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Amanda on Race

Page history last edited by Joe Essid 10 years, 1 month ago



 Race and Gender Switch

English 103

November 6th2008

Word Count: 1,084



Race is a way of identifying ourselves through appearance.  In the real world it is an inherited trait that cannot be altered, but in virtual worlds, such as Second Life, the color of one’s skin can by changed as easily and as frequently as changing ones underwear.  Though skin is very different in the real world compared to skin in Second Life the stereotypes and preconceived notions that are linked to race are present in both worlds.  This affects the way individuals initially interact with each other since j

udgments are made based on each person’s appearance until each person can learn about the other’s character.  Though, too often enough judgments on character cannot be made because people refuse to engage in conversation based on preconceived notions of that person’s appearance.  Acts of racism include ignoring a person because of his or her race to extreme acts of violence, and they occur both in Second Life and the real world.  Second Life is a virtual world where avatars that appear as animals are accepted as people so it would be thought that the color of an avatar’s skin would not cause conflict.  Though, Wagner James Au discusses how resident Erika Thereian was treated differently in a negative sense with acquaintances and close friends after altering the appearance of her avatar from a blond Caucasian woman to a dark skinned African-American woman, in his article titled The Skin You’re In.

            Rae Belgar, my avatar, was once a Caucasian female with large brown eyes, full lips, and a tall runway worthy figure.  Her hair was standard brown and neatly put up in a ponytail.  The clothing she wore was very cosmopolitan: black leggings with a contrasting fuchsia shirt and patent turquoise heels.  When Rae approached avatars they were generally very willing to talk, give interviews, and answer her questions.  For this project I had the intention of mirroring Thereian’s actions by changing my avatar’s appearance so that she resembled an attractive African-American woman in hopes of getting a dramatic reaction.  Although being referred to as an “n***** b****” (Au) or hearing remarks such as “’Great, they are gonna invade SL now’” (Au), which is what Thereian experienced, would have been hurtful it would have led to a stirring project and raised some pressing issues regarding racism in Second Life.  After changing the color of my skin I realized that Rae did not appear African at all, rather Rae appeared to be a dark skinned Indian woman.  I believe Rae appearing to be an

Indian woman was caused by her small pointed nose, light brown eyes, a thin upper lip, and long flowing hair.

            When Rae first began exploring Second Life in her new skin while wearing her original clothing I felt as if her fellow residents were ignoring her.  After approaching an avatar and complimenting his or her appearance, saying “hi”, or asking where she could find ‘cool’ clothing, all of the residents walked in the opposite direction or did not answer her.  I believed at first that these residents did not want to be bothered at the time and were occupied in other activities so ignoring Rae was not because of her race but because of other reasons that did not pertain to her appearance.  Though, after the third resident ignored Rae it is a possibility that her race had an influence on the way she was treated in Second Life.

Rae in her new skin being excluded by two other avatars.

            I assumed if Rae was being treated differently just because she altered the color of her skin I thought that it would be very interesting to see how she was treated if she was wearing a Sari, traditional Indian garb.  I ventured into an ethnic clothing store and purchased a detailed peach colored sari for fifty lindens.  It took time to put on the full ensemble since the sari consisted of several pieces, but once the whole outfit was in place I felt as if Rae looked like a beautiful Indian princess.  I felt that this ethnic beauty was more attractive than the original Caucasian Rae.  With this new appearance I was excited to explore, so I looked on the map and teleported to a random location where many avatars were gathered, and I ended up at a shopping complex.  Seconds from landing and seeing another avatar I was immediately ejected from that land.  I teleported back to the shopping complex, but before I could land I was ejected and banned from the land.  While in the surrounding waters of the island I received a local chat message apologizing for my banning and explaining that fellow avatars were bored.  Therefore I do not believe that banning was because of my new skin or dress.  A little discouraged I teleported Rae to virtual Mexico.  At the landing site I met a male avatar (who I shall call ‘Mexico Man’ for reason of confidentiality) who was very willing to talk after greeting him with a “hi” and a “welcome.”  I asked Mexico Man what he thought of my appearance and if I would fit in Second Life since I was new.  This question lead to the first time I was virtually hit on, because he responded with “I think it is very good!!! You look very good!!!”  We chatted a little more and then proceeded to look at the relics.  Mexico Man was kind enough to explain to me how the skulls were for the deaths day and their importance in real Mexican culture.  I met two more male avatars after teleporting to Svarga.  One of these avatar’s landed said “hot” and flew away into the land of Svarga.  I greeted the other male and we proceeded to have a conversation about being new to Second Life and what aspects we liked as disliked.  Like Mexico Man I also asked this avatar what he thought of my appearance, and he responded with “very nice, nice dress.”

Rae in her new skin and clothing.

Rae and Mexico Man.

Rae and the second male avatar.


            I thought that by wearing a sari Rae would receive a more negative response than if she just wore her original clothing, but from what she had experienced the opposite is correct.  By wearing a Sari men were more forward by complimenting her appearance and more people were willing to engage in conversation than if I just wore regular clothing and changed Rae’s skin.  By altering Rae’s race and making her clothing more feminine and ethnic Rae received more positive attention from male avatars, and this proves that race, gender, and clothing are key components in determining how people and avatars alike interact with each other.


Works Cited:

      Au, Wagner J. "THE SKIN YOU'RE IN." Weblog post. New World Notes. 23 Feb. 2006. 2 Nov. 2008 <http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2006/02/the_skin_youre_.html>.


Amanda's Blog Page



Comments (1)

Chris Forhan said

at 5:59 pm on Nov 4, 2008

Claim: These acts of racism are the products of stereotypes, which have been developed and past down generations, teaching people that the color of a person’s skin is a valid way of determining their character.
1) People are treated differently in Second Life
2) Avatar’s have different external attributes
3) Avatar’s skin color can be changed
4) Judgments are made based on one’s physical appearance
5) Stereotypes are present from generation to generation
6) Skin color influences the way people and avatars are treated
7) People are taught how to judge others
8) Character can be judged by the color of one’s skin
9) Racism exists
10) One’s skin color indicates who they are as a person

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