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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Thursday, January 11, 2007
 
Read This Now...
...Because I'll probably chicken out and delete it before too long.

I just spent about 40 minutes writing and erasing comments on this entry in New World Notes. I finally gave up, because it's just too volatile a topic. Frankly, I'm not interested in sitting in the center of a racial conflict on a public forum. Here, on the other hand, with my single-digit readership, I'll risk it.

"Yeah, let's twiddle our appearance sliders and pretend we're Black, in honor of Martin Luther King Day!" Does anyone else think that's a remarkably bad idea? What's next, putting on the cork and belting out a chorus of "Jump Jim Crow?" I can't think of anything less respectful to the late Dr. King's memory than a bunch of middle-class white folks (and, face it, that's still the overwhelming majority in SL) doctoring their pixel representations and pretending to "spend a day living in the world embodied in the skin of another."

Well, okay, I can think of more disrespectful things than that. Quite a few. And, sadly, I see most of them in RL at least once or twice a week. But, still, good grief. With all due respect to Erika Thereian's insights, and precisely because of the experiences leading to them, this is just asking for trouble, of a mediagenic and astoundingly inflammatory sort.

Ten out of ten for good intentions, guys. Minus several million for good sense.
Comments:
Don't delete this! You're damn right that there's no way this can be respectful; it's just another costume-fest.

Erika's experience was disturbing, but the only way to pay respect to that is to do it on a long term basis. One day will make no difference.

PS - And I'm proud to be among the single-digited :)
 
I agree; please don't delete it. It very much needed to be said (and makes me want to read your blog on a regular basis). It would be all too easy for the idea to be a meaningless self-congratulatory ritual of virtual blackface.
 
You're assuming that people would do this in a disrepectful way. I think we can celebrate the variety of colors and appearances in SL by wearing a different skin for a day.
 
Ahem... Well, it would appear that my craven plan to hide behind my obscurity has backfired. I've been mulling this over for the past couple of days, and I still have my doubts, but I find myself hoping to be proven wrong.
 
Well, Rik, I can say with some certainty that a fair number of people will do it in a disrespectful way. Some people already are, in their day-to-day avatars, and it seems like this event will bring them out from under their respective rocks en masse. Unfortunately, given both the amount of media attention SL is getting, and the politically and personally charged nature of the holiday and the issues involved, it could get publicly ugly. We've already had quite a bit of controversy around things like the Confederate flag and other racially charged symbols. I'm hoping I'm worrying for nothing. Maybe, for once, the more controversy-hungry members (and you can read that euphamism how you like) of the SL community will show some restraint.

Even putting that aside, I don't see how donning a different avatar for a single day can be more than a token gesture. And it still seems like it has the potential to be a powderkeg. This is one case where the disconnect between intentions (the laudable goal of learning what it's like to be of another race) and appearances (donning blackface for some dubiously touchy-feely end) could be problematic.

I hope I'm just borrowing trouble here, though. Prove me wrong, folks.
 
Moriash: 1) This is not a rebuttal. 2) I felt that if one of us, James or I, were to take part in this discussion it should be I. 3) Although I think James’ presentation differs slightly in tone from my original idea (http://dgakyomoon.blogspot.com/) I agreed to that presentation and in any case that difference is irrelevant to the concerns expressed on your blog. 4) You are correct, to do something to “learn what it’s like to be of another race” is a laudable but dubious condescension. Something like we (white middle-class) fasting for a day to learn what it’s like to be starving in a forgotten country or anywhere. While fasting for solidarity in certain cases may have its place, I couldn’t agree more that in this case that idea is misplaced and the thought of learning in some empathic way “What it’s like” never crossed my mind. Of course, that interpretation exists. Perhaps, it exists strongly enough to have scuttled the action. That’s a second guess which unfortunately it is too late to consider. 5) The blackface analogy did cross my mind but I decided that the history of that genre also includes the jujitsu flip of socially progressive applications and its discussion in this context is a long and subtle one. Perhaps someone will take that discussion up but I didn’t find it problematic that this action could engender it. 6) My intention was far simpler. It was simply a numbers game, in a sense, the SL equivalent of marching in an MLK Day parade. My thought was, imagine “an announcement by the Lindens of a concurrency of 20,000+ non-whites” from an avatar world that is decidedly, on a day to day basis, white. In an environment where changes in gender, species and even into non-existent forms are lauded, why is race change so revolutionary? 7) I also felt that once was not enough. I suggested the 15th of every month thereafter. I felt this is necessary to build an ongoing consciousness of diversity, a consciousness that does not seem to be served by fairies and bunnies and the current manifestations of avatars. I think, perhaps, only in this way can SL be truly about breaking barriers, be made something more than “just another costume-fest”.

Submitted with the greatest respect, dgakyomoon.
 
Respectfully, colour is not identity. Colour is pixels, or in RL, pigment. Diversity is only achieved when people of different races and backgrounds are actually at the controls of the bunnies, the elves, the Barbie dolls and what have you. All the rest is just show.
The colour of one's skin should not be his or her identity. Colin Powell, if I recall correctly, once said that he was as much white as he was black (he is of mixed descent - though I dislike the term). Still, he is viewed as 'black' and an exemple to 'blacks', even though he refuses to 'go there'.
Think about that. Think it through. You'll end up concluding that we're all somehow of mixed origin, and that conclusion is the end of the colour game. I am not white. Michael Jordan is not black. We're all humans.
 
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