“We Are All A Little Bit Racist Sometimes”

Racism and stereotypes are things we cannot avoid. Our bodies make snap judgments based on peoples accents, religion, and physical appearance without conscious cognitive reasoning. The thing that novels without pictures struggle to encompass, is that first snap judgment, or take in of an entire scene.

We spoke in class about how the racism that is pervasive through out the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in some ways takes away from the book. While I do think using the name “Johnny Chinaman” does not add any substance to the graphic novel, I think in some ways Alan Moore’s use of racism and bluntness does.

Multiple times throughout the graphic novel Moore expresses that this “comic book” is not meant for children. It is a graphic, brutal story geared towards adult readers. These adults should have already formulated opinions on race strong enough to at the very least not be swayed by a comic book, and thus readers will be accepting what they see as a form of media and not as truth.

The scene that best utilizes racism and callousness to add to the novel is when Ms. Murray ventures to Cairo to seek out Quatermaine. Upon entering the building wherein he is staying, Ms. Murray is confronted by an almost alien scene. The bar is packed and thick with dark shisha smoke. There are no women and none of the men seem friendly at all. In fact, they fit the exact Arab stereotype that makes some of us as Americans uncomfortable. In the dark room they all wear turbans or little hats, wear the thin mustache and heavy beard and do not speak English. Ms. Murray is wearing proper English lady attire and is easily recognized as out of place and not belonging there.

The stark contrast of Ms. Murray and the men around her and the use of racism provide a powerful visual message. Upon entering the bar, we can see that this place is alien, it is different and potentially harmful. There are no allies in this place of people so different from her, and she is not safe. It illustrates the intensity of the position that Quatermaine is in and the lengths Ms.Murray would go to find him.

In the frame I chose, Ms. Murray is being raped. In this foreign, unsafe place she is forced to the floor and has her legs spread. In the frame one can see the man’s naked but as he prepares himself to rape her while his fat brother holds her down. The men’s faces are totally unconcerned or afraid or merciful. Once again, before reading this book we were warned of its illicit material.

This scene is incredibly disconcerting to put in words, but to see it on paper, in color, to a woman whose character has been developing? Far worse. However, I think that that is a good thing. Rape is a very disconcerting thing, and we should not take it casually even when we read it. Too often now in books do we read of massive amounts of civilians dying without pause to think of each of their families- the widows and the orphans. It is so easy to just keep reading, “what is going to happen next”? Between the two frames I have discussed, one can see how hopeless and afraid Ms. Murray, how dire her situation is and better relate to it. If the first frame was brighter, and the men there looked more decent and less foreign maybe Ms. Murray could have called for help, or maybe even she could expect that these men would be punished for their crimes. If I only saw a shadow of her about to be raped, I would not have fully grasped how invasive they were being or the closeness to which they came to being successful.

All in all in this set of frames the racism help build set the tone of the scene, and better let us relate to the character and her situation.

This is not just a comic book… it’s a graphic novel.

– Kinetix

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A New Breed of Hate

It’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. Racial tensions have reached their boiling point, and racially-charged riots have broken out throughout the city. The news is filled with accounts of violence between Blacks, Whites, and Koreans. As most know, these events actually took place following the arrest of Rodney King, and scenes such us these were not uncommon throughout America. The inner-city was simply not an welcoming place to live in in early 90s America.

Look at the world through the eyes of Neal Stephenson.

t’s 1992. You live in Los Angeles. The streets are filled with violence, murder, and widespread looting. However, the cause of the violence is not racial tension. In the Los Angeles of Snow Crash, genetic race is no longer the source of deeply sown hatred. Racism as we know it no longer exists. Hiro Protagonist, the hero & protagonist, is a Japanese-American. His roommate is Russian. He works for the Italian Mafia. For all of these, race plays no factor in violence. The burbclaves, or suburbs, are the only places in which racism is tolerated in the least, as one burbclave is designated as “apartheid.” However, the residents in the burbclaves are portrayed as rich, lazy, stupid people. All of the teenage boys take steroids, everyone drives minivans, or “bimbo boxes” and care nothing about the outside world. It’s obvious that Neal Stevenson is sick of the racism prevalent in today’s world.

Racism as we know it is virtually nonexistent in Snow Crash. However, a new form has arisen to take its place. In Snow Crash, citizens are not identified as Black, or White, or Hispanic. Instead, they are identified by the company they serve, and these companies do not like each other one bit. People are identified as “citizens” of the Mafia, or the Clink, or the Hoosegow, or any other company they work for. They even have passports issued from their respective companies. It’s almost as if companies had filled the holes left by the absence of ethnic identity. However, this also seems to suggest that when one form of hatred and violence (in this case, racism), is gone, another will fill its place, always leaving us with some form of violence in the world. Snow Crash attempts to be very prophetic. Will this prediction prove true?

I, for one, think the answer lies in our hands.

-Matt Thumser

Goddamn Foreigners

By Aneel Henry

“What the @#$% happened to my tires?” The tires square shape looked unnatural in the fading sunlight. “The tires are slashed that’s what happened you goddamn foreigner.” Two large white guys, both middle aged, far past their physical prime,  and with mullets long enough to pass for rope, walked out from behind a raised red pickup truck. The floodlights on the pickup truck pointed at the car, it’s slashed tires evident in the now ample light. “I think you need to go back to your country.” The man just stood there, accepting their jeers and taunts as they continued to make racial slur after racial slur. The hicks finally tired of the teasing and with one last biting comment about the man’s mother, they left in a roar of over-tuned engine and Kenny Chesney. My father surveyed the damage, calculated the average cost for four tires, and silently drove home, never to speak a word of the incident for another twenty years.

I personally have never had such an intense experience with racism but my father and my mother have experienced horror-story grade racism. The 1970’s and 1980’s are thought of as much more backwards and racially intolerant times in comparison to our current society but the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson begs to differ. Throughout Snow Crash, the characters run into numerous occasions where racism and racial stereotypes are overtly discussed and maliciously used as if it is the norm to do so. This would not be uncommon had the novel been set in the 1960’s or later but the novel is set far into the future, a future in which mankind and the society created by them was supposed to have evolved. After reading this novel, I was shocked to find that Neal Stephenson predicted racism would not only increase but blow up as time progressed. I was not offended by the use of racism in the novel but rather impressed by the biting social commentary Stephenson put forward in his novel. His novel is a satirical look at the future of mankind, and one of his major points in the novel was that racism is not going to go away.  Stephenson attempts to change that by ridiculing the racism present in this novel, an action that greatly impressed me as a reader. I do not consider myself particularly conscious or sensitive about racism but, being a minority, I found myself pondering why I am not more sensitive or worried about my perception/others perceptions of me. The society I live in today is overflowing with racism, racism that is swept under the proverbial rug. Racism in modern society is kept under wraps and because I have not experienced such overt and obviously malignant experiences, I used to feel as if racism was nonexistent. Now I realize that my hunky-dory childhood was really a naïve take on society. Society is not as accepting as it seems, the racism is just expressed much more subtly than I first believed. I think that after reading Snow Crash, I can only hope to remain more aware of my surroundings and become more in touch with my cultural side so as to truly determine the extent of racism present in my day-to-day life.

Racism 2.0

A half-black, half-Korean man walks into a virtual bar.  It sounds like the beginning of a bad racist joke.  Hiro Protagonist, the sword swinging pseudo-ninja, tends to turn heads when he enters a building.  His appearance often limits him; for instance, he’s barred from entering New South Africa because he is part black.  While this sort of racism seems like a disturbing vision of our nearing future, it is not its most troublesome aspect.  No, the most disturbing form of racism demonstrated in Snow Crash occurs in our future virtual reality.

When Y.T. enters the Metaverse, she does not log on from a fancy, expensive computer.  She walks onto the Street using a public terminal and immediately, “people start giving her these looks” (Stephenson 220).  These looks.  Stephenson doesn’t need to explain them further; almost instinctively the reader knows it’s the look-down-your –nose, I’m-better-than-you, go-back-to-where-you-belong, kind of looks.  And why?  Because she’s using a ‘shitty public terminal.’  She’s a trashy black-and-white person.  The scene reminds me of Remember the Titans, when Big Ju, an African-American linebacker, walks into training camp for the first time.  Fortunately, fantastic Hollywood movies are all I know of authentic racism.  The movie represents a dark side of America’s history: the racially turbulent 50’s.  Is it possible the future holds our same mistakes, the Metaverse a bridge to our sinister past?

I’m scared to think that, in 2009, we are not far off  from being able to create the Metaverse.  We’re just missing the inevitable link.  In modern terms the Metaverse is like Videochat meets SecondLife (without the creepy flying).  Once these two ideas are connected, how far would be from Stephenson’s imagined virtual world? One of the Internet’s strongest virtues is the inherent anonymity it grants to users.  Hidden geniuses, too timid or ugly to speak to a room full of stockholders, can start a multinational without leaving their bedrooms.  But what if this anonymity ceased to exist?  What if everyone knew what you actually looked like when you logged on to cyber space?  Would you prefer to live in the real world, or the virtual world?  Or, more succinctly, what’s the difference?

Jake Karlsruher

Master of Glugnar, the Magnificent

Tolkien was a RACIST!!!

By – Kyle Osborne

I knew it would come to this. I knew at some point this issue would be forced out into the open, and I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not going to play it safe or pull any punches. In the land of LoTRO, all races are not equal. I know it’s appalling and I sound like a racist, but please bear with me.

                It’s just the truth, a simple matter of fact, not every (or any) young hobbit can fulfill his dream to become the next great Lore-Master. Before you tell me that I’m putting the hobbits down and stifling their dreams, let’s analyze the source, Tolkien’s works. Where in The Fellowship of the Ring does Tolkien comment that hobbits share a love for the history of Middle Earth? If you can find it let me know. From what I read, hobbits rarely care much for their own lore, hate to leave the shire, and care nothing for the history of other races. In their agrarian society this knowledge holds little value. From what Tolkien has written it seems unlikely that a hobbit, or a Dwarf for that matter, would ever consider being a Lore-Master. To save face with any hobbit or dwarf out there I will say that I find the races with more limited class choices to be the most interesting around; men and elves can be pretty boring at times.

                Tolkien was intent on creating an interactive and living world, filled with various cultures and a rich social structure between races. Given the fact that they were imitating a master, the game designers of LoTRO did a decent job. As necessary the various free peoples of Middle earth, work together against their common enemies, but thankfully the designers didn’t stop with only these basics. Evidenced as early as the Epic Prologue, there is a tension between the dwarves and the elves that was ever present in the novels. They are quick to consider blaming each other when an elven envoy is kidnapped, even though neither party was to blame. As in the books, the rangers of the north are looked down upon or spoken ill of by others. Their secrecy and isolation makes them suspect for conspiracy. In the game the rangers have their encampment away from others in the North Downs. These are only a couple of examples of the complex social structure of Middle Earth, which was graciously included in LoTRO.

                Whether or not they suggest racism, these limitations, characteristics and interactions of the different races of LoTRO help to draw the gamer into the plot and the mechanics of the game. I am willing to admit that when it comes to the representations of Middle Earth, I am a racist. How about you?