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On January 6, an insurrection at Capitol Hill started by MAGA and Trump followers became a spectacle for the rest of the world. As reports of deaths reached social media spaces, some right-wing supporters, including the Twitch PogChamp emote's inspiration, Ryan 'Gootecks' Gutierrez, called for further escalation of violence. Twitch subsequently deleted the beloved emote after calls from influencers like Zombaekillz but once removed it left a hole in Twitch's emotes slots which needed to be filled.
After a day or so of thoughts from audience members, Twitch announced that it wasn't coming back with just one new PogChamp - but a new PogChamp every 24 hours until further notice. On January 11, Omega 'Critical Bard' Jones, a Black streamer, was chosen as the Pog of the day. However, this led to huge amounts of racist abuse and harassment on Twitter, Twitch, and beyond.
After being chosen for the role of PogChamp for the day, a tirade of racist abuse came his way - including comments calling Critical Bard racist for expressing BLM-related opinions. One particular out-of-context clip was passed around giving certain people fuel to accuse the streamer of hating caucasian people for stating, "White lives don't matter because 'white lives' aren't a thing."
The context of the clip shows that Critical Bard is referring to the idea of Black pride versus white pride. One is in relation to Black people who were removed from their countries of origin as part of the slave trade and have no way to connect to their heritage outside of their Blackness. The other, white pride, isn't cultural - and often is a racist response. However, having pride in being Italian, Scottish, or in other national or regional identities is understandable and encouraged.
Omega Jones is not racist for stating this difference, and it is obvious this passed-around clip was taken out of context in an effort to make him look bad on a day that should have been a time for celebration.
Last thing before I actually lay down.
Some dudebros decided to clip a small part of my stream making it seem like I was "being racist towards white folk."
Allow me to post the FULL clip & take from it what you will.
- CRITICAL BARD! :fist: (@CriticalBard) January 11, 2021
According to PC Gamer, who has talked to Critical Bard, there is yet to be a response from Twitch on how they should have handled this abuse. The streamer is having to now take further precautions to protect his community and his work following the damage done by the abuse. This includes things like a subscriber-only chat, allowing only those who have a subscription to the channel to converse with the streamer.
Jones told PC Gamer: "This isn't the first time folks have risen up against a marginalised creator on Twitch and, unfortunately, it won't be the last time. They should have had safety measures lined up from the get-go." He points out the issue with allowing anyone to 'clip' out of context information from Twitch and use that as an excuse for racist behaviour without looking into the situation further. "The fact that these attacks didn't just come from viewers... but from Twitch affiliates and fellow Twitch partners is a problem."
The following PogChamp face - a drag streamer, Deere - has also experienced abuse following the opportunity. Deere says on Twitter that her day being the emote "further proved that [Twitch's] culture is not fair and is harsh. When I offered my emote I knew I would be a target of harassment, but it's more important to me to showcase that Twitch's broad audience is far-reaching and more diverse than it seems."
Today further proved that the site's culture is not fair and is harsh. When I offered my emote I knew I would be a target of harassment, but it's more important to me to showcase that Twitch's broad audience is far-reaching and more diverse than it seems.
- DEERE (@dearDEERE) January 13, 2021
Responding to supporters, she continued: "I will continue to take opportunities that normalise the queer experience & showcase art. I hope continues to advocate for inclusion. It's been a blast being the PogChamp Queen for the day, love you all!! Thanks for the. Can't wait to flirt with you all more later."
Twitch is about to ramp up its Black History Month efforts for February (February is when BHM happens in the US), and we can only hope that they help support Black creators during a month where many will be highlighted for the excellent work they do.
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