(Cover photo: @sakythia)
Within the past few months, there has seemingly been an uptick of racist incidents occurring within the cosplay community.
For those who don’t know, at its core, cosplay is simply the act of dressing up as a character. This character is usually from a work of fiction like a movie, comic book, anime and more. It’s a hobby that can serve as an outlet for all sorts of artistic expression. Cosplay is also a way to find community and friendship. So many people walk out of cons with lifelong friends. It’s supposed to be a fun, uplifting experience but that isn’t the reality of many POC and black cosplayers.
It Never Stops
One of the most recent events that put discussions of racism on the frontlines again happened in November of last year. Vaelniel_ posted a picture of her very first cosplay – she did Nezuko from Demon Slayer. While most comments were positive, there were also many people who expressed racist sentiments. One person went as far as to say that her cosplay was more of an “oc.”
First time doing cosplay kinda nervous 😳😳😳😳 pic.twitter.com/RE3MrUYYzl
— ✞🖤Xylochi🖤✞ (@Vaelniel_) November 23, 2019
Between then and now, there have been more incidents like large amounts of people calling black cosplayers “ghetto” for no other reason than their blackness. Honestly, there have probably been many more incidents that didn’t get the attention they deserve.
It’s disheartening to think that no matter how much care and love a cosplayer puts into their craft will be overshadowed by race. Luckily, the majority of the cosplay community is loving and supportive of one another. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the community can’t improve. Here are a few methods that can be used for any group that needs support within the cosplay community. However, since I’m a black cosplayer, these tips for allyship will have black cosplayers in mind.
Was thinking about She Ra today and these pictures are still funny to me pic.twitter.com/HCvavApSM8
— The Nefarious G A B E (@GabeJamesGames) January 9, 2020
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look as close to a character as possible. However, when we hold accuracy as the gold standard, we open the door for unsavory criticism. It turns skin color into something that can be judged and critiqued. Cosplay is such a powerful medium because it allows for so much diversity. No two cosplays will be the same. Everyone has some level of uniqueness to bring to the table – whether that be their crafting ability or even just their personality.
Recognizing that a cosplayer doesn’t have to look exactly like a character to embody them will take the community far. A cosplayer should be allowed to feel free to wear their natural hair, add their own flair to a look or make a cosplay their own.
Acknowledge That It Happens
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Showing off some natural hair dabi!!! I've been doing so much my hero lately, I'll do something different soon lol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #myheroacademiacosplay #dabi #dabicosplay #bokunoheroacademiacosplay #bokunoheroacademia #leagueofvillains #leagueofvillainscosplay #toga #togacosplay #anime #makeup
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When talking about racism in the cosplay community, there’s always that one person that minimizes how often it occurs. Others even flat out deny it happens! Cosplay doesn’t happen in some impenetrable bubble where things like racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and the like don’t exist. These ills, sadly, still make their way through the community. Trust me – people are probably receiving hate more often than you think. Denying that or making light of it does nothing to address the issue.
Call Out Racism
— king uzumaki (@kiiingkrystal) November 26, 2019
This goes without saying, but if you see someone saying something racist, say something! Letting people think their rhetoric is okay helps no one but them. This goes for any kind of negative behavior! Nobody is perfect and combating racism is a learning experience. It’s just as important to check yourself and the people around you. Don’t be afraid to educate others! Use your voice or platform as a form of allyship to help bring light to the community.
Share Black Cosplayers!
"But there's not a ton of good black cosplayers"
Hi. My name is Belle. I'm a LA based #BlackCosplayer, and I think my cosplays are good.
Black cosplayers continue to exist outside of #28daysofblackcosplay and I'd love if the representation in the community reflected that. pic.twitter.com/IR4xf9DEqH
— ✨YFN Spider-Belle @ Home✨ 🇳🇬 (@CluelessxBelle) June 4, 2018
Nowadays it’s so easy to share and support people’s cosplays. On Instagram, add a post to your story. On platforms like Twitter, retweet. With the creation of the blackcosplayershere hashtag, it’s even easier to find new cosplayers who do incredible work.
CluelessXBelle, the creator of the hashtag, aimed to showcase the talent of black cosplayers after many expressed concerns of being completely ignored by a majority of the photographers at a con. Other hashtags you can look through are #blackcosplayersrock, #blackcosplayerhere or simply #blackcosplayer.
Don’t Wait Until Something Happens
Kairi will be playable next month!!! Yay!! So happy to see her in action, it made me cry for joy!
(I'm severely chronically ill and unable to work, if you'd like to help me, my links are on my pinned post. Thank you. 💕)
— 🌸Bibi🌸🇨🇦♿ (@bibicosplays) December 7, 2019
For many people, the only time we see an outpouring of support is when something bad happens. While it’s great to be supportive of these moments, this shouldn’t be the only time you advocate for black cosplayers.
Black History Month is also approaching – with that comes #28daysofblackcosplay. This is a great time to share and support but we should keep that energy year-round.
Who Are We Focusing On?
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Your friendly neighborhood spidergwen 🕸️🕷️ Taking some time to appreciate my old Cosplays photo by @demegree . . . . . #cosplaygirl #cosplay #cosplayer #poccosplayer #poccosplay #blackcosplayer #spiderman #intothespiderverse #spidergwencosplay #spidergwen #marvelcosplay #marvelcomics #blackcosplayerhere #blackgirlcosplay #blackgirlsmagic
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Everyone deserves love and support but make sure that the only people receiving it are “big names.” Don’t only shout out popular cosplayers! Make sure your support extends to people with smaller accounts too. When people hype up the same accounts repeatedly, we lose the opportunity to find other people that are just as talented.
Suggest Con Guests
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"But if you put your heart in the game, there's nothing you can't do." – Yami Yugi (Atem) 🔹️ Final exams wrap up this week. Hopefully I can get a few things finished afterwards. I'm mainly aiming to have Sesshomaru completed soon. Wish me luck 💪😊 🔹️ ❓What are your plans for 2020❓ 🔹️ 📸 Photo by: @joseph_lane_photo 🔹️ #Yugioh #Atem #yamiyugicosplay #yugiohcosplay #yamiyugi #cosplay #cosplayphotography #anime #otaku #cosplayer #cosplaymodel #cosplaylife #cosplays #cosplayfun #cosplaylove #cosplayworld #instacosplay #cosplayofinstagram #cosplayphoto #cosplayerofinstagram #blackcosplayer #poccosplay #blackcosplay #malecosplay #cospositive #cosplayofcolor #cosplayfitness #poccosplayer #blackcosplayerhere #blackcosplayersrock
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A great way to take this supportive energy offline is to show up to diverse panels or suggest black cosplayers as con guests. There are many cosplayers who have held or want to hold panels discussing inclusivity or similar topics. This is a great way to get educated on certain subjects and build a sense of community.
There are multiple, incredibly easy ways to show active encouragement within the cosplay community. However, it does not stop here. Continue to learn and educate yourself and others. Racism and prejudice constantly affect the lives of people of color. Cosplay is a creative outlet and a form of self-expression – an area that has room for discrimination.