Ethnicity in Xenoblade Chronicles X

This is an article I wrote in 2015 about a video game.  My commenters had some insightful responses, so a few of their insights are now incorporated.

In my apartment, free time has recently become dominated by Xenoblade Chronicles X, epic Japanese RPG. The premise is explained in this video:

Quick summary: In 2054, Aliens destroy earth. Earth sends out colony space ships. One of these, New Los Angeles, crash lands on an alien planet.

Xenoblade Chronicles X offers an interesting case study of ethnicity in Japanese video games, because unlike other games which take place in fantasy worlds, this one takes place in our world (although a different planet). What’s more, it takes place in a future version of Los Angeles. Los Angeles, of course, is very ethnically diverse, so by looking at the cast we can see a Japanese interpretation of ethnic diversity.
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On equal opportunities and outcomes

I recently found an article interviewing Jonathan Haidt. It’s in the rather tedious “liberals are going too far and eliminating free speech” genre. I’m not going to address most of it, just this part (emphasis mine):

The left, meanwhile, has undergone an ideological transformation. A generation ago, social justice was understood as equality of treatment and opportunity: “If gay people don’t have to right to marry and you organize a protest to apply pressure to get them that right, that’s justice,” Mr. Haidt says. “If black people are getting discriminated against in hiring and you fight that, that’s justice.”

Today justice means equal outcomes. “There are two ideas now in the academic left that weren’t there 10 years ago,” he says. “One is that everyone is racist because of unconscious bias, and the other is that everything is racist because of systemic racism.” That makes justice impossible to achieve: “When you cross that line into insisting if there’s not equal outcomes then some people and some institutions and some systems are racist, sexist, then you’re setting yourself up for eternal conflict and injustice.”

Here’s the thing. Outcomes are a product of several things: opportunities provided by society, the abilities of the individuals, and random chance. I believe that people in these minority groups do not systematically have less inherent ability than people in the majority. So if we truly had equality of opportunity, I would expect that minority groups would also have equal outcomes, plus or minus some statistical noise.

Comic transcript: This Ayn Random number generator you wrote *claims* to be fair, but the output is biased toward certain numbers. Well, maybe those numbers are just intrinsically better!
Source: XKCD

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Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal came to national attention in 2015 when people discovered that she was a White person living and identifying as a Black person. You can read more details in a recent New York Times article and interview.

I would question the standard liberal reaction to Rachel Dolezal–that is, that she’s a waste of space, mentally ill, and worthy of hatred. I am not playing devil’s advocate. Dolezal’s story has been of personal interest to me since I saw it in 2015, because I immediately recognized some of myself in it.

There were obviously many relevant differences between us, and many critiques of Dolezal seem justified. But it bothered me to see her receive so much hatred. Two years later, I’ve now had more time to think about it and sort out the issues.

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Stop telling me how horrible rape is

[cn: non-graphic discussion of rape, rape apology]

I and most people I know oppose rape and rape culture. One way for people to express this is by saying “Rape is a horrible crime.” While this is true enough, telling me how horrible rape is fails to actually reassure me. In fact, in some cases I find it to be a red flag, something that makes me less inclined to trust you. I do not know if other activists and survivors have similar reactions, but I will provide my own reasons.

Let us first consider a similar statement: “I am not a racist.” While this statement superficially expresses opposition to racism, it is not very convincing for the following reasons:

  • Even people who are unambiguously racist can and will say the same thing.
  • Rather than expressing dislike of racism, the statement instead expresses anxiety that someone (themselves) would be falsely accused of racism. Rather than doing something to address racism, they are instead creating barriers to other people who might try to address racism.
  • The statement shows a misunderstanding of racism as something that is primarily located in a few bad individuals. It makes more sense to talk about racism on a societal level, rather than sorting individuals into the racist or non-racist box.

Each of these three points has an analogue when it comes to saying “Rape is a horrible crime.”
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I liked Richard Carrier, past tense

If you hadn’t heard, Richard Carrier is suing FreeThought Blogs, Skepticon, The Orbit, and several individuals for two million dollars. To learn more, I recommend an episode on the Atheistically Speaking Podcast [eta: correction] about it. If you are interested in helping the defendants, you may contribute to the defense fund here. (Note that I am not personally liable since FreeThought Blogs is incorporated as an LLC.)

The primary subject of the lawsuit is defamation. Since I do not want to repeat any remarks that would risk me getting sued (and apparently merely referring to accusations against Carrier is sufficient), I will simply quote Richard Carrier himself.
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Calling ordinary people racist

Following the election, many people have called for liberals to stop calling their opponents racist. According to them, many of Trump’s supporters aren’t racist, they’re just ordinary people.

Let’s talk about this. I mean, let’s not talk about Trump, because ugh. But this has long been a point of contention: I do, in fact, think that ordinary people are racist. Yet lots of people reject the idea out of hand.

There is nothing inherently ridiculous about saying everyone is a thing. I can say that ordinary people are human. I can say that ordinary people are kind or fascinating or patriotic. What separates “racist” from the other adjectives is that it expresses strong moral disapproval. Humans have massive hangups about moral disapproval.  Here I try to identify and address those hangups.
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Why isn’t homosexuality (or religion) a mental disorder?

In a comment discussion last month, we touched on the question of whether religion could ever be considered a mental disorder. This is a common idea among atheists, sometimes expressed as a joke, or sometimes claimed seriously. I am not mentally ill, so I would defer to other people to explain why it is wrong to compare religion and mental illness even as a joke. Here I will ignore the jokes and consider only the serious question: Why isn’t religion a mental disorder?

According to the DSM-5,

A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’ s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above. [emphasis mine]

There you go. Religious behavior isn’t a mental disorder because the DSM-5, an authoritative document, says so. However, you could be forgiven for not taking the DSM’s word for it. Let’s dig deeper.

Look at what else has been excluded from mental disorders: socially deviant sexual behavior. This exclusion arises from a famous controversy, which led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in the DSM in 1973. And until 1987, homosexuality remained as a mental disorder (“Sexual Orientation Disturbance” and later “Ego-dystonic Homosexuality”) as long as the patient was distressed about their orientation. The architect of these decisions was psychiatrist Robert Spitzer. I believe that Spitzer himself offers the best insight into the definition of mental disorders.

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