Saturday, 22 April 2017

Does It Matter If You`re Black Or White

Does It Matter If You`re Black Or White

As Stevie is away and it being a busy week all round, and what with Salute taking place this week end. The reins were handed to me to write a quick article `filler` for the blog in his absence. Yet I sat down to write with no idea at all what I was going to write about, and so I did what I have been told is sometimes the best way to start: open a blank page and just see what wants to come out of your head once you relax, sip your coffee and allow thoughts to surface. And so I did.. and yes they did. And this is what I got to thinking about.
I`m not going anywhere with this, certainly not an antagonistic post. And I assure you I am not one of those kill joys who wants to make the hobby `politically correct` or anything. But I did make an interesting personal observation a while ago which I would like to share with you. This observation was made after watching “Glory” on DVD (I cried my eyes out because it was so sad). “Glory” is a war film, and a true story about an all Negro regiment which was raised and fought during the terrible blood bath that was The American Civil War. Watching this film got me to thinking about `black people`  (in general) with regards to how we represent them in miniature, on the wargame table.
So first I did a tiny bit of research. Wasn’t hard, there is a wealth of material for free on the internet about this stuff. But even so, after only a shallow dig into some archives I discovered a few shocking facts.
Starting with the American Civil War: 179,000 black men (10% of the entire Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of that war – and 30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in the artillery and infantry.. and many more performed non-combat support functions that sustained the army as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters all contributed to the war cause. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless thousands served as nurses, spies, and scouts.
Interestingly, similar statistics of numbers can be found a hundred years earlier in the times of the American War of Independence, but with the spread being more evenly distributed, as Negro soldiers fought both for and against the Loyalist cause. Some for Britain, some for the American Patriots.
Moving on to World War Two I didn’t dig too deeply, as the wealth of information on this was staggering, but suffice to say... without even needing to dig beyond surface level, I discovered that on D-Day alone, the First Army on Omaha and Utah Beaches included just over 2,700 African American troops. Extrapolate how many actually took part in the entire War, and I would imagine the numbers are staggering.
Finally I looked at Vietnam, where a stunning 35,000 American Negro`s actually VOLUNTEERED to sign up and fight for their county. Sickeningly the exact number of African Americans who fought in that war was (can you believe this) never actually considered important enough at the time to be recorded in the war annals. So we will never know how many there really were; though statistics would seem to imply that one in three American soldiers who fought during that conflict were actually African Americans. This is men signing up to fight for their country even though back home they were not allowed into a white man`s bar if they wanted a drink, and were expected to `give up` their seats on a public bus (without being asked) to any white person who needed it.
I stopped researching at this stage; and instead (over the next week) I started to look around the wargame tables at our two local clubs.
I saw the most amazing wargames set up on the most lavish, awe inspiring terrain tables. American Civil War, I even saw a Texan Wargame being fought, the Alamo I think it was. I sat in on a couple of incredibly beautiful American Revolution games with the most amazing forested surroundings and superbly rendered mud flats of 18th century Boston City. I took note in especial of the World War Two games.. and so it went on. And do you know what I found?  Not one Black man miniature was in sight!!!
So I turned to Zombicide. Interesting, except for miniatures of females (and even then only a couple, and I suspect even that was only because they were attractive looking with split skirts and high heels etc) again, nothing.... not a black person in sight. Oh except when it came to the Zombies, I saw a few black guy miniatures, grotesquely portrayed as evil members of the un-living monster fraternity. Actually I tell a lie, I saw one black Negro grease monkey convict hero (from the Prison Outbreak expansion) with a tyre iron and an oozy. But that was it.
WOW, I think it was the American Civil War games that shocked me the most. So much so that when I got home I started to check out all the dozens and dozens of on line wargame blogs specialising in this era.
I think out of 18 blogs specialising in American Civil War Wargaming that I looked at, before giving up in despair, I counted 8 miniatures of Negros depicted on the tables. And I`m talking 8 miniatures in total out of what I estimate was wayyyyy over 3000 beautifully rendered miniatures all told that I looked at in photographs.
I did the same for other genres of game and each time I came up with the same undeniable conclusion. Is wargaming primarily a white boys hobby?
Finally I checked out Fantasy and sci-fi. Okay not quite as bad a discrepancy ratio, but yeah.. pretty much 100 Caucasian looking miniatures, to every 1 dark skinned miniature.. and remember  I was looking mostly for hero and heroine types, not just fantasy monsters. Again like with the zombie genre, I was finding the Negro style painted miniatures were almost always black females, scantily clad and highly beautiful.
So I started looking at my own collection of miniatures. And wow, pretty much the same, conspicuous by their noticeable absence, was the lack of Negro style minis we have in our overall collection of just over 5,000* models.
{Used to be nearly 25,000 miniatures, but we culled the collection right down to a manageable size over the last five years or so}.
Okay yes, I did paint an entire brigade (I think he said it was a brigade) of Negro soldiers for Stevie`s ACW Gettysburg Union Troops. And I do notice that he has quite a few dark skinned African Colonists in his American Revolution collection.. absolutely NONE in Stevie`s World War Two Bolt Action, though: and yep, there they are again repeated, lots and lots of black guy zombies for the Zombicide game.
I`m not counting Stevie`s Zulus, `cos hes got hundreds of these, and that is meant to be Redcoats facing down zillions of semi naked African warriors - armed with spears hehe.
Last of all I started counting up all the Heroclix and Horrorclix miniatures. I found a total of 18 black guys, 7 black women, and the other 900 odd, yep, all painted as caucasian white.
So what does this all mean for me?
I like to look at myself sometimes and take note of things that matter to me. And I believe this is one such issue I most certainly am glad I am now aware of, so I can change my habit and rectify (what I see as) the shockingly huge imbalance.
For me, this means that from now on, I really, really, really will be more aware of this, and will from now on make sure I redress this thing in my painting habits, and try to represent a more realistic divide between black and white, on the games table.
I`m not sure this even needs to be addressed in our miniatures painting. Not for fantasy gaming anyway. But for those who like to play historical games (which are about representing realism, to varying degrees.. depending on the complexity of the game, the rules, and the individual gamer input) then the black to white ratio, surely, is an importantly overlooked factor for most gamers?
Quite a eye opener though isn’t it. It certainly made me sit up and think.

Article By Hils



  1. WOW, nicely said Hil. When faced with those overwhelming statistics, you really cant bury your head in the sand and pretend it will just go away, can you. Hmmm, perhaps what you put needed to be said.

    I`m with you on most the politically correct crap too. Like Games Workshop having to pull their Space Wolves due to complaints from animal rights activists.. complaining the miniatures were depicted wearing animal skins, uuugh!! how stupidly pedantic is that! However, very occasionally some thing DO need and should be mentioned when they make sense (like what you just wrote). Wow I would never ever, EVER have realised or thought about the all caucasian tendency of painted table top miniatures.. not before reading this, but you know what... you`re absolutely right. Like you say, its not even a consideration perhaps for fantasy: but historical, wow - really should be bought to people's minds. Its called education I think.

  2. As I started to read this article I had a feeling I knew where it was going, and I was right. However, it's not something I've actively thought about.
    I think part of the problem may be that manufacturers of miniatures are predominantly white, so when they do make black miniatures, they fall into specific black archetypes - the gang members, street-walkers or 'sexy black chicks'.
    But I also think that you may be right regarding wargaming being a 'white man's hobby'. I jokingly commented to Andy earlier that I did not meet any of the four criteria that every other attendee had at least one of; you had to have a beard or be bald or wear glasses or be fat. But failed to take into account skin colour. Thinking back, I don't remember seeing any other skin tone than white. If not for this article, I wouldn't have given it a second thought, so thank you for a thought provoking post.

  3. Thank YOU Jez, and for such a cool comment response. Like you, I would never in a million years have thought about it, but for watching that "Glory" movie (with Matthew Brodwick,Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman). It set me off on a whole line of evocative thought processes. I`m glad I dug a bit deeper, as it has enriched my hobby, and given me an insight into creating a new dimension to my gaming I might otherwise always have missed.

  4. Thanks a lot for this interesting, and stunning, post Steve...

  5. Hilary here. You are very welcome Phil hun, and I`m so glad you enjoyed it. Not too hard hitting I hope. Was only really intended as a self evaluation and an eye opener to take on board or dismiss, as anyone sees fit.

  6. High calibre Hillers, very thought provoking words indeed. I`m glad someone finally mentioned it. have been noticing this trend for years, but its one of those silent `conditions` no one ever mentions within gaming circles.

  7. Thanks Hils, perfect post - thought provoking and spot on! Will be looking at my collections and changing some of my painting habits

  8. The thing is I think, not for anyone to feel embarrassed or ashamed by this startling realisation of our hobby habits: but actually to realise we have an opportunity here to improve our games, visually, by simply adding in more of a balanced mix of nationality variety.. this will ultimately enhance our enjoyment of the hobby even more.

  9. I think that last comment pretty much succinctly sums it up in a nutshell, nice words T xx