Greeting me this morning was the news of another character reveal for the upcoming Street Fighter V. A minute later, I watched as Rashid, a Middle Eastern man who fights with the power of wind, sailed around the screen kicking the hell out of Ryu and sporting eyewear shamelessly ripped from Dragon Ball Z.
Then I remembered that today is September 11, 2015, the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed both World Trade Center towers and lead to the loss of nearly 3,000 American lives. I didn’t have to look at the comment section to know what people were saying.
But I did anyway. And yeah, some people are really offended.
However, is that a reasonable reaction? Consider the following:
1. The mere existence of Middle Eastern people – and in this case, a video game character of Middle Eastern decent – is not inherently an insult to the people who lost their lives on 9-11-01;
2. Only a very small percentage of Middle Eastern people are terrorists and associating all of them with terrorism is racist; and
3. While the events of 9-11-01 were traumatizing for Americans and many others throughout the world, the attacks are no longer part of global consciousness. Capcom is primarily a Japanese company.
What this boils down to is some Americans were devastated (and rightfully so) by the 9-11 attacks and either don’t want to be reminded of them, or have become very sensitive to anything surrounding that day, apparently including this video game character.
And there’s another set of people who are just jerks and will use any excuse to spread bigotry. These are the same kinds of people who hide behind the sanctity of 9-11 and call others “unpatriotic” for pointing out that most Middle Easterners are not jihadists.
That being said, yes, the timing of the announcement could have been better on Capcom’s part, given that America is a major market of the new Street Fighter game. The word “insensitive” popped into my mind, but in light of the first two points on my list, I hesitate to use it.
If anything, Capcom’s marketing team should have known that some Americans would react poorly to the reveal and switched it up with another character. I’m not saying American outrage is justified. I’m saying that business is business.