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Stop Trying To Defeat Racism With Logic

There's a black samurai in the new Assassin's Creed game, and it has made some people mad. You simply don't have to argue about it.

yasuke as depicted in the trailer for Assassin's Creed Shadows
Ubisoft

The new Assassin’s Creed game is set in feudal Japan, which is cool. It stars what appears to be a female ninja and a black samurai based on the historical figure Yasuke, which is also cool. Anyone who tries to argue about whether or not that’s cool is just not worth your time.

In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last ten or twenty years, video game culture tends to be a repository for the most tedious people on Earth. You know the type—these are the kinds of people who don’t consider mobile games to be “real games,” or who harass women who use their mics in online multiplayer games, or who argue about “historical accuracy” in a video game that has dragons or elves in it. These kinds of people show up in a lot of nerdy hobbies, like tabletop gaming or whatever it is people do on Letterboxd or even enjoying Greek and Roman history.

From the moment that the key art for Assassin’s Creed Shadows depicted a black man in samurai garb, I knew that this particular brand of person was going to get ripshit mad. Just look at the replies to this tweet. It’s absolute nonsense in there. 

Yasuke as depicted in Assassin's Creed Shadows
Image Source: Ubisoft

The most amusing replies are the ones that take into question the, of course, historical accuracy of this character. It may be tempting to try to argue with these people, for a lot of reasons, most of all that history and facts are on your side. This character appears to be based on Yasuke, a real guy who actually existed in the historical record. He was an African retainer for warlord Oda Nobunaga, meaning that he was indeed a samurai. Yasuke is a well known enough figure that he’s the subject of a Netflix anime that is named after him. He’s also a character in Nioh, which was developed by the Japanese studio Team Ninja. You can repeat those facts until you’re blue in the face to people who are determined to be angry about a black man having a leading role in this game, but it won’t matter. You should just save your breath and look forward to seeing whether or not Ubisoft fumbles this very easy layup.

Racism isn’t a logical position, so you cannot defeat it with logic. Facts just don’t matter to a racist, especially not the tedious kind of racist who makes their home in video game culture. There will always be a new hair to split, a new way for this kind of person to object to a black man being in this video game. You can bring up the other fantabulous aspects of the Assassin’s Creed franchise that clash with history: the existence of the titular Creed and the Knights Templar; whatever the fuck was going on with the Apples of Eden; the series’ depiction of Karl Marx as a devotee of democracy rather than advocating for an armed revolution of the proletariat. It does not matter because the people who are mad about this have already made up their mind. 

To them, Japan is a place that does not and has never had black people live there or make their homes there at any point in time—especially in history. The anger about “historical accuracy” is just a slightly more reasonable smokescreen for their real objection: having to see a black person at all. Unfortunately, blackness and black people have always been inescapable, both now and in the past. I’m not going anywhere, and I won’t be dragged into an argument about the value of my very existence.

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