Black cosplay should be inspiring.
Plenty of cosplayers get their chance to shine in magazines and music videos ... as long as they’re white. So, why don’t we see more cosplayers of color in prominent campaigns and photoshoots?
It’s time to shed some light on the racist world of cosplay.
Fair-skinned cosplayers are often featured in “best-of” cosplay roundups, while black cosplayers are routinely overlooked or disregarded because of their skin tone. The craftsmanship of the costume doesn’t even make it into the discussion. So instead of celebrating the art, black cosplayers are compared to fair-skinned cosplayers donning the same outfit and labeled as the “black version” of the character they dress up as.
For a country that claims that it’s “post-racial,” it shouldn’t be nearly as common as it is for people of color to receive backlash for their cosplay. It shouldn’t be a given that people are going to say nasty things about how “dirty” black cosplayers look in a costume or how it’s “ruined” by their skin color.
In 2017, we often turn the other cheek and pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist in our community. But these kinds of incidents have caused some black cosplayers to abandon their art and the community altogether. It goes beyond frustration — it’s demoralizing to fight a system that was already bent on oppressing our voices.
When I cosplayed as Overwatch’s D.Va, I was bombarded with racist insults. But a fair-skinned cosplayer could easily cosplay as D.Va and be worshipped. No matter what I do, I’m going to be the black version of the character that I’m cosplaying as — not as good as someone who is fair-skinned.
To be fair, it’s not always that bad. When I cosplayed as 2B from Nier: Automata, the game developer actually gave me a shoutout online. And it wasn’t just the developers. Popular YouTubers PewDiePie and Harley Plays liked my 2B cosplay too.
When a fair-skinned person breaks race barriers for cosplay they often get praised for it. But a dark-skinned cosplayer doing the same thing could be called an ape, or worse. It’s sad that my cosplay only gets noticed when I was being oppressed — which, by the way, is every time I cosplay as a character not from my race.
Kamikaze Miko Cosplay also got a lot of racist flack for cosplaying a black character from League of Legends. Angry fans decided to bombard her, calling her the N-word and a dirty monkey. She said she almost quit cosplay right then and there.
As isolating as it is to be at the center of racist tweetstorms, we’re not giving up. The gaming and cosplay communities need to treat black cosplayers like me fairly. We should be featured at local stores and in magazines like Cosplay Culture Magazine and sites like Badass Cosplay.
We should be hosting shows like Heroes of Cosplay. We should be guests at conventions. Let’s see more black cosplayers getting E3 booth jobs and opportunities in the industry we’re already actively involved in.
There are so many talented cosplayers of color and no good reason we shouldn’t have the same shot at these opportunities.
Today, we are in the shadows, but there’s no reason we should have to work 10 times harder than everyone else just to get praised or even simply noticed. Enough is enough.
Let it be normal to see black cosplayers front and center, shining as brightly as our fair-skinned counterparts. We should be bringing black cosplayers forward to stand in the spotlight.
If the cosplay community truly supported each other, leading with mutual respect instead of placing us on the back burner, there would be so much more to celebrate. We deserve more than segregation. We should be building up one another as a community, instead of judging one another by the color of our skin.
Events like “28 Days of Black Cosplay,” which is timed to coincide with Black History Month and celebrate and showcase cosplayers of color, is a good start but still not enough. It’s time to treat black cosplayers like human beings all year round. Not just when it’s convenient, and not as an afterthought.
More gaming news and updates
Check out the latest from Mic, like this essay about the sinister, subtle evils lurking in rural America that Far Cry 5 shouldn’t ignore. Also, be sure to read our review of Tekken 7, an article about D.Va’s influence on one Overwatch player’s ideas about femininity and an analysis of gaming’s racist habit of darkening villains’ skin tones.