Sunday, 30 March 2008

Racism in SL

Racism in SL PDF Print E-mail
Written by Catero Revolution   
Monday, 25 February 2008
Issues of identity in Second Life are complex and sometimes controversial. We don't just bring the good from First Life.

Haver Cole, Gianni Broda, Filthy Fluno, Daman Tenk and Colleen Desmoulins recently spoke with MetaNetwork News about their experience with racial identity in Second Life as non-caucasian avatars. Each of these five residents come from diverse real life backgrounds.

Haver Cole describes herself as a white girl from the midwest. In Second Life she often chooses to wear a variety of skin tones. She notes when wearing darker skin products people speak and behave with reservation around her and are less likely to take time to understand her. Cole's skin choices are personal artistic.

Gianni Broda, owner and designer of Cashmere, a retro-glam clothing store, was once a dancer. A customer heckled her with lewd and demeaning racial slurs. Broda, who had previously been unaffected by any difference her avatar's skin color, was brought to a stark realization that day. Racism has the ability to cross into cyberspace.

Filthy Fluno has adopted an eccentric and wiley-haired African-American avatar to reflect the funky, fun, dark, messy qualities of the abstract artwork he sells in his first and second lives. As Fluno's real world heritage does not directly contain African roots he has been criticized and called a racist by some members of the black community. The artist maintains that anyone who calls him a racist doesn't know him and that he's open to passively enlighten accusers about his chosen identity.

Daman Tenk, writer for the Men's Second Style fashion resource, explained that he created his "Daman" persona as part of another MMORPG where he roleplayed with a "southern" characteristic prior to SL. Choosing a darker skin didn't take much thought as he feels it makes him distinct and unique. Though he has never directly encountered any overt racism, Tenk firmly believes that all forms of discrimination are simply unacceptable.

Colleen Desmoulins, co-owner of The Loft and works for the Metaversatility development company, has been hit close to home by racism in Second Life. She described an incident in which a friend expressed culturally insensitive views towards a dreadlocked hairstyle she was wearing at the time. She attributes his narrow-minded comments to his own ignorance in understanding the significance of dreadlocks in certain cultures.

She says, "As long as there is a minority or anything different than the norm there will be discrimination" ... "I have been called the 'n' word. What bothered me the most .... was that it was the boyfriend of one of my closest friends and she didn't think it was that big of a deal".

In an environment where being male, gender, color and species is easily changed, where one's features are carefully composed, intentionally styled and completely user-controlled should racism still be an issue?

The open-ended possibilities allow residents expression and exploration not be possible in First Life. But not everything changes from First to Second life.

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