Pokimane can’t seem to avoid controversy. The Twitch Streamer has been embroiled in controversy since an incident in late 2018 where she issued copyright strikes against videos that she didn’t agree with and mocked a fan that made clickbait videos of her live on stream. Just as it seemed that that was the limit of Pokimane controversy a new, and much bigger, controversy has emerged.
This latest firestorm begins with a clip of Pokimane streaming in the stream she is playing League Of Legends, and a team fight breaks out during which it sounds like Pokimane uses the n-word racial slur, Pokimane responded to this video saying that she was actually saying the name of one of the game characters, Anivia (‘Nivia). Listening to the video, it’s unclear enough that it can’t be said definitively whether it is the n-word or just the character name.
This would have been the end of it, but then a second video surfaced in which Pokimane clearly and unquestionably uses the n-word twice in a conversation she is having on stream. Pokimane responded to this second video offering the claim that during the time when the video was recorded the n-word was more common/accepted and that she was using it as a replacement for “dude”, Pokimane also offers the defense that her usage of the word was not racist because it lacked the “hard r”, and was merely “cringey”.
The media machine that taken Pewdiepie to task over similar “cringey behavior” has been definingly silent on this matter. As of this writing there has been zero coverage from the media outlets that have chronicled every instance of ignorant behavior from Pewdiepie.
Pokimane’s lazy excuses expose her own sense of ignorance and lack of cultural empathy, as she doesn’t even acknowledge the hate and vitriol that is baked into that word and how it’s usage hurts demeans and marginalizes black people regardless of context. She brushes off her usage of the word in the past as mere teenage indiscretion as if using the n-word as a regular pert of one’s vocabulary is on the same level as wearing emo fringes. Compare this with Pewdiepie’s response in which he acknowledges the hate of the word and unequivocally stated that it was wrong of him to use the word, and one can’t help but find Pokemane’s statements leave a lot to be desired and aren’t coming from anywhere near a place of contrition or sincerity.
While we are on this topic let’s clarify matters, there is no distinction between the n-word ending in an “A” or a “R”, the notion that there was ever any difference is nothing but an excuse that people use to excuse their usage of the word. Just as a swastika is a swastika no matter what color you paint it, how you may stylize it. If you wouldn’t brandish a swastika and claim that it’s okay because the edges are rounded, and not hard, then you shouldn’t say any “variation” of the n-word.
No matter the form, if your intent is to use any variation of the n-word that is historically used as a racial slur, the n-word that was whispered, shouted, spoken, spat, and sung at so many black people with every intention to hurt and destroy, the n-word that was the last word heard by so many human beings as they were brutally lynched and murdered in horrifying ways then you are being astonishingly ignorant at the bare minimum, and outright racist at the worst.
The fact that Pokimane issuing some distasteful copyright take downs, and making fun of people live on her streams rises in priority in her mind to issue a response video, yet this usage of the most vile, vitriolic, and disgusting of words in language only rises to the level of a handful of half-hearted damage control tweets, speaks volumes about Pokimane’s sense of what is right and what is wrong. And even more so, it speaks volumes about the gaming community, and our society at large, that Pokimane was taken to task over the copyright flagging, and here we are days out from the video surfacing and there is no call to accountability for Pokimane. As a black person living in America in 2019, watching this unfold, and soaking in every iota of the response, the only conclusion I can draw is that Pokimane must have acquired that mythical ‘n-word pass’ that is so coveted among the ignorant, and the racist. Apparently, because she is popular and liked by the right people, these despicable actions the reinforce and refresh, and reproduce the racist attitudes that have plagued this country since its inception go pleasantly ignored. Hmm, how very interesting that this scenario sounds like any number of politicians sitting in office right now.
It deeply saddens me that this is the state of our society, and while so many people offer words of empowerment, as we stand only mere days after the end of Black History Month, days after Black Panther “revolutionized” the Academy Awards, all these so-called black cultural landmarks come to ring hollow; as mere blustering societal masturbation that vanishes in the face of reality. The truth of the matter is that we live in a society where there is still a huge racial disparity where black interests only have value in relation to how much they enhance or protect white interests, and the “fight for equality” is toothless and pandering.
When a streamer that highlighted by Twitch, sponsored by brands like Hot Pockets, HyperX, GEICO, and more doesn’t have to apologize for using racial slurs, that’s when the sobering reality hits black members of this community right in the face, reminding us not to get too happy because we are always, always the “other” and if comes down to it the interests of the black community will always be thrown into the fire in order to preserve these white corporate “icons” of gaming that are funneled millions of dollars by corporations that need those white gamers to keep spending money on their products.
Here I stand, offering my small contribution to the voice of the black gaming community that will be ignored as the machine grinds forward to erase this matter so Pokimane can remain an icon and there is no interruption in the flow. To the people that the people that have been hurt by Pokimane’s lack of cultural understanding, and those that have been hurt by the community that protects and even cultivates it, I see you, I feel the same way, and I am sorry. I apologize to you because it’s becoming clear that none of the people responsible will.
Pokimane’s response to the first video:
Pokimane’s response to second video: