Today I had another one of those conversations and I thought I’d post it here as it was pretty interesting. I’m bolding the especially good bits since it’s so long. Pardon all the typos, this is as-it-happened:
[12:04] Rossie Joans: i’m also doing a project about race in sl
[12:04] Rossie Joans: could i ask you a few questions?
[12:05] You: OK.
[12:05] Rossie Joans: what race are you in real life, if you don’t mind me asking?
[12:05] You: I am white and Jewish.
[12:06] Rossie Joans: really?
[12:06] You: Yep. if you look at my profile you can see a picture of me in RL.
[12:06] Rossie Joans: ah, but your avatar looks black
[12:06] In Kenzo is Online
[12:07] You: My avatar *is* black.
[12:07] Rossie Joans: why did you choose to make it black?
[12:08] You: Well I noticed that you don’t see many peopel of color here, and I was curious about what would happen. I have been an activists for civil rights for a long time, and I studied African American history in college.
[12:08] You: I guess I thoght it was an appropriate alter ego.
[12:08] Rossie Joans: how interesting!
[12:09] You: A lot of peopel here dont’ have wings or fur in real life…
[12:09] Rossie Joans: do you think that people treat you differently?
[12:09] Rossie Joans: than they would if you were white as an avatar
[12:09] Rossie Joans: that’s true
[12:09] You: No, I don’t think they do, because ALL of our identities here are virtual.
[12:09] You: But I do think it says somethign about me, but it probably says difefernt things to diffeernt people.
[12:09] You: I get asked about it once in a while.
[12:10] Rossie Joans: have you noticed any gathering places that are particularly for avatars of a certain race?
[12:10] You: Not that I know of.
[12:10] You: There might be some by nationality, language, or religion though.
[12:11] Rossie Joans: mhm
[12:11] You: other than the skin, hair, and face, my avatar looks a lot like me.
[12:12] You: my husband looked at it was like “that’s so you!”
[12:12] Rossie Joans: haha!
[12:12] Rossie Joans: do you think that sl helps or hinders people who want to look a race other than white?
[12:13] Rossie Joans: like asian or indian, for instance
[12:13] You: Well it certainly helps me, if that’s what I’m trying to do…
[12:13] You: I knwo another avatar is who is asian in RL but is green in SL.
[12:13] You: but still has some features liek himself as well.
[12:14] You: I think it’s a larger exercise in controlling one’s identity.
[12:14] You: I’m not pretending to me black in RL by having a black avatar in SL.
[12:14] You: Avatars are liek an alter ego, not a reflection of reality,
[12:15] Rossie Joans: do you think they are a manifestation of what people would like to be? would you like to be black if you could be?
[12:16] You: I don’t think I would want to change my current idetity. I liek being Jewish. 😉 Since it’s not possible I’ve never thoguht about it. I think I carry a little African American-ness inside because I identify so much with their struggles.
[12:16] You: I’d liek to not be 100% white, though.
[12:16] You: I’ve often be embarrased to be white, especially b/c I live in the South.
[12:17] Rossie Joans: hmm, i live in the south (sc, to be exact), and i find it would be harder to be black than to be white
[12:17] Rossie Joans: seems like a lot of racism still exists
[12:17] You: “Harder” in RL or SL?
[12:18] You: No kidding. of course it does.
[12:18] Rossie Joans: in RL
[12:18] You: Would you rather be the opressor or the oppressed?
[12:18] Rossie Joans: i don’t know. i’d rather not think that a whole race is the oppressor.
[12:19] Rossie Joans: i’m actually hispanic, though… and that’s fine by me
[12:19] You: We enjoy white priviledge every day, whether we like it or not.
[12:19] You: Good on you. 😉
[12:20] You: You avatar doesn’t look hispanic. 😉
[12:20] Rossie Joans: well, thanks so much for the time! great information! i’ll stick around until 4 for rootscamp
[12:20] You: Great. I’ll be working on some projects around the space here.
[12:20] You: Hi Trevor!
[12:20] Trevor Steptoe: Hey
[12:21] You: We were just talking about having a non-white avatar!
[12:21] You: You are like, on cue. 😉
[12:21] Rossie Joans: haha, perfect timing
[12:21] Trevor Steptoe: I aim to please..
[12:21] You: So everyone asks me, I’ll ask you: what is your race or ethnicity in RL?
[12:22] Trevor Steptoe: Light brown.
[12:22] Rossie Joans: haha
[12:22] You: Cool.
[12:23] Trevor Steptoe: My family is from all over the place, but unless I’ve been somewhere sunny and my olive tan is in full force I look like your basic white guy.
[12:23] Krono Pro is Online
[12:23] You: I am 100% Jew. And white, on the outside anyway…
[12:24] Trevor Steptoe: Man, right now I barely see your avatars. I see Ruby’s shoes, and that’s about it.
[12:24] You: Do y’all mind if I post this conversation on my blog? It’s been really interesting.
[12:24] You: Ug, the lag….
[12:24] Rossie Joans: yeah, i wouldn’t mind at all
[12:24] Rossie Joans: could i get a link?
[12:24] Trevor Steptoe: Sure.
[12:25] You: It will be at lotusmedia.org in a few minutes. 😉
[12:25] Rossie Joans: so trevor how do you think race affects how people are treated in sl?
[12:26] Trevor Steptoe: I haven’t really seen anything race related, but I think like most people I just assume everyone here is a 36 year old white guy until I get more information.
[12:26] Rossie Joans: ha, me too
[12:26] You: And you’re probably right about 90% of the time.
[12:27] Rossie Joans: ruby, i love wonkette, by the way
[12:27] Trevor Steptoe: I try not to make assumptions based on avatars, but it’s hard to treat a little girl avatar the same as a goth dude.
[12:28] Rossie Joans: that’s true
[12:28] Trevor Steptoe: A friend, SL name: Chance Takashi, has several avatars [s]he switches between and has noticed a large difference in people’s attitude towards hir.
[12:29] Rossie Joans: really?
[12:29] Rossie Joans: i would LOVE to talk to her
[12:29] You: yes, as I was saying earlier: it says *something* about you, but probably something different ot each person. Based on their opinion of punks, little girls, penguins, etc.
[12:29] Trevor Steptoe: Yeah, when she’s a young girl people try to explain things a lot more. When he’s a big guy they ask him questions.
[12:30] Rossie Joans: does she ever change the color of her skin?
[12:30] Trevor Steptoe: I believe that her skin is always pretty pink, but she has non-human avatars, as well.
[12:31] Trevor Steptoe: I must admit that I was surprised when I followed the a link on a blog announcing RootsCampSL (I forget which one) and saw that Ruby wasn’t black.
[12:31] You: I put it in my SL profile as well.
[12:31] Trevor Steptoe: Isn’t, rather.
[12:31] You: I’m not trying to deceive anyone.
[12:31] Trevor Steptoe: No, I know.
[12:32] Trevor Steptoe: It’s just funny how we assume, despite logic. If someone was blue I wouldn’t assume much.
[12:32] You: Right! 🙂
[12:32] You: I think of it as an alter ego. I have always been interested in AfAm history (minored in it), etc.
[12:33] Rossie Joans: i was talking earlier with a few ppl who are white, but their avatars are asian
[12:33] Rossie Joans: i asked them if they’d like to be asian in real life
[12:33] You: Hm, that’s interesting.
[12:33] Rossie Joans: in separate interviews they both said yes because they’d like to have more history
[12:34] Rossie Joans: i thought that was interesting
[12:34] You: It is.
[12:34] You: Partially b/c I’m jewish, I don’t feel any desire to trade.
[12:34] You: But it’s a very strong identity of it’s own.
[12:34] Rossie Joans: right. it seems like white americans don’t feel as if they have a stong identity
[12:35] You: But also, as I said to Rossie earlier, “would you rather be the oppressor or the opporessed?” I’d rather not the be the oppressor…
[12:36] Trevor Steptoe: I don’t think I have a yes or no answer for that question.
[12:36] You: Its’ not liek we get to or have to choose, BUT
[12:37] You: I htink white peopel need to be more aware of their privilege.
[12:37] Trevor Steptoe: Well, in identity politics around sexuality, some people do get to choose.
[12:37] You: Somewhat, but most aren’t “choosing” to be gay, but rather expressing what simply feels like truly themselves.
[12:38] Trevor Steptoe: They don’t choose their emotions, but they choose their actions. See all the gay evangelical ministers, for example.
[12:38] You: My favorites.
[12:38] Rossie Joans: hahaha
[12:39] Trevor Steptoe: Race is trickier, but some people of varied heritages pass as white, either through omission or actively choosing to do so.
[12:40] You: True.
[12:40] Rossie Joans: true. i was telling ruby earlier that i’m hispanic
[12:40] Trevor Steptoe: I must admit that I’m weirded out talking about identity politics when I can only see Ruby’s shoes and I can’t see you Rossie at all.
[12:40] Rossie Joans: but a lot of people assume i’m white
[12:40] Trevor Steptoe: It must be hard being an invisible person. 😉
[12:40] You: Sorry, that does suck.
[12:40] You: But it’s also very meta!
[12:40] Rossie Joans: haha, yes, invisible people are opressed 😉
Here we are during this conversation: