Just Me

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Black Like Her

I do take time when I remember to read Hamlet Linden’s posts, which really try to put a thumb on the pulsesbeat of SL living. His columns are wonderful because of their relevance not just to SL but to FL as well.

Today’s story grappled with the proliferation of racism in SL – a very odd concept in a virtual world where anyone can look like anything (human or not) at any time and thus race, gender, appearance, nationality (even species!) should not matter.

One of the main appearance designers (clothes and skin) likes to test out his creations by having one of the more social citizens wear them publicly for a time and seeing how people respond to them.

Chip’s most recent creation was a black skin, very realistic and very beautiful. (Hamlet compared the appearance of it to Serena Williams, and I can see why – Serena is a gorgeous and strong woman, with a great deal of confidence in who she is, and this skin radiates those same feelings.)

While there was much positive feedback, there were also some very negative reactions from white SL’ers to the new skin.

Aside from the obvious racial slurs overheard in chat, Erika claims that some of the people who used to be her friends when she was a Caucasian blonde no longer associated with her now that she has been black a few months, and even her long-time friends sometimes say things like, “So when are you going back to being yourself?”

As if she is not herself right now?

Repeat after me: Appearance matters. Perception is everything.

Oh, we say it doesn’t and it isn’t, we maintain the feeble pretense that all we care about is who we are inside these mostly irrelevant bags of flesh and bone, but experience dictates otherwise. We can’t seem to separate body from soul when our personal lives are involved, when our little carefully constructed worlds are shaken against our will.

It’s not unexpected. But it’s sad and sometimes even shameful.

I hope one day we will all be as comfortable with each other as we pretend to be. Since it disconnects appearance from reality (leaving visible only the core -- the essence -- of a person's soul), the virtual world if anything should, rather than inflaming our embarassing prejudices and preconceptions, demolish such things and allow us all to connect even more deeply.

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