You Got White In My Black!

Anthony Burch has become the subject of an ongoing issue with video games. One that, unfortunately, is mired with tangles from a multitude of webs.

Gamers have aired their grievances about a NPC (non-playable character to my non-gaming amigos), by the name of “Tiny Tina”. The accusation is Tina, whom is a young North American-esque white skinned girl on an alien planet, uses a “tasteless” parody of Ebonics in her dialogue. I cannot tell you if she did, or did not, use Ebonics, because I have not studied this subversion of “U.S.A. English”. What I CAN do, is offer my insight on this, as a white man who has knowledge of Black American culture.

I do not like publicizing my personal life, but to properly address this issue, I feel it is necessary. This way you can understand why I have this perception. I am a father of two interracial children, and live in North East Louisiana. Their mother (whom I was married to) is Black, and we raise our children together as dear friends. Roughly 9 years ago, I was just a Southern White boy, who had Black friends, but with little understanding of their social structure.

Now, through my relationship, I have experienced many different scenarios that have molded me into who I am today. This is not a claim to accreditation of being a Professor of Black Culture. I’m just someone that understands the often tumultuous relationship between White and Black Americans. So with all this shit out of the way, let us discuss.

I am a firm believer, that Black Amercians have affected our vocabulary, in more ways than we realize. This is due to their natural talent for rhythm, and improvisation. Certain words and phrases have found favor with us, and we integrate them under certain scenarios.

But, that’s just a piece of the Apple Pie. Our words, casual and professional, have been derived from a vast array of cultures. America is a melting pot of different races, religions, languages, pasts, futures, dreams, and ideas. Another element, is a diversity of dialect.

From my experience, there seems to be a misunderstanding between White and Black dialects, at least where I live; to which my normal interaction is 50/50 between both races. In Louisiana, there is a prominence of Black, White, and French (Cajun) accents that are spoken in different ways. Living in a college town, we have a mixture of traditional Southern accents along with those of other North American or International influences.

The famous “Southern Drawl” that we are most noted for, is adapted between White and Black, but has a few differences that stand out. There is a traditional way, which has a slower cadence and emphasis on elongating vowels. There is also a newer way, which seems to skip vowels and consonants at a faster cadence, somehow maintaining a phantom consistency (normally tangible to those familiar with it). Southern Blacks gravitate to traditional, and Southern Whites to “neo-traditional” (that sounds sexy, I’m using it).

Unfortunately, we share a similar social problems with larger metropolitan areas. Economic imbalance. The projects, the poor quality apartment complexes that charge half the normal rent, the trailer parks, etc. Kids that live in those particular environments, form a bond to their accent and vernacular, whether to not deny their upbringing, or because their exposure to other dialects are limited.

Sometimes, people are subjected to ridicule, depending on the circumstances that “certain presets” are used. If a Black person uses a “proper” manner of speaking, in informal or personal settings, they are sometimes ridiculed for “trying to talk like white folks”. If they use similar mannerisms at work, around executives, but normally relax with slang and a drawl around friends, that is seen as acceptable.

Sometimes a White person, raised in a similar neighborhood as a Black person, shares the same manner of speech. But because they are White, they are perceived as “acting Black” between both Whites and Blacks alike. Some White people tend to relax their drawl, and imitate slang around Black people, as a means of fitting in, and not offending them. Some Whites simply use the more traditional Southern dialect, that shares those key similarities with older Black Southerners.

Of course, some Whites parody Blacks, IN the company of Whites as a means of insult, and vice versa (But Black people like to parody White people when they are present, to which I’ve amusingly experienced several times). It’s truly a convoluted issue, and yet another reminder that racial discrimination is alive and well. BUT, not with the severity we had over 50 years ago.

I’ve listened to Tiny Tina, also I had my ex-wife listen to Tiny Tina. We agree that she is merely a parody of a young, contemporary urban white girl, who happens to suffer from psychotic breaks.

However, I am not dismissing the critics, because their reasons could be important to them. Maybe they are involved with other social activism, developing a high sensitivity to this sort of issue. Maybe the Whites in protest think “We don’t need more reasons for Blacks to hate us”. Maybe the issue is because Black characters are not always legitimately portrayed in video games (which I think that comes from a lack of differentiating American games to Japanese games). Maybe people are tired of the immoral sex and violence status quo of game development, so somehow the White girl with the Black slang fits this model.

Your reason is your own, and you have the right to express it. But I believe it’s wrong to demand, or even candidly suggest, that Anthony Burch change this dialogue. Tiny Tina is a product of modern pop culture, not a scar from the battle against racial intolerance. He function was to develop an outlandish character, that people find amusing. It was not to ridicule Black Americans, and view them as inferior. If Anthony wanted to accomplish that, he would have created a tactless, idiotic black character, who uses offensive and unnecessary language.

Could Anthony have written an equally funny character, without any of the “racial dialogue”? My answer would be yes. But this is what he chose, and you need to respect his right to choose it.