On Wednesday June 10, 2020, Wizards of the Coast announced an unprecedented action, in the banning of seven cards from all sanctioned events – not for play-related reasons, but cards which were deemed harmful relics of Magic’s past.
There is no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else. For Magic, our first step will be to start with this change today. There’s much more work to be done. Read here: https://t.co/inkf5jlb9D
— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) June 10, 2020
“Today, we will be changing the multiverse ID and removing the Gatherer card image for the card Invoke Prejudice, originally printed in 1994. The card is racist and made even worse by the multiverse ID it was unfortunately codified with years ago. There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else.
But to that point, it should never have been published nor placed in the Gatherer. And for that we are sorry. The events of the past weeks and the ongoing conversation about how we can better support people of color have caused us to examine ourselves, our actions, and our inactions. We appreciate everyone helping us to recognize when we fall short. We should have been better, we can be better, and we will be better.
To that end, we will be removing a number of images from our database that are racist or culturally offensive, including:
Replacing those card images will be the following statement:
We have removed this card image from our database due to its racist depiction, text, or combination thereof. Racism in any form is unacceptable and has no place in our games, nor anywhere else.
Additionally, these cards will be banned in all sanctioned tournament play.
There’s much more work to be done as we continue to make our games, communities, and company more inclusive. Know that we work every day to be better and that we hear you. We look forward to sharing more of our plans with you as our games and organization evolve.”
Wizards also mentioned in a subsequent statement that this is merely a “first pass,” and that they will “continue to take action on similar cards in the future.”
We are starting a review of every card we have printed. This first pass isn’t meant to be an exhaustive catalogue of every problematic card in Magic’s history, and we will continue to take actions on similar cards in the future.
— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) June 10, 2020
What This Means for Eternal Central Old School and Events
We have already been asked to address Wizards’ announcement by numerous parties, which is what brings us to this very article. Eternal Central will not be banning these cards in question at our sponsored events or on our recommended rules lists, nor will be banning any other cards in the future for ideological reasons. Magic is a game of social interactions, and the community and fellowship we encourage at events should be mature enough to handle the nuance and history of the game, while also recognizing the immorality of racism. We celebrate the positives of Magic lore, and are keenly aware of the negatives, but we will not attempt to erase or rewrite history to provide a fleeting moment of comfort.
“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
– Farenheit 451
Banning Magic cards for ideological or puritanical reasons is about as intelligent as banning or burning books, or the modern trend of removing them from libraries and bookstores. Sunlight is said to be a natural disinfectant, and by shining the light on weak and illogical ideas they are more easily defeated with open and honest debate. This is the most effective way to influence and genuinely change the opinion of someone you disagree with, by showing them the underlying logic of why their argument or belief is faulty – and not just berating or deplatforming them.
There are hundreds or thousands of individual cards that there could be a case made are problematic for one reason or another (objectifying women, objectifying men, cultural insensitivity, insensitive flavor text, problematic characters, “black magic,” problematic artist, antisemitism, etc.). If you think this is an exaggeration you can explore various Magic Discord groups and forums where this is an active topic, and see that no, it is not remotely an exaggeration. Do other cards that are not currently banned for a given reason mean that they are then implicitly acceptable by Wizards’ decree (even if others find them suitably objectionable)? This is just one of the issues with editorializing or adjudicating in this case. How and to what degree do you expect the arbiters to make a well-reasoned case for each one? Judging by Wizards’ history of creation and execution of ideas, themes, and events, I have zero faith in their ability to consistently make rational choices that are agreeable to a majority of the community, if the past is any indication.
Attitudes about issues and imagery are constantly changing, and if WotC is ashamed of a number of cards from their past, the answer is to recognize that, hire better people, and put out a better product in the future. A policy of attempted erasure of a handful of cards at a time through a private monthly tribunal, even with a noble intent, is a ham-handed approach that likely creates more problems than it solves. Historically, museums were a great source of knowledge and artifacts that would otherwise be lost to the sands of time, and the past can help serve as a stark reminder of our previous behavior and moral turpitude. In this context Wizards would be better served by adding an editorial note to each card’s page in the Gatherer database that they deem problematic, rather than attempting to paper over their past by memory holing things.
Each new day is a new opportunity to grow and change. Working together for institutional change and a better path forward requires confronting mistakes of the past and uncomfortable truths openly and honestly, and learning from them to become stronger as an individual and a community. Stay safe and healthy, be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday, and we’ll see you again soon.
Note: this article was updated 06-12-2020 by the author to add additional notes.