The popular video streaming service Twitch has apologized and removed a number of emote modifiers, released to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, due to their racist and stereotypical nature. Twitch gives viewers access to a number of emotes that they can use to communicate in unique ways while watching their favorite, but these latest emotes went several steps too far.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15, celebrates Hispanic American contributions to and lasting impact on US history, government, culture, and more. Being a platform notably lacking in nonwhite voices among its most popular streamers (and notably replete with hate from streamers and chat users alike), it makes sense that Twitch would want to make an attempt to shed a bit of its usually bad PR image and embrace the diversity of its more unseen streamers and viewers.
On September 15, Twitch announced via Twitter the release emote modifiers for users to share throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. According to a Twitch blog post, these emotes were intended to kick off an entire month of Hispanic Heritage-related streams from a number of prominent creators. However, these emotes instantly received backlash from followers on Twitter for emphasizing a number of uncomfortable stereotypes about Hispanic Americans. The emotes in question feature a sombrero, a guitar, and a pair of maracas, all of which were called out for being tired and damaging Mexican stereotypes. Many commenters noted that this not only reduced the Hispanic people to a single culture, but also reduced the Mexican culture to a handful of stereotypes.
Within hours, Twitch tweeted an apology for the emote modifiers, which was quickly supported by the platform’s followers, who agreed heartily that the canned emotes were socially tone-deaf. The streaming service explained:
“We launched these emote modifiers today as part of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month but we clearly missed the mark, and we apologize. These were not an appropriate representation of Hispanic and LatinX culture, and we’ve removed them.”
This year has been rife with controversy for Twitch, as the platforms also received backlash over a Black Lives Matter video posted in July. The video featured an overwhelming number of white content creators, only featuring a single line spoken by a Black contributor. The platform, alongside YouTube and other prominent content creator hangouts, also has fostered a bad reputation as a space that enables political extremists to flourish. These seemingly chronic missteps are baffling when considering that the site hosted a similar Hispanic Heritage Month celebration last year, which lasted for almost the entirety of September 2019 while avoiding all controversy.
Twitch has repeatedly demonstrated a tone-deaf attitude towards issues of social justice, so this most recent incident comes as no surprise to long-term followers of the site. However, in the increasingly self-reflective world of entertainment media, it is essential for all media platforms to become more aware of how they represent members of their community. If Twitch continues to use racist stereotypes to represent their content creators, or ignores essential parts of its user base, many users are bound to feel alienated and potentially leave an echo chamber at their backs.
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Source: Twitch, Twitch Blog