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Mark Dizon

Level One - Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

06/08/2020 by Mark Dizon

We live in a world now where content creators use their voice to speak for change in the community and to provide growth, whether negative or positive. I have been very fortunate to be able to produce content here on 60cards and my Twitch channel. Connecting with people and spreading positive vibes while being able to discuss specific topics has meant more to me than winning, because some things are worth more than a trophy. Sometimes speaking your truth and honest mind is worth more than followers and subscribers.

It's been two weeks now since the chaos that ensued from George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police. The world has been thrown into disarray, and people are divided instead of focusing on uniting. Nelson Mandela once said, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or their background or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught how to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it's opposite." If our community can all come together to speak about our frustration regarding the Player’s Cup, or in disgust at the situation involvingCoochieBaby5000's disqualification, it’s important for our community to voice our concerns regarding Black Lives Matter. I understand a lot of content creators have rule about not talking politics; however, this is more than just politics. This is real life, and an issue that affects us all.

 

Content creators must understand that in their little pockets of the online and real world, people take what they say to heart. People look to be friends or interact with that person. They can help spread awareness of an issue, good or bad. Imagine if the response to Black Lives Matter was the same as it was to Tiger King or The Fyre Festival. Instead, talking about it with certain people has become taboo and divisive. Why? I feel that in many levels, we afraid to talk about things that matter. The fact the statement Black Lives Matter causes so much controversy and division blows my mind. It seems unreal to me that I have a platform to complain about Crushing Hammer and Super Scoop Up flips when at the same time, people are being hurt using their legal right to protest.

 

 

Many people use entertainment to escape the real world. I know I do. I love playing card games because when I do, I can ignore everything happening around myself and just focus on the game at hand. The age of social media and has expanded the boundaries and direction of the world. Being able to see in real time the ongoing atrocities has affected me deeply. I have seen the videos from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. Watching the footage, I wonder this: when did people stop trying to be good to each other and knowing the difference between right and wrong, but instead are focused on enforcing long-held social norms that should have been forgotten? The civil rights movement was not as long ago as it seems, and yet it seems that we are repeating the same mistakes and actions from a past that we should have learned from.

I owe a lot of my passion through this from watching Sombs from twitch.tv/sombssc speak out about this on their stream. Their ability to be able to talk about the issues and focus on the problems sparked in me that just retweeting wasn't enough. Kenny Wisdom deciding to postpone his streams also helped me find the courage to want to talk more about it. A simple black square does not absolve us of the issue – it does not mean anything if we are not doing anything to try to change the narrative. If I can help flatten the curve, what can I do to help improve the story?

I have been playing card games for the past twenty years. First Yugi-oh, then Magic the Gathering, and now Pokemon. All diverse communities, all showcasing their players in different ways. As an Asian player, I have always had players to look up to that look like me. These players have been celebrated. Magic players from Japan, who are regarded as Masters. Players like Shintaro Ito in Pokemon, considered to be a deck-building god. When the movie Crazy Rich Asians came out, I was excited to finally see a cast of characters where everyone looked like me. Growing up, I had Jackie Chan and Jet Li – enigmatic to the stereotypes of my people. I mean, our only Disney movie was Mulan. There is a significant reason aside from the storytelling and cinematography of Black Panther that makes it the highest grossing non-Avengers property in Marvel. Black Panther gave all the black children in the world a superhero that looked like them. This wasn't Blade. This was a true superhero that was powerful and was equal to the other Avengers. It had a predominantly black cast, with great black actors. One of the great things about the movies like Black Panther is being able to see a movie that lifts a community up. Writing this, it occurred to me that as a gaming community, we do more to put each other down than to lift each other up. Silence is one of those things that bring us down. Ask yourself as a member of the Pokémon Community – how many black TCG players can you name of the top of your head? Now ask yourself…why you haven't gotten past your second hand?

There’s another serious implication that the lack of diversity has in our game. Why would young children be interested in Pokémon if they're not able to see people that look like them play and succeed in the game? Who do they have to look up to? Why step into a card store and spend time away from athletics, why invite friends? Jon Eng is currently a top 16 player in North America. When he was a Senior, he was one of the top players at that level. When I asked him if there were any other black kids that he could remember at an elite level during his junior and senior years, he couldn't recall.

I went deep into the well and searched the Pokemon main Facebook page, looking through their photo albums from recent events. This is what I found:

2020 Oceania International– 0 Photos with Black Competitors
2020 Latin American International – 0 Photos with Black Competitors
2019 World Championships – 9 Photos with Black People in the Venue – 4 as the Main Focus or Competitors – 1 in the Trading Card Game
2019 North American International – 6 Photos with Black People – 4 In Main Focus – 1 Trading Card Game
2018 World Championships – 4 Photos with Black People – 2 in Main Focus – 2 Trading Card Game (not counting justice smith)
2018 North American Championships – 5 Photos with Black Competitors – 2 In Main Focus -1 In Trading Card Game
2017 World Championships - 0 Photos with Black Competitors
2017 North American International - 1 Photo with Black Competitors
2016 World Championships - 7 Photos with Black Competitors 
2016 US Nationals - 12 Photos with Black Competitors and Pokken Announcers 

 

It goes beyond just the player base. How many black Judges are in the Judge program? I can think of three of them. How can we, as players and organizers, do better? Content creation is another platform with little representation. There are so many content creators, but only one - Shai Burton of the Slowpoke Well – that I see promoted and shared on a regular basis. Is it because others stop? Is it because others aren't willing to start, or is it because we do not have enough representation of black players in our game? I can count on my two hands the number of black opponents I've had over 20 Pokemon major events. Why was Shai not included on invited to Limitless Qualifier when he produces daily YouTube content? Why is Jon Eng the only one we asked to metaforecasts? Stephen Hunter came fourth at Roanoake Regionals and is a great black player. Sammy Ketchum Is trying to produce family-friendly Pokemon content.

This video from Rainbow Rocket is something everyone should watch. It spoke to me in many different ways. I know that some content creators might think that them being invited might be because they are "token", but that is the mindset that we brings each other down. By flipping our mindset and focusing on lifting each other up, we should see the inclusion of black content creators as building our community and increasing our community’s reach. Everyone is inspired by someone else.

It’s easy to forget, but the list of names is long. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Philando Castile. The civil rights movement was only decades ago. We need to keep an open mind and open our eyes. We can't just retweet about Pokémon is donating $100,000, or whatever donation or another player retweets. You can't just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. Pokémon has players participating in their invitational that haven’t deleted tweets from their past that include the N-word. There’s a disconnect there that needs to be addressed. Committing to change and being a better person changes through your actions, not just what you say or retweet. The systems that are being protested will never support these protests, because their very system is the one being brought down. For things to change, they need every one of us to step up.

So what can you do as a player, as an organizer, as a judge? First and foremost, we can have more open eyes, but even more importantly, open ears. Listening is the first step, along with addressing and changing your bias. I genuinely want to help others. My brother and I played card games in a family that couldn't afford to buy us cards constantly. In my 20 years before I learned how to drive, my parents only drove me to one event. I was so lucky to be mentored by players who would drive me to events and lend me cards until I could afford cards or win them. When Rainbow Rocket describes getting deals on cards because people understood his situation, it hit me hard. I do my best to help drive those who can't when I have the chance; I do my best to lend cards or even full decks to those who can't. To me, now Pokémon cards are inexpensive, and I can own multiple copies of staples, but as a younger me, that was not possible. Now that we have the privilege of card access, paying it is so important to.

We can also be more inclusive in showcasing our player base. Post pictures on the store page. Let people know the diversity of your community. Have players come to a safe place where they can enjoy their games. Make sound decisions and help others learn when they make mistakes. Sit down with them, get to know them, and let them know how they can get better. Introduce them to your circle of friends. We can do more to put the spotlight on our black players that do well, start promoting those content creators, hire black people in public-facing positions, and ask the black players in your community how you can assist. As a Judge, we can invite more of them to our Judge program; some players might feel comfortable talking to someone that looks like them. When looking at our society, I imagine there is a parallel in how a black player must feel when it seems that the white judges are always making the calls.

Pokemon has always preached and practiced unity at its core. Pokémon transcends, race, gender, and age because it’s not about that at all. If anything, we should celebrate Pokémon for being so inclusive from the start. Your Pokemon don't care what colour your skin is when you catch them in-game. The game themselves have become more progressive, adding people of colour in the game, changing the colour of Jynx. In talking with Pokemon player Caleb Cosby he reminded me of these things. The game and core values of Pokemon has always stayed the same - Gotta Catch them All. 

 

What can you do as a person? – Be Open – Be There – Be aware.

These rebuttals for Racist Talking Points come from @sujoy_shah on twitter. I think these are great and valuable, and I would read their tweets to learn more. Please note though I agree with some of these, I do not agree with all of them. I like to believe that Cops try to be good, but some are not good people. These are great conversation starters or ways to drive the narrative when you speak about what is unraveling in the US. 

Black People Commit More Crime
When you have a higher police presence in black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods, especially with a corrupt system and arrest quotas, black crimes will be more documented.

Cops kill more white people than black.
There are 6x more white people in America than black ppl by sheer numbers white people are killed more, but black people are killed by police at a rate 4x higher than white people.

Why not peacefully protest/I don't support looting
If people are arrested and stopped from peacefully protesting, the only option left is to turn violent. Also, Colin Kapernick peacefully protested and lost his job. Martin Luther King was assassinated for Peacefully protesting.

White People have been oppressed too.
Yes, by other white people (Irish People, for example), Oppression against white people has historically been due to nationality or religion.

What about black on black crime
Black people don't kill each other because they're black – This point is brought up to distract from police brutality.

Gun violence is in black neighborhoods 
The person you're talking with is very unlikely to vote for any policy that would reduce crime in these places. This is also to distract from police brutality.

But the victim had a criminal past.
Many of the cops making the killing have prior to the job murders on their records. Furthermore, if someone is handcuffed tased and subdued, their criminal record isn't relevant, and they aren't endangering anyone.

They should just follow the law.
Even if they did commit a crime, that doesn't automatically warrant a death sentence. Innocent people have been killed just for fitting a description. The law protects white people and not black people.

Not all cops are bad
I disagree with all cops are bad – All cops are bad means the system allows all cops to be bad, not that every cop is a murderer. It means that they all benefit from a system that allows them to theoretically kill someone and get away with it.

How are cops supposed to act when they're being screamed at
This is a high-pressure job. They need to have the mental fortitude and training to not allow emotion to cloud their judgment

White privilege isn't real.
Brock Turner

All lives matter
All lives cannot matter until black people are treated like their lives matter.

Blue lives matter
This doesn't exist. You can stop being a cop; you cannot stop being black. Getting hurt, short, or killed while on the clock is an occupational hazard they knew when taking the job. Black people didn't sign up for anything.

I don't see color
When you say this you are invalidating the experience of every single person of color. It ignores diversity and poses that black people are treated the same as white people.

Not all cops kill or brutalize people 
But if they did, they wouldn't face any consequence for it its incredibly difficult to seek justice against police abuse because the system Is built to protect them.

Pokémon has a lot of lessons that it tries to teach us. Inclusivity, in building your team. Friendship, in training your Pokémon and traveling with your friends. Perseverance, by never giving up. Love – just look at Ash and Pikachu. We have also dealt with our share of negative feelings, including the frustration in all the events we have missed. However, no matter how much that sucks, it doesn't compare to what our black colleagues experience every day. I lost my job last Wednesday, and even though it was painful and horrible I steadied myself by thinking of how bad things are happening in the world and how much worse others have it. If you still don't understand why this is such a big thing, I implore you to rewatch this. 

 There was not a better clip on Youtube. However, this shows standing up for what you believe in, even against those more powerful than you. I remember being young watching this and crying. This moment is so emotional, Ash fighting Mewtwo, Pikachu trying to revive Ash. These are cartoon characters I felt pain for. Why can we not feel for our fellow person the same way?

 

Mewtwo ends the movie with this timeless thought: “I know see that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” This resonates with what I shared by Nelson Mandela earlier.

 


 

 

If you claim to love Pokemon, than from what it is teaching us you can find ways to support the Black Lives Matter. It isn't a movement but a statement of fact.Thank you for spending the time reading this. It means a lot to me. If you want to talk more with me about this, you can reach out to me on twitter @markdizon or on twitch I would love to talk about this topic with you. Please consider following the people I have listed below and sharing on Twitter more content creators that are black, so we can celebrate them. I leave you here in hoping you stay safe. If there is one thing I hope you take away from this, let's focus on lifting each other up instead of bringing each other down. 

I decided to use the Pokemon Picture to show us that it's our fellow Pokemon Players we need to stand with. These are our friends we sit beside the World's Opening Ceremony. These are the colleagues we stand beside in line for food at regionals with. If we can stand with them there, we can stand with them for Black Lives Matter

If you would like to Donate to Black Lives Matter You can do so here 
https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#

These are some Black Pokemon Players Content Creators You can Follow 
Shai Burton Twitter


Slowpoke Well Youtube


Adamsvillegym Twitter


Jon Eng Twitter


Sammy Ketchum Youtube

 

[+1] okko


 

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