May 22, 2022

Blog @ Munaf Sheikh

Latest news from tech-feeds around the world.

Company Under Fire for Using White Actors to Play Black Characters in VR Training


“You can’t separate this from the history of blackface.”

Tough to Stomach

Talk about a bad look. 

A company that provides human resources training to businesses has reportedly been using white actors to play Black characters in its VR training. The kicker? They were racial sensitivity trainings, too. 

Mursion, a tech company that facilitates corporate education, utilizes VR avatars played by live actors to provide real-time simulations and examples of racial discrimination. However, a BuzzFeed News report revealed that the company was using white actors to play motion-capture Black characters in certain scenarios. 

One employee at Mursion told BuzzFeed that the use of white actors in these roles is “a really tough thing for a lot of us to stomach” — and, frankly, they’re right. 

Big Yikes

In fact, several employees told BuzzFeed that the white actors went as far as mimicking Black dialect. Some even told the website that a white actor used the n-word while in a role. Remember, this was supposed to be workplace sensitivity training. 

Mark Atikinson, Mursion’s CEO, acknowledged the company’s failure to hire Black actors in these roles.  

“We recognize that, as humans, we make mistakes,” he told BuzzFeed referencing the stereotyped characters. However, he denied knowing about the actor using the n-word. 

Digital Blackface

Now, the company is justifiably facing accusations of “digital blackface,” a phrase used to describe moments online when non-Black people use the voice and images of Black folks to express emotions and ideas. 

“You can’t separate this from the history of blackface, yellowface, and redface in this country, even if you have the most sensitive actors in the world playing these characters,” Y-Vonne Hutchinson, CEO of diversity and inclusion at consultancy ReadySet, told BuzzFeed.

So yeah, what sounds like a bleak parody is actually a grim reflection of our corporate dystopia. At the very least, now Scarlett Johansson has another place to get more acting roles if she wants. 

READ MORE: “This Is Blackface”: White Actors Are Playing Black Characters In Virtual Reality Diversity Training [BuzzFeed News]

More on racist tech: Twitter’s Image-Cropping Algorithm Was Shockingly Racist, Ableist, Ageist

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