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Tech Company Criticized for "Digital Blackface" After Using White Actors to Depict Black Roles in Diversity Efforts

  • 1 yr ago

Pressured to do so largely after the death of George Floyd, a growing number of companies have applied multiple approaches to boost workplace diversity.

But a strategy by a tech company that includes using white actors to imitate people of color to boost its diversity efforts is causing some controversy.

A corporate education firm,  Mursion offers human resources training to some of the world’s largest corporations. The company is reportedly telling such clients it uses virtual reality simulations to help teach racial sensitivity. Mursion has supposedly produced virtual reality simulations for assorted clients where hypothetical scenarios are done between the participant and an animated human avatar played by live human actors. Those actors follow succinct plans while making up where they use voice modulators and remote controllers to switch between characters.

Based on simulations seen by and described to BuzzFeed News, Black avatars called out other characters’ acts of discrimination, asked participants to rally their companies support of Black Lives Matter, and practiced “supporting a traumatized employee through incidents of racial injustice.” Another plot had Child Protective Services remove a child from a Black family.

White actors played the roles of the Black characters in all the scenarios.

Mursion, which has some actors of color, defended its practice saying that “open casting” is needed to scale its business and to protect employees of color from having to just endlessly replay “the same cultural biases, microaggressions, and outright discrimination in our society that too many Americans suffer today.”

It added that its avatars are merely “hypothetical characters” that are not meant to stand in for “the entirety” of any culture, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

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