Racism: Virtual and Real

As a blogger for my Women’s study class, I do not have as much experience with Second Life as those who attend the virtual classroom weekly. Even though it is not as much of a ‘second life’ for me as for some of my classmates, I can imagine that there is still some traces of racism. I personally do not think this really should be an issue as each avatar could be completely different; gender, age, race, from the person in the real world and we are all on a level playing field, so who is there to judge? I think that we all have no place to judge because we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and none of us are perfect, but it is a reality that our world is filled with judgment and, for the focus of this blog, racism.

To get back to the original question, I think it would be impossible to say that race does not play a factor in Second Life. In today’s day and age, I think it is safe to say that most people have experience with the virtual world, whether that is Second Life, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, or any other source. While using these sites, most of us have experienced racism at one point or another whether it is done consciously or not.

Since I don’t have as much experience in Second Life, I did a little research and found in a study done by Northwestern that racism is indeed a factor in this virtual world:

“The research team asked avatars for a ridiculous favor (a two-hour photo shoot), followed by a more modest request (one photo), to judge how willing avatars were to help.

Then comes the spin: Researchers asked these favors as both black and white avatars. The results were shocking:

The effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the requesting avatar was dark-toned. The white avatars in the DITF experiment received about a 20 percent increase in compliance with the moderate request; the increase for the dark-toned avatars was 8 percent.”

The results seemed to show that the avatars were more willing to help the white avatars when compared to black avatars. Surprisingly enough to me, it seems that this Second Life is more similar to the real world than I ever would have guessed.

Now think about this, does race even exist?

This may sound like a crazy question, I thought so at first, but after looking a little bit I found some information that makes me believe it is something that we have just created. On the PBS website I found that “race is a modern idea.” The website also stated that “we are among the most similar of all species.” Traits we have are not help to one race, but span throughout. The major difference, and the one most people seem to pay attention to, is the color of our skin. You would think something as trivial as skin would not have that big of an impact on us when we have so many other things in common that are much bigger and more important.

So is race just an illusion? I would now have to say yes.

Pixels and Policy. (2009, October 26). The curious case of racism in second life. Retrieved from http://www.pixelsandpolicy.com/pixels_and_policy/2009/10/race-case.html

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1 Comment

  1. Ellie Brewster

    You could pick that Northwestern study apart, I think. For one thing, in 2009 it wasn’t easy to find an avatar of colour in SL. Therefore, the subjects in this study were confronted with a choice between someone who conformed to the norm, and someone who went out of their way to appear different. Perhaps they were more suspicious of those who stood out from the herd?

    I’m not saying that race isn’t evident in this study, I just think they could have gone into movivations a little more deeply.

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