Thursday, January 29, 2004


Last Monday, Bhodi Silverman convened a forum for residents to discuss race and identity in-world, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and invited me to be the keynote speaker. I assumed it would be a sparsely attended event, but so many residents turned up for it, the simulator housing Bhodi’s gallery promptly went offline, and we were forced to relocate to the outdoors meeting space located on the intersection of four servers, to allow for maximum attendance. Along with discussing the background for my "White Like Me" entries, here’s some thoughts I had for the audience...

"Because it is MLK day, I guess the main theme should be the place of race in SL... Second Life probably offers the widest variety of avatar choices, including race, so you really can choose whatever ethnicity/race you like. There's even an African-American hairstyle slot, which I find interesting. [In] most MMOGs, you are pretty much stuck with the classic blonde elf type, or variations on that. And if they do have black or non-white avatars, there's very much a kind of toss-it-in-at-the-last-moment, Lando Calrissian sort of deal. (In my opinion.)…

"I just found out something quite interesting before this: right now, in SL, we have residents from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. [Along with 30 other countries! -- ed] So while we're mostly an American gang of folks, we'll see down the road different folks from everywhere, and not only will they also have their own questions about how they want to look in this world, but how they're going to be perceived, as non-Americans, in a mostly American world. So I think these kind of questions will come up more and more. And I guess a good question on this day is [to]wonder what Dr. King would think of this place, where people are really and truly not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

"Or are they, even here?"

"I think Dr. King would be both happy and sad by this place," says Nala Galatea, after Bhodi opens the floor for audience comments and questions. "I think he would be sad because most people I know here are white, with white behaviors and mannerisms. And things of culture, of any kind, are almost non-existent here. So while the opportunity presents itself to exhibit those things here, they aren't."

"As to whether this is a place... where people aren't judged by the color of their skin," Oneironaut Escher offers, "yes, it is, if people choose not to reveal that information. Also, we aren't judged for things like body type, ability or disability, smell."

"Don't you feel that there is still a class distinction of those who are more creative or knowledgeable?" Rikoala Jack asks me.

"It's definitely true that the most creative folks in here tend to be seen as elite," I say. "Sort of like how Jefferson envisioned a natural aristocracy. On the other hand, I also know folks who are less creative from a scripting/building standpoint, but are still popular, because of their social skills/emotional intelligence. So maybe there's hope for them, too."

An African-American resident sends me this thought, via Instant Message: "Me being black in real life, always kinda made me wonder what it was like to have straight hair or blue eyes. When I came across Second Life, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see how life would be that way."

Someone else privately sends me another pointed IM, which I relate to the audience: "What you have here is a group of white bread, Caucasian middle class people, who are going to discuss race relations, in Second Life. Pfft. The people who do not fit that description in this crowd could be counted on one hand, less than one hand."

Lita Kothari boos the statement. "Just because someone is white," says Baccara Rhodes, "does not mean they have not been subject to another prejudice."

"I was targeted in school FOR BEING WHITE," Huns Valen says. "So don't try to go 'pfft' to me."

"I am disabled," says Lyra Dawn. "I can relate to real life prejudice even though I am blue-eyed blonde-haired."

"I think it's a valid point," says Bhodi. "I think we need to own that we are probably mostly white middle class folks talking about race... but that white middle class folks NEED to talk about race. We are largely responsible for racial tension in this country."

"The people who let racial tension become an issue are the people who make it an issue," says Nala.

"Let's not demonize Caucasians," Huns tells Bhodi. "people from every race have contributed to this [problem]." Bhodi answers that this isn't her point and somewhere in there, ALEXIA Noir cries out, "I just want you all to know I love everyone!!!"

("Oh boy," says Rikoala, "here we go.")

This goes on for time, veering in several directions. "Well, anyway," I finally say, "back to Dr. King. Maybe a vote: would he consider Second Life a step in the right direction, or not, or neither?"

I count one No and two Maybes, but the overwhelming majority vote "Right Direction".

"I believe that he would," says Apex Titan, "but I also believe that discrimination will always exist."

"I think it would all depend on which crowd in Second Life Dr. King talked to," says Beryl Greenacre. "There are so many different, disparate groups here in SL."

"Bear in mind," says Khamon Fate, "that he might also see all this as a waste of our time."

"I would guess he'd tell us to get off the computer and out into the streets!" says Bhodi Silverman, agreeing.

I point out that Dr. King was a fan of the original "Star Trek", and even convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on the show in her role as Lieutenant Uhuru. ("Can you imagine Dr. King watching Star Trek?" I say, trying to picture the great man with his tie loose and his polished shoes off, sitting with his family and friends in front of the Technicolor RCA, offering commentary when the occasion warranted. "I believe," he opines to Ray Abernathy, "that lizard fellow is going to bash poor Kirk upon the head!")

So if he found value in a show featuring a multiracial cast on alien adventures in artificial worlds, I suggest to Bhodi's audience, surely he’d perceive some merit in all this.

Lita Kothari pictures him playing Second Life. "I think Dr. King would change his avatar color almost daily."

"And be named Martin Romulus," Khamon Fate adds.

Posted at 03:00 PM | Permalink


Very tired subject poorly dealt with. 4/10 See Me

Posted by: Cunzy1 1 at Dec 9, 2005 4:16:52 AM

Thank's for the very informative site, these sites are some I would recommend.

For Online Casino slots and online casino try this La Isla Casino, for more online casino slots and online slots try Slots Kings.

If Bingo is your thing try Bingo Online News for online bingo and internet bingo, internet casino slots and slots information to be found

on Slots Online News. If you like to play bingo online Red7Bingo is the best internet bingo to be found on a online bingo site. For online poker

we recommend Nett Poker. Street Slots is the leading site for Slots, Video Slots and Online Slots. Nett Casino have all the info on casino poker

and many other online casino games in a Norwegian Casino Portal about online casino. Craps is a game of fun and excitement, play craps in CrapsRoom.com

the number one website for online craps.

online casino slot machine online casino slot machine Hope you enjoy them.

Posted by: laisla man at Sep 3, 2007 5:02:13 AM

Thanks a lot for discussing this information, I do not know about anyone else, but I can totally use it.

Posted by: pandora charms sale at Apr 29, 2011 1:49:51 AM

In this modern and fashionable society, people are pursuing for tiffany jewellery cool, unique, stylish and innovative. Whether it is tiffany uk or fashion accessories all means a lot for modern society of today. Same is the case with trendy looking tiffany jewellery uk. When these are tiffany and co, the excitement just gets doubled. Most chic looking tiffany co jewellery are in fashion now. These are one of the favorite fashion accessories for men and women long time ago. If you have not yet tried links of London, it's time to own one and feel the difference it can make to your personality. These are just brilliant and fabulous links of london uk. They are most iconic and can provide you with a new feeling and enhance confidence. The quality of links of london sale is just superior to what you have dreamt of.

Posted by: tiffany jewellery at Jul 15, 2011 12:18:36 AM

Hello, good day.. Your article is very uplifting. I never believed that it was probable to accomplish something like that until after I read your write-up. You undeniably offered an excellent understanding on exactly how this whole system functions. Ill always return for more advice. Keep writing!You can see we store the tungsten carbide ring product, the quality is very good.

Posted by: tungsten carbide ring at Sep 3, 2011 1:41:52 AM