Cosplay is becoming a more visible and accessible means of expressing one's love for TV shows, anime, video games, and other media. Unfortunately, the space can sometimes be hostile to people of color, especially Black people.
Veridis Joe, a Black YouTuber who talks about cartoons, anime, and social issues, took fandom communities to task about these problems in a recent video.
"Black cosplayers, whenever they cosplay something from a specific anime or anything, and the character isn't black, their comment section, without fail, will be filled with 'blank isn't black,' or worse, 'blank isn't a monkey,'" he says, who has nearly 150,000 people subscribed to his channel. The commentator also addressed common rebuttals or dismissals of these issues, which mostly amounts to "It's the internet. It happens. There's nothing you can do."
"Imagine being told you ruined a trend because you're Black, and you participated. That's not okay!" Joe says.
The YouTuber also called out people who ask why Black people can't just cosplay dark-skinned characters to avoid backlash. Some cosplayers do, but most Black characters in anime shows, for example, are either side characters, poorly portrayed, or are mistaken as Black because they have dark skin.
Some Black people just want to cosplay as popular characters outside of their race or put a spin on their designs.
"I can be Miles, and I can also be f***ing Peter Parker if I want to. If my Black a** is cosplaying Peter Parker, I'm not Miles Morales, I'm Peter Parker!" Joe says. He also pointed out that some characters aren't human, and therefore, race shouldn't even matter. Goku, the main character of the hit Dragon Ball series, is part of an alien race called the Saiyans.
Joe argues that Black cosplayers are in a "lose-lose situation" when they address hateful messages. If they try to call out these comments, it will either attract more racism or they will be called "sensitive" or "taking the bait."
He isn't the only YouTuber to criticize this behavior. Multiple videos on the platform have talked about these concerns for years alongside Twitter threads and news articles.
Despite the rampant issues, Veridis Joe still encourages Black people to continue participating in the cosplaying community. It's a great chance to showcase one's creativity and bring Black excellence to the sphere. There are also others who will uplift and advocate for Black cosplayers, well.
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.