All posts by Tori's Story

About Tori's Story

I saved Hyrule. I exterminate zombies. I fight fire with fire. And I'm a writer. Ingredients: Natural hair, coconut oil and shea butter.

Video Games & Safe Spaces: Ugandan Knuckles

When it comes to the term “safe spaces,” it’s not something that has a positive meaning in gaming culture. Safe spaces have come to mean something that pose a threat. To who? That still remains to be answered. I have that same question every time gaming edgelords scream “TRIGGERED” at anybody that displays basic humanity.

That’s only one example of the gaming community showing why safe spaces within that community are necessary. I can name plenty, but we’ll stick with the most recent one: the new viral meme, Ugandan Knuckles. This has gotten so big that even the creator of The Fairly Odd Parents show has posted a drawing of it and has turned the VRchat into a complete cesspool of trolls.

Now, there’s been plenty of defense for this new beloved meme. Ugandan Knuckles is derived from an Ugandan comedy called “Who Killed Captain Alex?” The movie creator has shown plenty of love to this new meme, even retweeting various defenses of the meme totally not being racist. The latter even went as far as to claim that you’d only find it racist if you already thought less of Ugandans, which is quite the reach. So, let’s start from the top.

First, take into account that some don’t find it amusing when people try to mock foreign accents. It’s degrading at the most and immature humor at the very least. Let’s also take into account that mocking the way someone speaks can have racial undertones. Anybody that is not white in America and doesn’t speak perfect English knows the humiliation all too well. Having attention brought to your accent (or if you don’t speak English at all) can be nerve-wracking depending on the environment.

Second, let’s also consider the strong possibility that most people that hopped on this bandwagon were completely unaware of the meme’s origin. Even if they were aware, that doesn’t mean that people couldn’t have possibly used this meme for racist motives. The tweet that is linked shows a screenshot of one Uganda Knuckles with pitch black skin, huge red lips and a watermelon across the front of its chest. I hope I don’t need to explain why that is extremely racist. And according to Denny, the original poster, this wasn’t the only Uganda Knuckles with this skin.

So, let’s combine the shitty, minstrel-level, Jim Crow-era humor with the Ebola jokes that are also being throw around carelessly. Yes, there are entire YouTube videos of people using the Uganda Knuckles meme while making Ebola jokes. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand how jokes about life-threatening diseases can be funny. In any context.

Last, and the most important part of my argument, people have the right to be offended by certain things. A person is well within their rights to state, “Hey I don’t like this thing and I find it offensive for various reasons.” The absolute wrong thing to do is respond by saying, “Well, you’re probably just too sensitive,” “Don’t take it personal, it’s not meant to be offensive,” or “You shouldn’t be offended because [insert empty justifications].” I’ve had to learn this lesson myself. When someone brings to your attention that you’ve offended them, it’s okay to apologize and admit you’re wrong. It can be embarrassing sometimes, but it shows good character to apologize publicly.

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I don’t expect this blog post to put a stop to the meme usage. However, this can hopefully clarify why the meme has been deemed racist and banned from a certain forum. Yes, you’re free to use Ugandan Knuckles if you so greatly desire. Just keep in mind that this does not mean everyone else has to put up with it if they feel the meme is racist.

Being A Millennial While Black

As a millennial, it seems like everybody is giving you unwanted advice left and right. Anything we do is up for criticism. We don’t work enough for corporations? We’re lazy. We work too much? Suddenly, we don’t take enough vacation time. Received participation trophies when you were growing up? That’s probably why you’re not excelling now. It’s totally something that you’re doing wrong. Won’t accept abusive management tactics? It’s because you’re clearly an entitled little shit. How dare you ask for a good work-life balance and a company that treats you like a human being?

When houses aren’t selling enough, Millennials are blamed for not buying them. Never mind the all-around inflation in prices while minimum wage is pretty much stagnant. If we go to college and don’t get the desired career job, it’s something we did. Maybe not enough unpaid internships, not enough extracurricular activities or just not enough drive. Who knows? It was probably because of all that social media. Either way, it was your fault.

Black Millennials aren’t strangers to this though. Growing up Black in a world where the odds are stacked against you, it’s common to hear the phrase, “Work twice as hard to get half the reward.”

It’s normal.

It’s everyday life for young, Black people to pushed much harder, criticized and punished much harsher if we mess up. Being denied a fair start and then condemned if we don’t go beyond the finish line. To be honest, the extra judgement that comes with being a Millennial is just another layer on top of a crappy sandwich.

The most criticism comes when trying to find a job. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve been more aware of being a Black Millennial than when job-hunting. It always hits the hardest when I put in so much time and effort applying for those particular positions. The ones that relate to my field of study and I think, “You’ll never know unless you try.” Then, I apply and wait.

Most don’t go anywhere but every now and then, I’ll get a phone call for an interview and slam dunk it. But for various reasons (whatever they may be), that dreaded email floats into my inbox with the generic “we liked your interview, but have decided to go with another candidate.” The only time I’ve ever appreciated those emails is when one recruiter gave me a heads-up on the company deciding to hire internally. Otherwise, the rejection can be pretty discouraging.

Internships also leave a bitter taste in your mouth because it’s been hyped up to be a foot in the door. Going to college, I was always told that internships were the major key. If you got an internship, your chances were automatically increased. Sure, you weren’t paid for your time, but you were paid with “experience” and the slim chance that they would offer you a position when you graduate. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible. It’s happened to an acquaintance of mine. He was offered a position and needed to relocate, but nevertheless, it was a career position.

However, I’ve also had a friend with an internship at a local news station, just like me. And I’d say he was even more passionate about media and production than I was. Still, that didn’t help him when the station wouldn’t return his phone calls. And that’s the cold reality of being a Black Millennial.

Sometimes, not even going above and beyond as an intern will get you that fancy position. You may get a company who likes you enough and is willing to make space to hire you. But it can be hard to weed out companies who are looking to actually hire interns and ones who are looking for free labor.

And this is just a few of the many obstacles. Do well not to point them out too much, though. You’ll be accused of making excuses. All you can do is keep going until you find your footing. Change up your strategy if you’re feeling stuck. And if you feel stressed out, it’s okay to take a break. I know there’s the general belief that if you’re not contributing to society 24/7, then you’re wasting your time.

But it’s bullshit. It’s okay to take a short break. Play a video game, stretch, mediate, listen to music, do whatever helps calm you down. Adulting is pretty damn tiring and everybody deserves some self-care.

There isn’t much we can do individually to change how society views the latest generation or how complicated the job market is. All we can do is keep going until we can live comfortably and hopefully, make a change for our future families.

Millennial life is often a crap shoot. A Black Millennial’s life is making sure we’re not playing against someone that has loaded dice. The most immediate way to fight against that is to support your fellow Black Millennials. A helping hand and a few encouraging words go a long way. It’s a welcomed change to balance out the constant criticism.

Netflix’s Latest Hit: 3%

If you’re like me where you take a peek at Netflix’s “Recently Added” section once in a while, you’ll know  that only a few are actually recently added. This was one of those times. Except this time, one of them caught my interest just off the header picture alone.

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The first thing I noticed about this cast was the clear diversity. The show also has representation for the disabled in their character, Fernando and he isn’t condescendingly written as someone to take pity upon. After reading the show’s summary, it definitely peaked my curiosity. I love a dystopian thriller and the only thing I love more than that is when they also present brown and black characters. So, I was more than willing to give it a chance.

The narrative is set in the future where people who live in extreme poverty are given a chance at affluence. This is called the Process. The citizens are only given one chance in a lifetime to pass and live the rest of their years in a place called the Offshore that is portrayed as nothing short of paradise. The catch? Only 3% of the candidates are picked.

I won’t disclose any major spoilers, but my favorite thing about 3% was the character development. You start off thinking that you’re going to hate this character, but then the narrative shows their background and you learn why this character acts this way; Why they cheat, why they’re so closed off and cold and the reason behind their motives. The very interesting aspect about the characters is that none of them are necessarily “good” or “evil.” Yes, there is a clear protagonist and antagonist, but the drawn line between good and bad is somewhat blurred. They are all complex and none walk a straight and narrow path. It comes down to which character you find the most interesting and relatable.

One thing I did notice about the show was the use of its protagonist, Michele. Although the plot clearly centers around her, the supporting characters are what keep you coming back. She is the main character, but her story isn’t the most interesting in comparison. Even the antagonist, Ezequiel, has quite the compelling backstory. If you’ve watched Orange is the New Black, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The main character is used as the “Trojan Horse” and the surprise is everybody else.

The storytelling is very well-paced and doesn’t waste much time. Every episode is vital to the plot, the character development, and it doesn’t leave much room for filler. The narrative gives a fair amount of perspective for each supporting character which can sometimes be very difficult to do, but 3% makes it work. As a reminder, the original language is in Portuguese. The audience has the option to switch the audio to the English language, but I prefer to turn on subtitles.

The point is, if you haven’t watched 3%, I highly recommend it. It has amazing characters, diversity and captivating backgrounds that keep you coming back. Not saying that you’d be completely missing out on this show, but… it’s pretty damn good. Give it a shot.

My Most Anticipated Video Games

Video games have been a part of my life since I was old enough to hold a controller.

(Shout out to my uncle for introducing me to them!)

As a woman, the gaming community isn’t exactly ideal and I’m being generous with that description. Despite that, it’s something that I strongly enjoy and the chance to dive into another reality is always welcome. It’s a break from the real world and a chance to immerse myself into something that’s not as stressful. Everyone has welcomed that in some form or another.

And what I love even more than video games, are video games with creativity and representation. So without anymore delay, let’s jump right into it.

In no particular order:

Watch Dogs 2

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Unpopular opinion: I actually enjoyed the first Watch Dogs. It still stands that Aiden Pearce is one of the most boring protagonists ever, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the game overall. The supporting characters were what carried the whole damn plot. Essentially, Aiden Pearce was a poor man’s Batman: pretty dull as a stand-alone role, but everyone else around him is what keeps you coming back. This brings me to why I’m so excited for Watch Dogs 2.

Marcus Holloway is the complete opposite. He’s energetic, optimistic, and his motive isn’t driven by a cliché revenge story. He just wants to do the right thing by taking down a corrupt establishment. Let’s not forget the obvious: he’s a Black hacker and his most admirable traits are his intelligence and hacking skills. His hacking skills far surpass that of Aiden’s and this lessens the chances of repetition. In Watch Dogs, you could only hack a limited amount of objects. Ubisoft definitely listened to the criticism and upped the ante in the sequel with a dash representation for their Black gamers.

Black characters are rarely portrayed as highly skilled, tech-savvy hackers. This is some positive representation that many Black nerds and gamers will definitely embrace. Let’s hope this lives up to the hype!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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I had played other games before the Legend of Zelda franchise, but Ocarina of Time was the first game that really got me addicted. The atmosphere, the music and the sense of adventure LOZ gives you is what makes the franchise stand out so well. I remember being so immersed in OOC, that I’d spend hours of my Saturdays trying to get past that migraine-inducing water level. Once the trailer for Breath of the Wild dropped, my love for LOZ was instantly resurrected.

If you haven’t watched the trailer, I highly encourage you to go check it out. This game is absolutely gorgeous. I’m not one to focus on graphics too much, as graphics don’t necessarily make a game enjoyable. However, the beautiful music and environment definitely pulls you in only in the way a LOZ game can successfully do. It can be pretty risky to have super high expectations. Nobody wants to be disappointed by something they spent months looking forward to, but I highly doubt this is going to happen. I’m probably putting all my eggs in one basket, but the story and open world is going to be just as captivating!

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

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My love-hate relationship with this series is just as alive when it scared the shit out of me with Resident Evil 2. I remember being to scared to play RE2 on Nintendo 64, so I always begged my uncle to play so that I could watch him play. It was like watching a horror movie that he controlled. Then, there was the time he made me play it in the dark. Yep, that happened. So ever since then, I’ve loved/hated this series.

There’s been a lot of criticism towards the RE franchise for straying from horror and leaning more towards action. Being an action game isn’t a bad thing, but if you built your game on horror, it’s probably best to stick with what attracted your audience. And RE 7 is doing just that, stripping itself down to what made the series so special.

This game features an entirely new protagonist with no combat or self-defense skills. This means you’ll be playing entirely survival horror with little chance of defending yourself. There may be little to no presence of guns or blunt objects. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the scariest gameplay is when you can only run from it. And it looks like this is it.

Honorable mention:

Nintendo Switch

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Yes, I know it’s a console and not a game, but how the hell else am I going to play Breath of the Wild? I haven’t been this excited for a Nintendo console since Gamecube! And that was in 2001. 15 years ago. It’s finally time for me to go back to being a Nintendo fangirl and appreciating my favorite thing about them: the innovation.

Nintendo is always trying something different with their consoles. It’s pretty obvious by looking at the changes just in the controllers alone. This company is always looking for newest thing and the Nintendo Switch is just that. It’s like there was an argument in the conference room between making Nintendo Switch a regular console or a handheld console. Then, one genius in the room went:

And that was how the Nintendo Switch was born.

Dishonorable mention:

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

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Call of Duty… Yikes, how far this series has fallen. I remember the first time I fell in love with Modern Warfare 3 and it trickled over to Black Ops. Playing COD was how I bonded with my husband when I first met him. Video games were the first thing we had in common and while we were initially friends, we spent half our time playing COD. However, it’s been declining in quality with every release. I think we all saw it coming, but we weren’t ready to believe it. The games simply aren’t revolutionary anymore. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done already and people are starting to catch on. Not to mention the prices:

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The average new and unused video game will cost you about $59.99 plus tax.

Just looking at the trailer, it doesn’t resemble the past games at all and it doesn’t remind the audience why we fell in love with the franchise. But it also isn’t doing anything captivating as a new release. There’s nothing that evokes the old love for the COD franchise, but there’s also nothing new to capture attention. It seems to have finally reached its peak. The like/dislike ratio on the YouTube trailer shows a mob of dissatisfied customers. The worst part? A remastered Modern Warfare is offered, but it comes bundled with Infinite Warfare. There is no separate sale. Therefore, if you enjoyed Modern Warfare, you would have to order Infinite Warfare if you want that remastered version. Good luck.

The Cycle of Respectability

Most people are all too familiar with the effects of respectability politics. Some may not know the exact word for it, but everyone has experienced it in some form or fashion. A lot of people don’t even notice how it dictates almost everything we do in life. It’s so deeply ingrained in society. If one is black, especially a black woman, this is probably something they’re very familiar with.

The very basic definition of respectability politics is when marginalized groups are forced to adhere to unreasonable expectations in return for basic, human respect. This was first coined by Evelyn Higginbotham in her book, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Church. When seeing this in action, respectability politics is a very dangerous concept.

It tricks oppressed people into blaming themselves when they are judged, abused or under attack. It forces people to constantly jump through flaming hoops just to survive. In terms of the effect, it’s very similar to gaslighting by forcing one to constantly question their feelings and sanity: “Am I overreacting? Did I bring that upon myself?”

The latest example I’ve seen through social media is the backlash against Lira Galore. She’s best known as Rick Ross’s former fiancée. Due to her past as a stripper and video vixen, she has already stepped outside the respectability box.

Galore recently appeared on Iyanla: Fix My Life and discussed why the engagement was ended. She stated that their relationship started off great, but Ross suddenly “changed” and began to do “sneaky things” behind her back. There were no specific examples given, but this seems to be a case of infidelity on Ross’s part and Galore simply being naive and wanting to believe her significant other wasn’t betraying her.

Despite insinuating that Ross was a cheater, Iyanla managed to connect the root of the problem to Galore being a former stripper. At any moment, I was expecting Iyanla to quote the day-old sexist line of, “Why would a man respect a woman who doesn’t respect herself?” Because being a stripper means that you don’t respect yourself and deserve to be disrespected by men, correct? It’s not like strippers are actual humans with emotions and feelings, right?

And it doesn’t stop there. Galore admitted to drinking heavily after the break up and then expressed the feelings of being undervalued by black men.

“I’m angry because I want our black men to value us, and they don’t.” Later on in the episode, she went on to talk about her relationship with her father. “My father taught me that men are cold. Men will leave you with no explanation and they don’t think about how their actions affect anybody else.”

Let’s take a moment to pause and note that this was in no way, shape or form an attack on all black men. Granted, this is a harsh criticism, but also a request to simply be loved and respected. Instead of understanding that this is coming from a place of hurt, she was instead bombarded with insensitive comments about her cosmetic surgery, her looks and her past as a former pole dancer. There was a lot “Hoe vs Queen” dichotomy where men tried their hardest to place women in either one category or the other. There were quite a lot of passive aggressive comments about her dating men with money. A simple Twitter search of her name will show the above comments verbatim. Unfortunately, the hostile responses don’t exactly prove her wrong.

So, what’s the lesson learned here? Respectability politics and sexism allow men to skate by with infidelity, while the woman walks away either being called “bitter” or a “hoe?” When asking for more respect from men, the answer will be an attack on your character? When asking to be valued, people will say you don’t deserve it depending on your history or occupation? It’s very interesting to watch. A black woman feels she’s not being valued/respected and the response is insulting her, calling her everything but her name then, say she must respect herself. The irony.

Don’t Call My Daughter “Fast”

Growing up in the black community, everybody has heard this word used to describe some poor girl who was caught in the crossfire of slut-shaming and respectability politics. “Fast,” “grown,” “sassy,” “hoe,” and the most current one, “thot.” Which is just another roundabout way of calling somebody a hoe, but I digress.

It’s pretty jarring to grow up and realize how much little black girls are put on the chopping block. From birth, before we are even aware of our bodies, we’re attacked and policed for them. We are told to be the shining example of a “respectable lady” or else we’ll be ostracized as the complete opposite. And no little girl wants that. So, we play along. We spend our lives fitting ourselves into this little box.

Don’t let boys get too close to you. Keep your legs closed. Don’t even be seen with a boy too much. Always dress modestly, shorts are out of the question. Especially if your body developed early. Christ help you if you were unlucky enough to develop breasts or a shapely ass. Then adults and boys alike would truly watch you like a hawk.

This is normal for a black girl’s childhood (or what little we have of it). If you weren’t called “fast” at some point, you’ve seen it happen to the other girl.

Going through elementary and middle school was the peak of this experience. I still remember my first run-in with the word. It came from my father.

I didn’t understand the gravity of that situation or what the word even meant. I was very young, in maybe 4th or 5th grade. We were out trick-or-treating for Halloween with family that was mostly from my stepmom’s side. I don’t remember the details, but there was another boy about my age there.

As we were leaving, a fight emerged over who was going to get the front seat. It was petty and insignificant like most kid fights. In our race to who was going to get the seat first, both of our bodies squeezed in together as bickering continued. It only lasted about five seconds as my stepmother quickly scolded us and told us to get out the seat.

At the time, I was sure we were being yelled at for being annoying little brats. But after I got home to my mother, she informed me that my father told her I was “acting so damn fast.” And that was the first time I heard it applied to me.

Now my innocent mind didn’t know what this meant. I asked her what that meant and she told me. I don’t remember the exact wording, but from what I internalized, it was a girl who lets any little boy feel her up. That obviously wasn’t a good thing because those girls end up unprotected and disrespected. I’d seen it myself.

In 5th grade, there was a girl who didn’t mind boys touching her. She was quickly isolated and soon had no friends that would associate with her. None of the acts were explicit, but there was a judgement of, “How dare you have normal sexual curiosities while going through puberty?!”

In 6th grade, another girl who grew fairly large breasts for her age was lectured publicly for her shirt being too small and shorts too short. I later overheard this teacher calling her “fast” to another part of the faculty.

7th grade, the captain of the cheer leading team was relentlessly called a hoe. Relentlessly. The rumors about her were outrageous.

See, black girls aren’t allowed to so much as even have a sexual thought or we’ll pay the price for it. Little things like this may seem insignificant, but they contribute to much bigger societal issues. They contribute to rape culture and ultimately lead to black women having little to no protection from abuse.

If black women don’t abide by respectability politics, then we are to blame. It’s why grown men are allowed to prey on teenagers and walk away unscathed. It’s why grown men are able to do this publicly even after countless testimonies of him being a pedophile. It’s why a police officer targeted poor black women because he just knew that nobody would protect or believe them. It’s why a serial killer who targeted black sex workers got away with it for decades because the LAPD never alerted the communities where the murders took place.

The aggressive judgement starts early. When we project respectability politics on little black girls, they grow into women who are ashamed before they’ve even done anything. They grow in women who are silent when they’re attacked. They grow into women who are abused and don’t report it because who will hear them anyway? Some grow into women who can only scream in rage because she knows that’s the only time people will pay attention.

This is why nobody is allowed to use the word “fast” to describe my future daughter. “Grown” and any other synonyms are also out of the question. My daughter will be allowed to have a childhood as long as I can help it. She will be allowed to ask me questions about sex without being shamed or threatened away from it. She will be called an innocent princess because these are words that black girls rarely get to hear.

My future son will be taught to respect women under all circumstances. He will be taught that basic human respect is not conditional. That a woman does not need to bend to respectability politics to gain respect for her humanity. He will be taught to defend his sister if she’s under attack.

It may be asking for too much, but let’s erase “fast” and “grown” as words used against black girls. Don’t shoot these words at little girls like arrows. Call them curious. Call them inquisitive, as they only need their questions answered. Call them a beautiful princess and teach them to defend themselves in the event that no one is there to do it for her.