Sunday, July 26, 2020

Suppressing the Minority Voting: An effective discrimination tactic of the US Conservatives

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Nikhita Gautam

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Suppressing the Minority Voting: An effective discrimination tactic of the US Conservatives


Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 26, 2020


Protester at  George Floyd protest in USA | Source: Clay Banks via Unsplash

The recent protests over George Floyd’s death and reactions of the conservatives against the protest laid bare the systemic injustice and oppression faced by the people of color in the USA.

The other, albeit invisible form of discrimination perpetuated by the conservative political establishment in the USA is “Minority Voter Suppression”.

Though it may seem improbable that long after the Jim Crow laws are junked and Civil Right Laws are in place, the effort to disenfranchise the Black people is still going on.

The major piece of legislation which protected minorities from electoral exploitation was the Voter Registration Act which underpins the basic ideal of a universal adult franchise by specifically addressing and combating voting discrimination.

To ensure the representation to minority communities, this act mandated that “At-Large Elections”, where the whole of the jurisdiction elects all of the city council, were replaced by the single member districts in which each community selects a person to represent them in the city council.

It was also prohibited to draw the voting district in such a way that  minorities could be clubbed in only a few of the districts. It was also made mandatory for those states which have a history of discrimination to get pre-clearance from the justice department before changing their voting laws.

This law, however, lost its power in a process which began in 1980. In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled that at-large elections were not unconstitutional, on their own. In 1995, the Court began restricting the construction of majority minority districts on grounds that it segregates people on the basis of race.

In 2008, the court ruled that a photo voter ID law in Indiana was constitutional and was in state interest to protect against voter fraud (research shows that photo voter IDs provide disincentive to vote for people of color). The voter ID law requires the voters to have a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot.

In 2013, the Supreme Court scrapped the part of the law which stated that some states (which had an alleged history of discrimination) needed federal preclearance in any changes of their voting laws, meaning that the state laws would need approval from the federal government before being put into practice. This was done so citing that the methods which determined discriminatory states were invalid.

All of these slowly chipped away at the laws, and especially the 2013 Shelby County vs Holder case which led to a host of issues whVoter Suppression is Still One of the Greatest Obstacles to a More Just Americaich directly/indirectly keep a significant proportion of minorities from voting. Few of such actions are closure or relocation of precincts in majority black areas, purge of minority voters from the voter lists, and elimination of Sunday early voting days which are preferred by black voters.

There have been attempts to restrict registration drives in Tennessee on the basis that many of the forms were incomplete.

There have also been laws enacted which needed people to participate regularly in elections to keep their voting rights and reply to a letter sent to their residence, which makes it difficult for Black and Hispanics due to obscure areas and the fact that they’re half as likely than other people to get a day off work to vote.

The governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, has been accused of using intimidation tactics to scare minority communities.

In Texas, the acting secretary of state said that he had a list of 95,000 non-citizens who were registered for voting in the state, and 58,000 of them had already cast a vote. That claim was proven untrue when it was noted that there were tens of thousands of people who were naturalized citizens.

In many states, felons are not allowed to vote even after they have served their sentence, and in Florida felons are allowed to vote only if they have paid an array of fees after serving their sentence, which sets an economic bar on their ability to vote.

This is evident that forces working against the equal rights for the minority communities are still working at full force to reverse the gains of civil right movements. The fight for the unhindered voting rights for the minority communities in the USA at the social, political, and judicial front will continue in the foreseeable future.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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