the only gameplay footage you used was from when the Los Angeles Valiant fell to the London Spitfire in the semis last year, directly after you put us hardcore fans cheering them on despite the loss, knowing full well what that meant. As the official hypewoman for that team, that’s like rubbing salt into a reopened wound.
But you put me. In the video.
And then you put.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Right after me.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. This is racist. This is 100% pure, distilled, bona fide racism. Putting my face right before a graphic of MLK is nothing short of disrespectful to me, to him, and to us. It’s a tactic used to highlight black people in a way that uses us to support something that we would normally not want any part of, just for the sake of promoting equality. It’s tokenism, through and through. And guess what? I’m not okay with being a token.
I am not your brown person. I’m not okay with my voice being used for an ideal that promotes one thing, but in reality is hardly representative of current events. I hope whomever made this video felt good about themselves while putting me in there in an attempt to show that, well, if this excitable black girl who’s always at the arena is in here, we can reach our “diversity quota,” no problem! I feel sick to my stomach that my face, my emotions, and my identity are now a part of this nonsense. And that isn’t even the worst part!
The worst part is that I can’t do a damn thing about it.
If you’ve been to the arena even once, you’ve probably seen some signs around that warn you that you will be filmed during the games. Not a big deal, right? No different than any other sporting event or TV production. At first, I didn’t think so either. But with a little bit of thought, it becomes pretty clear that the sign says a little more between the lines than it lets on.
And in this case, the hidden meaning is that by going to the event, you’ve basically signed a contract saying that Blizzard and Overwatch League can use any footage of you that they want, and you can’t do a thing about it. The second you step in there, that footage is theirs. So I can’t even say “keep my face out of your video” – if I did, it wouldn’t do much more than get ignored.
As much as it pains me to say this, I knew all of this already. I knew that there was a good chance that my multiple visits would backfire on me one day, and that it was going to be a doozy when they did. I didn’t care at the time, and to some extent, I still don’t. My motivations are clear: there aren’t enough people like me in esports. And if taking the brunt of Blizzard’s hamfisted efforts to seem inclusive is what it takes to make sure I can pave the way for positive change, then so be it.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to call out the bullshit when I see it.
Because let’s make this clear, with the words that this cringeworthy video used to define its brand:
“Where standing for something means everything…”
America does not stand for anything other than the rich and powerful and the enablers who help them.
“…where the few on a path of righteousness inspire us all to new heights…:”
We are not on a path to righteousness, but self-destruction.
“…where revolution begins with an idea…”
The idea of revolution is a last resort for those who have, for centuries, been disenfranchised and treated as subhuman.
“…and our diverse community rallies together as the voice of one…”
Our diverse community is threatened by varying levels of ignorance, hostility, and brutality.
“…and bear witness to the men and women who fight for what is right, where progress is our inspiration…”
And we bear witness as the men and women who have fought and died for this country watch from beyond as the progress they gave their lives for is ruthlessly, systematically destroyed.
“…molded by our convictions, defined by our dreams…”
Right now, those who represent us are not beholden to any convictions that promote anything other than classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the subjugation of anyone who isn’t a cishet white male. And with those odds are unfairly stacked against us, it’s inevitable that our dreams will shatter like sugar glass.
I’m sure the Washington Justice was trying to inspire some sort of patriotism with this marketing ploy. But this video only inspired me to do two things. First, to remind people not to present the ideas of those who don’t know what it’s like to suffer injustice on a daily basis as though they do. And second, to tell the people who made this video to keep my name out of their mouths. The one good thing that came out of this country is the right to free speech. So I’m using that ability right now to take a stand against my image being used as nothing but an undignified attempt at something resembling true inclusion.
Because what defines me? My integrity. And I refuse to let something like this take that away.
God Bless America.