Everyone has an opinion on this whole Resident Evil 5 racism debacle -- well, everyone except a real expert on the science of race relations. Prompted to settle the ongoing debate once and for all, Videogamer.com has employed Glenn Bowman, University of Kent senior lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, to weigh in on the subject matter. So, is it racist? Long-short of Bowman's response: "I don't think it's racist. I think people are looking too quickly to be able to jam that label onto it."
Bowman argues that the knee-jerk reaction of attributing racism to black characters being portrayed as bad guys "is actually itself a kind of inverted racism which says that you can't have scary people who are black." This sounds a lot like something RE5 producer Jun Takeuchi recently said to Yahoo! Games: "We don't want to create something that offends a certain element of society. At the same time, we don't want to be in a place where you can't set a game in Africa or in an Arabic country. That in itself is a form of racism. For us, as creators of entertainment, it's important for us to strike that right balance."
Interestingly enough, Bowman tries to strike that balance by painting a "counter-thematic" of anti-colonialism: "This whole idea of the victimization of Africa by pharmaceutical companies, by terrorist groups, all of whom seem to be run by white characters who are coming in and exploiting people ... seems to me to be far more damning of the colonial powers towards Africa than it says anything about whether or not blacks are some sort of savages. The blacks here are clearly being set up as victims, alterity, frightening." When the game hits stores next Friday, perhaps you can judge for yourself.
Source 1: Videogamer
Source 2: Yahoo! Games