Microsoft Rejected Fable Dev's Idea to Put Black Woman on Fable 3 Cover - Report

"I was screaming at them in conference calls."

348 Comments

[UPDATE] It's been confirmed now that McCormack's comments were about Fable III, not Fable II. The headline and text have been updated to reflect that.

The original story is below.

As part of Eurogamer's fascinating, in-depth report on Fable developer Lionhead Studios comes a story about a time when the team pitched Microsoft on the idea of putting a black woman on the cover of Fable III. According to former art director John McCormack, Microsoft vetoed the idea.

He was not pleased.

"They were going, 'You can't have a black person on the cover, and you can't have a woman. And you want a black woman.' And I was like, 'Yes, I do, because it's about be whatever hero you want.' [According to McCormack, Microsoft said] 'No. It's a white guy. That's just the way it is. We know what sells and that's f**king it. Stop the arguing.' I was like, 'F**k you!' That was a huge fight."

"They said, 'What's the most unsuccessful Disney film? I was like, 'I don't know.' They went, 'Princess and the Frog. Work it out.' I was like, "F**k you, man.' I hated it."

McComack went on to say that Microsoft "missed the point" of Fable III overall by putting a traditional-looking, male hero on the cover.

"I was screaming at them in conference calls," he said. "I lost it at that point, because they just weren't getting the game. Especially because we were the first ever game that had gay marriage, we were about breaking down walls. It was meant to be funny and mature. They just took none of it and just did the usual white guy with a sword on the front. Damn it! You missed the point!"

No Caption Provided

According to Eurogamer's report, McCormack's story is something of an outlier.

"Most who worked on Fable II speak of the relationship with Microsoft in glowing terms," the report said. "The company comes across as one keen to retain the magic that has spawned the first Fable, that quirky British humor that went down so well with Monty Python fans back home."

Also in the report, McCormack said one of the reasons why he quit Lionhead in 2012 was because Microsoft rejected his pitch for a "darker, grittier" Fable 4.

GameSpot has contacted Microsoft to see if the company has a response to McCormack's comments. We will update this post with anything we hear back.

In 2012, Naughty Dog revealed that it was asked to put one of The Last of Us' main characters, the young woman Ellie, on the back of the box.

"I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less," director Neil Druckmann said at the time. "I know I've been in discussions where we've been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused."

Box art has the tricky job of capturing your attention and representing the game. BioShock Infinite's box art was criticized for not representing the tone of the game. Director Ken Levine responded to the criticisms, saying the cover was designed for the uninformed, not fans of the series.

Lionhead officially closed its doors at the end of April. Microsoft reportedly fielded numerous buyout offers for the studio and Fable franchise, but Microsoft apparently rejected them all.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for deactivated-57a6e1f18f320
deactivated-57a6e1f18f320

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I only played fable iii for 30 min and I thought the game was racist when I saw a few black women calling the main white character "master". Had to turn it off but I thought it was Peter Molynueux idea not Microsoft. Well my guess is that they both agreed to fable 3 being that way but peter molynuex is just another white privledge director trying to display black people the way he see them. When will America stop hating blacks?

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Balrogbane

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@jport7: Is this trolling? This has got to be trolling right?

"When will America stop hating blacks?" I'd say there was pretty good proof we don't when the majority elected a black president twice. But that may just be a cover for the white supremacy that rules our nation from the shadows.

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naryanrobinson

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@balrogbane: .

Flaws in the argument:

1. It was not a “majority” of people that voted for Obama. It was a plurality.

2. Even if it were 51%, that's still potentially over a hundred million racist people. More than enough to make life difficult I think you'd agree.

3. People who voted for him aren't necessarily not racist. Maybe they just physically can't afford to not have something like Obama Care.

4. The raw numbers aren't important; it's which people are in which positions of power to make life more difficult for black people. People who hate black people might be attracted to a job where they can abuse them.

5. There's endless examples of racism in the justice system on a daily basis if you just look.

I wonder when people will stop thinking that having a black president means there is no more racism...

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Balrogbane

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@naryanrobinson: I didn't say there is no more racism. I'm just saying it is NOT by any stretch of the imagination, running rampant in the streets, as so many seem to think.

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naryanrobinson

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@balrogbane: Are you black?

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Balrogbane

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Edited By Balrogbane

@naryanrobinson: No not black, but that should only matter to a racist. My views and experiences aren't some how voided because of my race. Racism works both ways.

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naryanrobinson

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@balrogbane: .

Haha! Novel!

So suggesting that a white person wouldn't be as sensitive to discrimination against blacks as a black person is racist.

HUH. INTERESTING.

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JoshRMeyer

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@naryanrobinson: As a white person, have you ever been denied a job because the company has to fill a quota of black employees (and other minorities)?? It happens all the time. If that isn't racism, I don't know what is.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

@joshrmeyer: .

If that quota ratio is less than that of the black population, then you have absolutely no grounds for complaint whatsoever.

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JoshRMeyer

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@naryanrobinson: So you're saying that an equal number of whites and minorities must be hired? It goes based on demographics. I believe 80% of the U.S. are considered white. So going by that, the quota would be 80% white to a 20% other ratio. My point is, there shouldn't be quotas, it should be the best person for the job. And to be turned down because of your race, is racist. This was a govt job btw.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

@joshrmeyer: .

So because 20% of America is not-white, give 20% of the jobs to not-white and that's “fair” is it?

Haha, that's some interesting logic you got there. You haven't spent too much time thinking it through yourself though, have you?

My favourite part of the Bible is when Joseph says to Pharaoh:

“Let My People Go.” and Pharaoh says,

“But, like, literally all of them are working. I swear they're doing basically all our work, if anything they should be thanking me.”

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JoshRMeyer

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@naryanrobinson: I think you missed my point. The company (govt company) had to fill a quota and it was something like 20% hired had to be a minority. I'm totally against that business model. Like I said, best person for the job should get hired... if it 90% blacks that are hired based off their credentials, so be it. In reality, more white people will more than likely be hired based on the population difference of the 2 races. But it's not always like that, and it was just an example I was using, and a past experience that made me feel "robbed" because I'm white.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

@joshrmeyer: Haha, no, I didn't miss your point.

Your point is you're against quotas, and as a white person, you feel robbed.

If you can't see see why I find that equal parts humorous and endearing then I'm at a loss.

We have quotas in the first place because we can't trust people to just “pick the right guy for the job”. We've already seen white people pick white people more. Identical CV and all. It's been shown over and over again. Same with gender. The system is tilted. If you place a flat board on a tilted table, it's not level. If we ever want to see a truly equal society, we have to forcibly tilt things back for a while, even if it's in a totally artificial way.

If the country were full of people who could just, “pick the right person for the job”, right from the very start, there wouldn't be a problem to begin with.

So let's not complain about the worst thing in our lives being a temporary, artificial equality, when the equivalent is centuries of ingrained institutional racism, hmm?

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JoshRMeyer

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@naryanrobinson: lol, fair enough. You make some very valid points. I guess I'm a little too optimistic about what the world should be instead of the reality of it.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

@joshrmeyer: .

Thanks. I have huge respect for your open-mindedness.

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Edited By Balrogbane

@naryanrobinson: So you are saying me, a white person, can't have an opinion on the matter?

Do you think racism is running rampant in the streets or something?

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naryanrobinson

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@balrogbane: .

Oh you can have one. By all means. Have as many as you like.

But when the topic at hand is, “What it's like to be black”,

don't get mad when no one cares.

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Balrogbane

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@naryanrobinson: I'm not mad.
I wasn't even aware that was supposed to be the topic. I thought is was "Why does America hate blacks" from the original comment. And my observations are America Doesn't hate black people even though racism does exist.

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naryanrobinson

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@balrogbane:

The question from the original comment was not “Why does America hate blacks?” You can check again if you like.

But the real question is this:

“As a white male, do you really think you're as qualified as a black person to comment on how much America hates blacks?”

Think hard about that one.

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Balrogbane

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@naryanrobinson: That's not the "real question", the question was "When will America stop hating blacks?"

To which all I have to say is, it doesn't, and if you think America in general just hates blacks, you're delusional.

(I'm not going to keep this thread going. Have a nice day, fellow gamer)

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

@balrogbane: .

And being a male, I can conclusively say that all men treat all women equally, because man was created in my image, after all. Oh no wait, that's god.

I never said a white person can't have an opinion. I also never said America in general hates blacks, and neither did the OP. He was talking relatively, and what's more, he's right. Relatively speaking, for a developed country in 2016, America is phenomenally, staggeringly racist. Just ask DT.

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Moonco

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Moonco  Moderator

I knew Microsoft were a racist misogyny company. Just one of many reasons why I will never support them!

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BDRTFM

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Edited By BDRTFM

@Moonco: What about Sony and their racist remarks about Obama? Or how about the black woman they called Queen B and fired after being sexually harassed, had racist remarks said against her and many other racist remarks in the email scandal. Or their long history of having less qualified white people with less seniority getting promotions over more qualified African-Americans with more seniority? Guess that's perfectly fine but, not having a black woman on the cover of Fable III is reason to boycott a company.

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sladakrobot

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@bdrtfm: Great...now she hates Sony aswell :-)

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deactivated-58183aaaa31d8

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"Most who worked on Fable II speak of the relationship with Microsoft in glowing terms," the report said. "The company comes across as one keen to retain the magic that has spawned the first Fable, that quirky British humor that went down so well with Monty Python fans back home."

Yeah I guess that was true unless that "magic" didn't involve a white male character.

The thing I see with this is it's like selective breeding. If someone is so dumb that they wouldn't buy a game just because there is a black person on the cover that person isn't worth the time of day. Catering your marketing to suit those people only makes it more likely that they will come back.

Racist, sexist people SHOULD be shunned. They should be ignored and they should be made to feel like the vermin they strive to be. Not catered to.

If you put a black woman on the front and that drives certain people away that is a GOOD thing.

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deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

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@dexda: There are people who like to feel represented in games, look at all the games that have had negative press recently because the option to play as a woman was not available. If there are women gamers who only like to play as women there are certainly likely to be men who only like playing as men etc.

Like most things, it's about appealing to your largest demographic and there is no doubt that one of the largest gaming demographics in the west is the white male gamer.

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theduckofdeath

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Edited By theduckofdeath

@pspearman: When you can make a custom character, I always make a man, without exception. I never even considered there was an option, until some males online mention playing as a woman. I don't get why you would want to do that, but whatever. My characters could be any race (many times drawn from TV, film, or books). Sometimes I can't be bother trying to recreate myself.

That said, when the main character of a game is a girl, I don't mind, presuming it isn't too outlandish. As far as I'm concerned, it's all part of the story as the dev say it. People talk about identifying with a character, and I don't know if I quite think of it in those terms. "This is Lara Croft, over here, and I'm controlling/helping her."

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deactivated-58183aaaa31d8

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@pspearman: Yes but unless they want white male gamers for the rest of time, they can't cater everything specifically for them.

If someone needs their own personal choices represented on the box art of games in order to feel comfortable buying them, then they need to go seek medical attention because they clearly have an underlying personality disorder.

Or better yet they should grow the **** up and learn what the real world is like.

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letsgame82

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MS: come on Phil we need you again buddy, we fucked up again.....

Phil Spencer: Need a raise coz even I don't believe some of the shit I say to cover you guys

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BDRTFM

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Edited By BDRTFM

I've no idea if this story is true or not but, if I was publishing a game and someone working on the game said to me "F**** you" that person would be shown the door before he finished his sentence. I highly doubt his wording of this conversation is accurate, if it took place at all. And let's be clear, this is not Microsoft talking this is a person working at Microsoft talking. And that person is likely no longer employed there. It's funny that he never mentions names of these talking people in any of his rants. Either he is full of BS or afraid of getting his butt sued off. Microsoft isn't the first company to show racist undertones in any event. Sony has done it. Disney has done it. Many companies have done it so, it's hard to be surprised it happens anymore.

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elheber

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In Microsoft's defense, these were different times back then. It was normal to slap your assistant's butt and call her "toots" while water fountains were segregated and people called black people "darkies." We've come so far since then.

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Xristophoros

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@elheber: you might be thinking of the 50s and 60s but ok.

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deactivated-5a50575ec5600

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@elheber: ...fable 2 came out in 2008, kid

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Balrogbane

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Edited By Balrogbane

@Raidendude153: Look up. Yeah that, way up there above you're head. Yeah that's a joke.

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deactivated-5a50575ec5600

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@balrogbane: Like @dlCHIEF58 said, jokes tend to be humorous, whereas that just looks like a kid's thin veil of myopic ignorance peeking through.

"aboveyou're head," he says, ironically trying to insult someone's intellect...

Couple that with your quaint sentence structure and I'd wager you're rather young yourself.

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Balrogbane

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Edited By Balrogbane

@Raidendude153: Says the guy who didn't capitalize the first word of his sentence, didn't put a period at the end of it, and goes around calling other people "kid" on the internet.

This could go on forever. No one cares about someones grammar in a comment box. And I wasn't trying to insult you. I was saying it was a joke. Lighten up a little.

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deactivated-5a50575ec5600

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@balrogbane: Nah, your vituperative nature was/is rather transparent, bud- just own up to it. Capitalization and typos are rather paltry compared to not realizing you used a contraction instead of a possessive. Kids are taught the distinction so it's not a leap to think that you're a child when you speak like one.

Stick to Nascar events, Bradley.

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Balrogbane

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@Raidendude153: I don't understand the bitterness. And no I'm not a kid, at least in the legal sense of the word.

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dlCHIEF58

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@balrogbane: jokes are typically funny - he missed that mark rather easily.

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suicidesn0wman

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@balrogbane: LOL.

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PointingMonkey

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Edited By PointingMonkey

This seems like it's more of a problem within the industry, than just MS. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a game cover which prominently displays a black character (obviously other than sports games.). On top of that the only black character I can think of, who became somewhat of a fan favourite is Cole Train from Gears of War.

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dlCHIEF58

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@pointingmonkey: Spawn is another, but since he wears a mask many wouldn't know he is black.

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PointingMonkey

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@dlCHIEF58: Yeah wearing a mask is kind of cheating. But still I guess it is a black character on a front cover.

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suicidesn0wman

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Edited By suicidesn0wman

@pointingmonkey: Afro Samurai and GTA V come to my mind right away. Halo 5 if you count Locke in his Spartan armor on the cover.

Also The Walking Dead S1 and Battlefield 1.

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PointingMonkey

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Edited By PointingMonkey

@suicidesn0wman: I forgot about Afro Samurai, which is strange because I hadn't long ago played that, nice catch. GTA V doesn't really count for me as it's more of a collage style cover. I was talking front and centre full character. Like I wouldn't count Gears of War 2 having Cole Train on the cover, because he's in the background, while Fenix is front and centre and takes up the majority of the cover.

I only played episode 1 of The Walking Dead S1 and that was only because it was free.

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scatterbrain007

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Edited By scatterbrain007

@pointingmonkey: Crackdown had a black protagonist front and center, and also Shadowman back in the PS1 and Dreamcast era.

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PointingMonkey

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@scatterbrain007: Forgot about Crackdown (and Shadownman), also saying Shadowman made me remember that Shadowrun on the 360 had two black characters one front and centre and the other in the corner on the cover. So you kind of have to wonder what kind of point this guy is making, in the fact that Crackdown and Shadowrun were both published by MS, alongside Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo. So that is two games with black people on the cover and two (three with ReCore) and two with women on the cover. You can't help but wonder if they shot down the idea for different reasons than he is implying in the interview.

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scatterbrain007

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@pointingmonkey: It seems someone mistook preference for racism. I've said this before, and I'll day it again. I'm a minority living in Texas. Not once in my lifetime had I felt discriminated against because of my heritage. Racism certainly exists and disgusting, unfortunate things happen because of it, but it isn't exactly running rampant in the streets. Pulling the race card is something I never had to do, and I'd never be quick to pull it.

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Xristophoros

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Edited By Xristophoros

@pointingmonkey: check out the cover of the walking dead season 1. there aren't many, but things are beginning to change a bit...

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PointingMonkey

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@Xristophoros: Yep he's pretty prominent. But like you say it's still something which is very few and far between.

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