The easiest thing you can do is denounce racism. I know it seems rather odd for me to start out saying something as forward as this, but I think it is important for me to cut to the chase. My long-winded style of explaining myself thoroughly or in metaphors helps with ease folks into the truth I want to tell, but not today. I want to be as thorough and succinct as possible. I thought long and hard about this topic for days now, attempting to put words together due to the bigotry in Ninja’s chat and his reaction to the situation.
We all know Ninja by now, more so if you are familiar with video games. Back in 2018 he used a racial slur and has since apologized for that. He also had an instance where he said that he refuses to work with female streamers because he didn’t want rumors to be started, which is the oddest way to say, “I don’t want to possibly be outed as a sex deviant,” and I honestly don’t know how you could take that entire situation any other way. More recently, racist remarks appeared in his chat, he didn’t say anything to denounce the remarks or stand up against racism. The remarks are not what we are discussing, it is Ninja’s reaction.
Later he remarked that it is up to the parents to hold these conversations with their kids to help prevent the spread of hate speech. To an extent, he is right. Parents should be doing their best to ensure that their children do not act like a bunch of bumbling racists. At the same time, Ninja is a celebrity who has direct interactions with children. Whether you like it or not, and I say this begrudgingly, Ninja is a role model. Yes, that sentence hurts me to write as much as it hurts you to read, but it is important to understand what this means and why.
In the past, I had my own role models, musicians especially. Metallica was the one band I looked up to because they inspired my love for the metal genre. From there I was introduced to other metal bands that pushed me to pursue music. If it weren’t for these bands, I wouldn’t be driving my wife crazy with involuntary drumming on the kitchen table.
These role models were important to me because it was something I aspired to be. In a way, kids look up to Ninja and now want to be famous Twitch streamers. Hell, I would love to be a famous streamer myself. The idea of waking up and playing games while talking to folks from the luxury of your home seems like the ideal lifestyle for me. All while making a ton of money and buying literally anything you want. I can see why this lifestyle appeals to kids, and much like my own pursuit into the music world, kids will begin to develop their own brand.
As I grew up listening to these bands, the connection was always the music, so there was a barrier that prevented an immediate interaction. For Ninja, there is no barrier, he shows up and you can interact with him if he sees your messages. As per TwitchMetrics.com, a website that tracks streamers statistics, Ninja tends to stream six days a week, typically from noon till 2 am. Although consistency doesn’t always match up, he is still on air for most of the day. That means more chances for his 16 million followers to interact with him, and more chances for his influence to grow.
I must admit, it is rather sad that I will never be able to send James Hetfield a message of how he helped shape my mind through his music in hopes that he would send me a nod of approval. Although, if Claudio Sanchez (from Coheed and Cambria) can start streaming on Twitch, perhaps one day we will see Kirk Hammett or Lars Ulrich play Minecraft. I have a feeling Robert Trujillo is a Call of Duty fan. I digress.
It doesn’t matter how involved you are in your child’s life; they are going to need someone to look up to that is not directly related to them. Parents (most of them) will always strive to be better and give their kids everything they never had. But you can give kids the world and they will still find someone unrelated to them that will be their inspiration, and help provide a goal, no matter how unworldly it is. Would I have become the next major rock star? Who knows what could have happened if my drummer wasn’t against touring.
You can have these conversations about racism and sexism and you honestly should be having those conversations. At the end of the day, we do not choose who is and who is not a role model, the kids do. As parents, it is up to us to help mold these kids into better people than we were, and sometimes it can be difficult as we begin to grow out of touch. Yes, I know what I just said, just accept it and move on because the more we dwell on it, the faster we experience an existential crisis, it is too early for that and I haven’t even finished my coffee yet.
You would expect Ninja to accept some sort of responsibility and understand his position and how important he is to young people. There is a part of me that believes he knows the level of power he has but refuses to use it. We know exactly why he doesn’t speak up on topical situations and it isn’t to pass the buck off to the parents. It is because by making any sort of “political” statement, he would be endorsing one mentality over another which could be considered divisive among his fans. To quote the famous Geddy Lee, “If you chose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
What is insane, is when you apply something like racism to the equation, he can’t even put the minimal amount of work educate folks. All he needed to say is “cut the racism shit, racism is bad” and no one would have ever said a thing. I would not have spent my Sunday morning writing this piece, and no one would have mentioned his past controversies.
Saying “racism is bad” is not a political statement that warrants debate, it is a universal truth. Believing someone is lower than you simply because of where they come from or the color of their skin is a ridiculous ideology that needs to go. It never had a place in any society, and with political tensions these days, we need people to step up and voice their anti-racist stances. I know writing that took me more than five seconds, but as I have said, I like to be thorough.
Ninja does not care about putting in actual work to speak out against racism or sexism because it effects his brand, it can divide his audience which means less money for him. Saying “it is the parent’s job to teach their kids about this topic” is a cop out. Yes, you need to be involved with your kid’s lives and you need to have these conversations with them. If you have kids that already know that racism is bad, then you are doing a great job, and bonus points if they feel empowered enough to speak out against it too.
I take moments of solace knowing that Ninja is not the end-all of famous streamers. Younger people who are more likable and more equipped to take the first steps in denouncing hate speech are already on the rise. Will they hit Ninja fame? Who knows? There are tons of streamers who value honesty, truth, and do not care about the backlash of calling out racists. There are people who put in the work to make streaming a better place for everyone. Plus, they wouldn’t be caught dead selling out and flossing at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and that is already a big positive aspect in my mind.