Sticks and Stones

Posted on April 17, 2012


By Tim Aten

By all accounts, Cedric Phillips is a pretty happy fellow–and why wouldn’t he be? He’s always having fun because he lives life on his own terms, realizing it’s far too short to constrain oneself with society’s expectations or “playing it safe.” (If he wants to act on a whim and fly to a GP just to play in a PTQ, he will.) And the public just loves him. He’s engaging, outgoing, and has a unique personality that makes him a joy to be around.

But things may not be as perfect as they appear. What people don’t realize, because of his devil-may-care attitude and his thick skin, is that he’s stuck in a very uncomfortable situation. Even today, in 2012, he’s still constantly plagued by a word used by narrow-minded people to cut him down, to try to make him think that he’s less of a person. It refers to a period in the past that he’d just as soon forget, one that clearly doesn’t define who he is. I’m personally appalled by how many people think it’s socially acceptable to just drop in a casual conversation, tweet, or Facebook thread. It’s a word that should have been excised from all encounters with him long ago, yet people still bandy it about like it’s no big deal. It’s amazing the damage a simple word has done to a stalwart like Cedric.

And that word is “Kithkin.”

“So I played a certain archetype consistently for a year or so,” muses Phillips. “Is that the whole narrative? Do I have to deal with mouth-breathers spewing forth the word like it’s comedy-gold-in-a-box for the rest of my life because they can’t think of anything more original to say?”

Judging by the creativity and personality of the general Magic-playing populace, it would appear that the answer is probably “yes.”

Other than the obvious problem, one of the issues with the word is its insidious nature. Cedric himself didn’t even see a problem with it when people first starting using it in conversations with or about him.

“At first it was kind of cool, actually,” he reminisces. “Playing the deck really made me stand out from the rest of Magic players. I liked the attention, and it was awesome signing Wizened Cenns and Cloudgoat Rangers. But at a certain point, things changed. People kept saying stuff about it, like that’s all I was to them–that playing small white creatures was the sum total of my identity and my worth as a human being.”

Eventually, it just became too much. “Every day, there would be a new post on my wall, with everyone saying the same thing. Just ‘k-word this’ and k-word’ that. Some of these people were braindead barns, but a couple of them were some of my best friends! It got to the point where I dreaded even signing into Facebook. Don’t these faggots know that words can hurt?”

Of course, Cedric’s case is not unique; the K-word is not the only manifestation of this tragic phenomenon. A handful of other players have been prejudged, pigeonholed, and forced to deal with a constant barrage of inane and insensitive blathering.

“Oh, you get used to it, no doubt,” says Patrick Sullivan, refilling his snifter with cognac. “People create these mental shortcuts all the time: ‘there’s the gay dude, there’s the Puerto Rican dude, there’s the dude who casts an Incinerate on occasion.’ People got to fill the space in conversation, and if they ain’t got anything worthwhile to say, they just default to those tropes, that familiar territory.”

Nowadays, it does seem like every time a red deck wins a tournament, his name is invoked; and every time some 12-year-old attacks with a Goblin Guide, the kid is pegged as “the next Patrick Sullivan.”

“You think that’s all it takes to be me?” Sullivan wonders. “Just toss out an Ember Hauler and you’re well on your way to forging your own legend? To understanding how I live my life? And for the record, I don’t need notifications on my wall every time someone brews up a 75 that starts with 20 mountains. Shit’s corny.”

This issue doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves because many people refuse to acknowledge that a problem even exists. Considering the tacit acceptance of the k-word and similar offensive language–and even the occasional evo-psych argument–it’s clear that this problem is far from being solved.

“I do not see what is the big deal with this?” says noted progressive Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. “I think maybe [Cedric] was just born to play Kithkin? Like Jackie Lee was born to play mono-green unicorns? People should just play decks appropriate to their skill levels?”

There is something that each of us can do, however. Try to put yourself in Cedric’s shoes, or those of Patrick, or whomever. If people used one word or epithet to try to paint you as a one-dimensional character, to make a crude mockery of your entire existence, how would you feel? (This question obviously doesn’t apply to Tom Ma, because he’s just so cuuuuuuute.)

It’s not cool. Not in my house, not anywhere. It’s not creative, it’s offensive to Cedric, and you’re better than that.

…well, you’re probably not, but try to understand that whatever personal value you derive from making obvious, asinine references instead of just keeping your mouth shut like a decent human being pales in comparison to the pain and frustration it causes Cedric.*


Timothy James Aten

*This article is on MTGLampoon, ha ha etc, but at the same time, I’m not kidding about this: if you still think referencing Kithkin is “clever” around Cedric, you probably have an extra chromosome or two. And it does bug the shit out of him.

[EDITORS NOTE: I just wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this, not to actually thank them, which I could do via personal email, but just to insert myself into the article, make it known that I contributed, and absorb some of the credit for it. –Matt Sperling]

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