Albotas Editorial: So the Pokémon series finally gets a black character, but is she too black?
For years, Pokémon fans have wondered why there have never been characters of color in the Pokémon franchise. And no, Brock isn’t black (I kid you not, there are people out there who truly think he is!). Sure, there’s dark-skinned characters who could pass for Hispanic or Korean or something, but there’s never been anyone of African decent.
Maybe this is because the fictional regions where each Pokémon game takes place are based on actual regions of Japan. Black people are somewhat of a rarity in Japan, so it makes sense that they’d be a rarity in Japanese-developed games.
But with Pokémon Black and White, the imaginary Isshu region is based on New York: a melting pot of culture. So it’d make perfect sense to have at least one black character. Finally! A hero for African American Pokémon players to relate to!
Nope. Instead, Japan gives us an insanely dated stereotype named Aloe. She’s not just black, she’s Aunt Jemima black. Big ol’ hair, 70’s headband, and even an apron. She looks like an anime Mammy caricature ready to serve up some fried chicken and cornbread. Is this really what Japan thinks of African Americans?
Or maybe Japan doesn’t think in the same terms of racism as Americans. After all, slavery and civil rights were never as big of an issue over there. Maybe Japanese developers portray their black characters in a stereotypical manner because they draw inspiration from America’s portrayal. When our movies and TV shows are filled with loud-mouthed, slang speaking, saggy-pantsed caricatures, it’s only natural for foreigners to assume that this is the way things really are. And maybe it is.
But an apron? Seriously? Come on, Japan. There’s not a doubt in my mind that every line of text spoken by Aloe will be spoken in a southern black dialect full of ain’ts, watchu’s, and lots of progressive verbs ending with -in’ instead of -ing.
Poor GameFreak. People call you racist for years for not including a black character in Pokémon games, and when you finally do, people call you racist for making her too black.
Or maybe the ones calling GameFreak racist are racist themselves because of their own preconceived stereotypes toward black people.