What Ugandan Knuckles Taught Me About Community Management

A lot of things have been happening recently that make me think about being a leader, in the sense of looking out for the community you’re leading. As a Twitch streamer/content creator, I do have an influence that I need to constantly think about, and whether I like it or not, my actions in this position mean something. What I allow to come into my community speaks on the values that I have, and it could either strengthen or sever bonds that I’ve worked hard to create.

The latest craze that made me have to come face-to-face with this aspect of being a leader was none other than that dumb Ugandan Knuckles meme that everyone uses in VR Chat.

For those who aren’t aware, Ugandan Knuckles is a meme centered around a purposely in-accurate animation of Knuckles the Echidna from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and said drawing was used in a popular gaming Youtuber’s video for a review on the latest game in the series. The animation was intended to poke fun at only the character himself, but was then adopted by people using VR Chat, a Second-Life, IMVU-esque virtual chat room where you can make yourself become almost any character that you want and chat with other people in the server. People used this altered form of Knuckles, swarming people in groups, asking them “do you know the way?” in a Ugandan accent. If people don’t answer, they’ll usually say something like “he does not know the way,” and sometimes, even mention something about finding their queen. They even go as far as mentioning things about needing to have ebola to “find the way,” and they’ll make loud clicking sounds, too. 

To get the full effect, here’s a video of it happening:

The meme has sky-rocketed from there, appearing on many different websites and platforms. For more details on the racist nature behind it, this is the article I read that helped me see how racist this meme really is.

I had seen the meme before learning about its racism, but after learning that disturbing tidbit, I knew immediately that I wouldn’t use it. Not only that, but I also wouldn’t tolerate it being used in my respective communities (Twitch, the Discord server I use for community-building, as responses for any of my social media profiles, etc.). I get that it’s meant to be funny, but surprisingly, you can still cross lines when it comes to making jokes. Fancy that! Despite so many white people saying we “shouldn’t take it seriously” or that “there are bigger battles to fight than a stupid meme,” I’ve decided to make sure that the spaces I offer will stay free of it. If I were to see how racist it is, and still allow it to be tolerated in the communities that I run, how would that look on me?

As a leader of a community, you have do make a decision about something like that rolling into said community, whether or not you personally believe it’s offensive. Sure, you can say “whatever” and just let it happen because you don’t believe it’s harmful, but you’ll then look like someone who allows racism into your community. And sure, it may just be some dumb meme circling the internet, but it’s a dumb meme that stems from some pretty harmful and racist stereotypes, so who’s to say that people wouldn’t put it past you to allow even more harmful jokes about minorities? I’m not saying it would happen, but it’s likely that the community could see it that way. It’s no longer just about your views when it comes to managing a community. You have people from many walks of life to look after now, and displaying attitudes that would make you seem intolerant to their struggles would be a sure-fire way for them to feel unwelcome.

When I’ve brought these points up to someone, the first response I get is, “but then I have to ban everything that someone says is offensive.” Occasionally, they have also added, “people find everything offensive, nowadays.” My response to both of those statements is that people generally don’t go looking for things to be offended by, despite that attitude being fairly prevalent (usually by modern-day bigots). Sure, people who normally face discrimination may be more on guard to things that directly affect them, but I can’t say we go looking for content that offends us. Do you know how exhausting it is to be offended? I usually need a nap after having to call someone out for being bigoted. There may be a select few people who get off on finding things to be angry about, but most marginalized people just want to go to the places they enjoy, whether it’s on the internet or otherwise, and feel like they are among people who wouldn’t allow discrimination to come their way. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a much better situation.

As an individual, it’s easy to say something isn’t offensive just because you’re not personally offended by it. However, when you’re the face of a community, the attitudes you allow into your respective spaces start to contribute to how people see you as a brand, company, public figure, or any other status that can generate a following. You have to decide how you want to dictate your presence, and if that means allowing racist memes into your community, then just know that people may start to believe that it’s a group with racist values. It sounds like a lot of responsibility; I’m very aware of that. Using that responsibility with tact is what will make your presence shine brighter, and continue to draw more people into the community that you’ve worked hard to build.

9 thoughts on “What Ugandan Knuckles Taught Me About Community Management

  1. While I do agree with you on those points, because they are very well made. I do have some problems with this article. To be specific, it’s the way it’s written and it does throw up some question that you might be able to answer.
    But first things first, the way I, in my personal opinion, received this. Again, I do agree on the point that this meme is racist. There is no doubt against it. While this point is being made quite clearly, the problem, for me, is how it got delivered. You are obviously writing this from a morally highground. And because of that I think that this letter addresses the wrong people in the end: The people that are already on your side, share your opinion. While on the other side, the people that share this meme for whatever reason there might be, will just see you as someone who attacks their personal space, their opinion. This usually just triggers one thing: reactance. They will immediately go into a reactance reaction – they will back out, defend themselves instead of listening to you. This will make them closed up for all of your points, no matter how well thought out they are. In my opinion, that is mostly because from the very beginning you put yourself into a position that lets you seem you are standing higher than anyone else (aka. "[being] a leader of a community".) While this might be a true fact, while you might be responsible for a community, putting it in words like that over and over just makes them miss the great points you have made.
    Now, to the questions I have, and those are quite simple. I assume that the mayor problem with them is that it makes fun or pokes at the accent, behaviour and culture of a country, which is Uganda. You could have said that in a more direct tone, but alas, that is not important. This indeed then makes this a matter of racsim. But I have a problem with that: What about other countries?
    Let’s take for example germans, as I am being german myself. People usually call us nazis on the internet. Sometimes seriously, sometimes in a provocative mean and sometime for pure banter. While the question that I am about to ask with this situation would be not only quite the cliché, but also easy to answer, I gonna take another example that surely is familiar with you: Oktoberfest.
    People all around the world enjoy it. That is good. Letting something from another culture influence your life is great! But it also beers (pardon the pun!) a problem: Stereotypes. Because people know that the Oktoberfest is a german tradition, they apply it on all germans. But in truth, it is mostly just a thing in the souths. Sure, it gonna be celebrated elsewhere too, but Munich is known as THE Oktoberfest city, after all. And so it comes that everyone depics germans like that: Beer drinking, Weißwurst eating, Lederhosen wearing sauerkraut-lovers. And while I do love me some Sauerkraute with a nice Wurst and a beer, I certainly never wore Lederhosen in my life. To come to the point, would you except someone making a joke like that? I do certainly see it as a joke, and not more like that. But it also is quite a racist remark, if not as harsh as the Ugandan Knuckles meme. So, it might be a bit farfatch’d, but remember the paragraph before this one. Keep that in mind.
    To finish this off, a little summary – or TL;DR – off this: While I do agree with your points, it begs to question what you do with cliché that are socially accepted. Do you shun someone because he said british always have crooked teeth? Do you shun someone because he said all americans are fat – or the "’MURICA" meme in general? Or because someone said french people only eat baguette, drink wine and surrender everytime a conflict arrises? Or because someone assumes canadians are sorry for everything? Because, in my humble opinion, people then might just say that you are a hypocrit. A person with double standards. And in this case, that would be racist as well because you do that based on the culture you are in and do not respect the culture of the other person.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.