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We Need To Talk About Racism On The Grid

Note: Plurk images have been moved to a mirror blog.

The man in this picture could be anything. He’s got fair skin and light eyes. His long hair are put into braids, and his cheekbones are prominent. Even if he didn’t match the race you think I said he was, he is that because I deem him to be.

He is me–as a male, in the grid. I created him to be more creole-looking than my female counterpart, which I still think doesn’t look that Caucasian to me. Before I donned a mesh head with either gender identity, my avatar resembled my grandmother–a creole woman who would probably cut her hair short and dye it bright red if she were the age I am now.

Even if I change bits of myself in the game, I carry my heritage with me. I know other black users who along with me, mix and match hair, eye colors, and skin tones. We don’t do it to escape–but some black users do. I don’t fault them for it because I understand the grid isn’t very tolerant of us.

Second Life has been used as a means of escape for so many people. In the end, though, we’re just that–people. It’s inevitable that things like civil rights would rear their head here after a while. Especially when you get incidents of users being silenced when talking about racism.


[removed image: the author attempts to get someone to understand how an atmosphere of intolerance is a terrible thing to have in SL. it doesn’t work.]

Even though irl I’m more fair-skinned than the average black person, I still see glaring examples of racism in Second Life. A search on Marketplace and in SL with various slurs will show that vulgar names to describe blacks will outnumber other slurs by three times as much. The result is the same whether it’s on Marketplace or in the grid itself.

Here’s the Second Life search results. And here are the results for Marketplace:

With this alone, I could talk about what this indicates about our grid and what we value. Understandably, a large proportion of SL’s userbase is white. But does that mean we have to make others feel unwelcome?

Can we talk about how blogger Kaelyn Alecto celebrates Sinterklaas every year and posts pictures of blackface on her Plurk timeline, and then defends it when users get outraged? Or how about the practice of sexualizing Native attire? What about slavery fetish sims based on race? What about the fact that event themes by and large seem to be slanted towards Western views?

If you think what I’m bringing up is personal, it’s because our userbase is small, and it’s getting smaller by the year. We can’t afford to ignore this subject anymore–not when there are less and less users in SL as time goes by. There’s less places to run from the issue of equality on the grid when you keep seeing the same people over and over.


[removed image: Harlow and a group of friends ridiculing the author for being upset at someone derailing a talk about racism, when they thought she wouldn’t see the thread. The image is hosted on a mirror blog.]

Yesterday, Whiskey Monday posted a plurk thread describing getting in trouble for being racist on her job when she wasn’t. Several black users spoke up and assured her she did nothing wrong. But one user spoke over them, a white male, and after a while his tone was nothing short of aggravating.

I challenged others to turn their attention towards the grid if they really did care about minority voices. What followed were some pretty terrible conversations (see the first picture of a discussion), where in the end I lost my temper and ended up telling off the more daft users of the thread. Then, someone else posted pictures of cats in the thread to aggravate me even further. So the picture above stemmed from that.

Why do that when someone’s trying to address racism? Oh, right. Because you think they’re overreacting.

Then there was someone jumping in the thread when they thought myself and another user were misgendering a trans male. Even after an apology and explaining I just wasn’t aware, I was told my words were “linguistic violence”. Hey–remember we were talking about racism? No, I understand. You want to latch on to anything in order to avoid it.

So I was told to tone down my message. Make it easier to digest So, I gave it a shot.

[removed image: the author attempts to change her argument approach, to find it doesn’t seem very effective.]

Turns out, it doesn’t work. When people don’t want to listen, they won’t listen. But doesn’t mean the problem goes away.

I’m sorry if you’re reading this and think that white privilege is expected to be a cross for you to bear. It isn’t. ALL privilege is for people to defeat by stopping and considering where others are coming from. Not laughing at them when they’re upset and hurt. Not focus on yourself and continue to feel persecuted when they apologize and say they made a mistake in their pronouns, and ignore their complaints about unequal treatment. How could you? Especially if you’re a Jewish or queer user, you know know damn well by now what another minority is talking about.

I get it. It’s a hard subject to talk about. But I’m sure we can start with something simple:

Ban the search of slurs, any slurs, in SL, just like LL has stopped the search term for “casino”. They did it with skill gaming because it meant getting into legal trouble. But the ToS also prohibits hateful behavior. Can we start with this measure? It would begin the process of making our grid a more tolerant place.

Second Life, you aren’t as great as you make yourself out to be.

Please leave your comments in the thread. Remember to keep them respectful. Thanks.

PS: don’t leave comments being upset about me sharing how callous this community is. You put yourself in that hole by being a bully.


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  1. Harlow Heslop

    Screenshotting my private plurk for your own personal agenda Cake? You just keep on keeping it classy over there. I would request you take it down, but we know you better than that.

    • aemeth

      Yep, because I think it’s high time people see how two-face people, including you, were getting just because the subject of racism was too much for you to deal with.

      How weird when you live in Louisiana. Did it hit too close to home?

      But now? I’m actually MAKING you talk about it. You can’t run from this anymore. And you can’t giggle and laugh and make fun of anyone behind their back.

      • Harlow Heslop

        Aemeth. My plurk had absolutely nothing to do with you. Absolutely nothing. I saw that my friends on my timeline were all having a really grumpy, testy, bad, day. I plurked saying we needed some kittens and glitter cause everyone was in a bad mood. You are the one, who took my words, and literally twisted them to fit your own personal agenda. I have never once, under any circumstance said anything two faced or racist. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people who have known me long enough in Second Life who can back me on this. Can I get a fucking witness?

        • aemeth

          That’s so weird, because that’s not what you said in that picture. You were laughing at my anger–which was totally justified, and sided with people who were trying to derail what I was saying. That’s just as bad as anyone defending the privilege you benefit from that enables you *to* laugh.

          I get you’re embarrassed. I also get you don’t want anyone to publicly realize you joined in on the bullying. But enough is enough.

      • Harlow Heslop

        I’m embarrassed? Really? I’m thinking you should be embarrassed that you had to stoop as low to screenshot something that had absolutely nothing to do with your attacks on others to try and prove your illogical point. It’s pretty low when you have to name and shame & take screenshots of people’s personal timelines in order to try and build yourself up and prove your point. It was a low blow Aemeth. It’s really a shame.

        Btw… my time in Louisiana was an absolute joy. I love how you tried to use that against me. It’s a shame you can’t. If it hit close to home, it’s because it became my home for four years, and I loved everything about my time there. Quit trying to twist my experiences and my words to fit your argument. It’s not making you look good.


        • aemeth

          I don’t think I’m the one who should be embarrassed here. You crying to people who won’t join you in private messages on Plurk for them to “discipline” me, now that’s embarrassing.

          Because those same people? You tried tearing them down once. Karma is a bitch.

      • Harlow Heslop

        You are literally pulling things out of your ass and making them up. You make zero sense right now. You show me where I asked anyone to “discipline” you and then we’ll talk. Quit making shit up Aemeth. Seriously just stop. I’m starting to become embarrassed FOR you.

        • aemeth

          I know you have to scramble right now. Tell you what–you’re going to take a time out and think about what you did. You can come back when you’ve thought about it a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

          Also–you talking about hating Trump? Yeah. You’re kind of enabling that same hate by what you’re doing. Just pointing that out.

  2. Krisyka

    Hi, Second Life has this amazing thing called JIRA that you can submit your request to that would be far more useful than a blog post on the subject matter of getting those particular words out of the search terms. I agree that they can and should do something about them.

    As for the groups, well, people can be disgusting creatures and you can’t really do much about that, free will being what it is. I find it best to ignore them, as they don’t impede on my little bubble, but you might be more inclined to report them and see if you can get LL to do something about them. If so, I do wish you much luck as LL hasn’t been the most reliable these last few years.

    I think appreciating heritage, both your own, and that of others, is an important thing. We don’t move forward at all when we place one above the other. Any privilege I might enjoy or experience, by being blonde haired (most of the time) and blue eyed, is often shaded by my biracial child or my low income, because well, again, people can be disgusting creatures. All I can do is raise mine to be strong and persevere against those who might try to place her at a disadvantage.

    Referring to yesterday’s plurk, where you didn’t appreciate my diverse kitten basket, I think it would be great to see an event that featured and celebrated the black community in SL. You should totally tap into that community and see what you can pull together. There’s a lot of designers, some really good, who would probably love to come together for such an event. Talent should be showcased, so make it happen, and if you want to make it about black appreciation, do it, it’ll be your event and no one can dictate or argue with you about it.

    • aemeth

      I know you were posting them too, but Cryssie started that to piss me off. When I’m talking about something serious, it really smacks of being hateful and derisive. I get she doesn’t want to see it that way but I took nothing but ridicule for what I was talking about, away from that. To me it meant that racism is not important to her–and that means she’s intolerant, to me.

      If she wants to have a conversation with me about it, she can. Thank you for being brave enough to talking about it with me. No one else seems to be.

      • Krisyka

        I have no issue with a calm and civil conversation where both parties can give their opinions, share their experiences, and even agree to disagree on some things, while still maintaining their composure. Calm and civil doesn’t mean pandering to anyone, nor does it mean bending over for someone else, it just means being open to what someone else thinks.

        I couldn’t actively participate in yesterday’s plurk, because it was anything but calm and civil. So that being said, thanks for supplying another place I could express some feelings on the matter.

        • aemeth

          Yeah, I get that my temper really went off on some people, but i think the ganging up that’s happening with Harlow and company right now is really shitty. It’s being complicit in the fragility that is her privilege, which she has yet to even address after me mentioning it to her. She can’t bring herself to self-assess… I can. And in that respect, she’s not welcome until she’s willing to make a change.

          • Krisyka

            Well, your temper is ultimately your business, I get to choose to deal with it or not. As far as your interaction with Harlow, that’s not my business. I can’t and won’t dictate to another person how they should feel. I can offer my opinion, I can offer information, but what they choose to do with either of those things is beyond my control.

            I get what it’s like to be passionate about a topic and have it feel like you’re speaking to a wall. Sometimes you have to change tactics and come at it from a different angle, and see if it works any better. I find that some people aren’t willing to look past their preconceived notions, while others are very open to another point of view. The trick is figuring out which one is which and then approaching it in the right way with the right amount of gusto.

          • aemeth

            Civil definitely works with you. Others? I tried that earlier (last plurk image) and it didn’t work. My reasoning got exaggerated. At this point, not sure what to do. This was sort of a last-ditch effort to make this issue more public. The plurk references were so that people can see what others talk like when they think no one is looking, along with the mob behavior they exhibit when it happens.

  3. PrincessAndrea Usbourne

    I have no idea what is going on with Harlow and IDK who Aemeth is and I’m prolly speaking too soon, but I assume this was written by Juicy Bomb (chelle) and if that’s the case, I agree 100% with black representation in SL as I’m a fan of the more curvaceous mesh bodies and am dying for a REAL mesh head for black women, not just a white shape with a black skin over it. What kinda caught me off guard was how Juicy Bomb says her avi isn’t white. That had me come a screeching halt as that avi is as white as they come. I am guilty of having a white avatar while in SL but I have corrected this by using mostly black avatars now in my blogs and photos. They show up better in bright windlight anyway. But this page isn’t known for drama and arguing so I’m gonna go back and reread all this with some popcorn.

    • aemeth

      That’s okay! I always felt my av wasn’t, but I get that it can be interpreted as that! Thank you for commenting!

  4. Cajsa Lilliehook

    Your suggestion that Second Life® ban racist search terms on the marketplace is a good one and you are right that they have the capacity to do so. Unfortunately, your suggestion will be, at best, ignored, or worse, discredited, by the method you used to make your case. You have made this personal, attacking people by name, using screen shots to net more people to shame, shaming them for the sin of not taking you seriously enough or not prioritizing your priorities. But now, no one is talking about your message, only about your methods.

    • aemeth

      It’s not just shaming, they were bullying. I explained what was happening was being done to derail what I was explaining about racism. In a separate thread, I saw that Cryssie was saying she was doing it specifically to make me angry. Congregating in Harlow’s post after that… I had enough. It’s despicable to me the way they’ve acted.

      While you’ve been so busy to point out my words outside of the original subject of racism, you’ve also been busy commenting in various threads about the same thing. And not all of your words are that great either. Kind of the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

  5. Eclectic

    Ameth you really are reading way more into some plurk because you are angry and hurt. I get it but please take a step back and re read things when you are calm and you will realise that you are lashing out at the wrong people

    • aemeth

      Thank you for expressing what you think, Eclectic! (Although I don’t agree with you since you’re commenting in other people’s threads just as much about it)

  6. Kesseret

    Im surprised they (LL) dont already ban or remove racial slurs and other derogatory language in search and marketplace (when its brought to their attention re marketplace stuff). LL is really a bunch of extreme liberal touchy feely types and they usually get on that quickly.

    • aemeth

      Hey Kess, thanks for stopping by and giving your two cents on this.

  7. Blaise Glendevon

    Those of us tuned into social justice know that you get more crap for asking people not to be racist than for actually being racist on the internet. So, I salute you for speaking your peace. As a First Life Latina, I can also speak to the exhausting nature of hyper-sexual Latina stereotypes in SL, as well. I can only assume they’re being perpetuated by white people wearing our cultures like a costume. There seems to be a lot of that in SL – men dressed up like the most degrading female stereotypes to get their kicks and white people who roleplay the most degrading stereotypes of hypersexualized, cartoonishly virile black bucks for same. Not to mention the outright minstrel show shenanigans of some ‘urban’ bloggers and designers. In a world where we can be anything, it seems like some people put very little thought into the real world consequences of what they present themselves to be.

    • aemeth

      Thank you for giving your input!

  8. STARVED Magic

    i expect you will get lots of comments concerning this post. Here is another one. I have been in second life for almost 8 years, and honestly i have not encountered blatent racism. Maybe I am naive. I go to clubs like anaconda, for the music. I love all kinds of different music.

    I agree with you, that we need to change some of the wording on marketplace. I am fat in real life, and know what it is to be harrased, for being different. My second life avitar is a bit heavier than the normal one.

    I wish I could say that things will change,but some people will always be assholes, you can not change them, unless they want to be changed.

    Good luck

    • aemeth

      Hey! Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate your input.

  9. Ygrey Auer

    I just want to say somethings about one of the results of your search to avoid misunderstandings:
    Los colegas del Kike means Kike’friends. Kike is a name in Spanish, the diminutive of Enrique, and it has nothing to do with this problem.
    Please, before run to ask LL to block some links, don’t forget the world is so big and false friends do exist in any languages.

    • Aemeth

      Hey there, thanks for pointing this out!

  10. Sara Elise

    I haven’t dealt with blatant racism in SL but once in several years, but I do agree that there is a lot of under-representation of minorities on the grid. Is that an SL fault? I can’t say that it is, but I would love to see more of a presence from people of different backgrounds from the creator’s side and a lot more of an inclusive nature. I try to keep a lot of similarities between my avi and my RL image, but it’s really hard for people of color to really find what they’re looking for, while others have a plethora of options. So, creators could really take diversity into consideration.

    As far as LL removing derogatory terms from SL? it would be logical. I do think if more people were to be vocal in a mature manner, then progress could be made. The world, and it’s flaws, are ever changing and are capable of improvement with the right efforts.

    Thank you for this piece. I hope more people understand that everyone’s perspective may not be the same, but to be open minded about receiving such perspective from others. I’m glad you stated what was on your mind.

    • Aemeth

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  11. Alia Whitfield

    thank you for starting this dialogue, for speaking from the heart and sharing your experiences. i’ve always felt it was completely uncool how people of color are marginalized, excluded and fetishized on the grid (and elsewhere, of course) to the point of shameless blatancy. i’ve known many who, though black in real life, choose to represent themselves as white in-world — not to escape being black but to escape the attitudes associated with being seen as black. or because they simply can’t look the way they want to; to some, pretending to be white is less offensive than pretending to be a whitewashed attempt at black.

    whenever somebody speaks out about something personal and important to them, there will be people right nearby to tell them to hush up, that it’s not happening, that they’d do better by buffering their upset so it’s not so hard for people to hear it. these are people who will latch onto the smallest flaw in your phrasing and try to widen it into a legitimate hole as if you can debunk racial oppression as a fictional concept. those people are self-important, ignorant fools who would turn a blind eye to suffering before bothering themselves with it, but are generally the same who would demand immediate action in the face of their own offense. they will excuse this by calmly informing you, as if you’re not smart enough to know already, that not everybody cares about the same things — as if what you’re upset about is no more important than your musical tastes, your hometown loyalty, your favorite color, and it’s just a difference of opinion that has you upset. where i’m from, we call them hypocrites. they are the willfully uneducated. they are lazy, self-indulgent, part of the problem.

    it’s nobody’s business to tell you how angry you should be. it’s nobody’s place to tell you that your words are ‘too aggressive’ when you are fighting back against bullying, when you are fighting for your rights and — because they are irrevocably connected — your very life. you should never have to ask permission to demand equality; they certainly won’t.

    i know that sometimes using your personal experiences to explain why racism is such a harmful practice means you are digging deeply into a very vulnerable and emotional place. i want to thank you for that and tell you that, regardless of the trolls in this world, there are many of us who hear you and respect what you’ve been through. i want you to know that it is not time or energy wasted; i admire you for the piece of yourself that you’ve shared with us and i’m not alone.

    • Aemeth

      Okay this comment was extremely touching and actually made me want to cry. Thank you so much. I felt very alone and abandoned in writing this–I lost friends that I thought were previously cool, a lot of people either stayed silent or withdrew to keep their money flow going and friend count up. It really hurt, even when I knew I was in the right. Thank you again for this message. It means a lot to me.

  12. Delani Gabardini

    Hi all
    I am amazed that there is racism in SL – what is wrong with people. I am Buddhist and firmly believe we are all one – whether we have dark skin, light skin, animal avatars etc. We are all people – caring people behind the avi. I run a Buddhist sim and we have every nationality, race etc there and I love the diversity – it brings us closer together. I guess I am color blind – thank goodness. Love to all and may the misguided shape up or leave SL

    • Aemeth

      Wow I love that! Where can I visit you guys? Do you have an lm?

  13. princesskalika

    Thank goodness someone is speaking about THIS! gosh, how many times does someone have to be treated like garbage in sl no matter where they go, just because my skin is African (i will not say black. i am not black. people in blackface are black) when my sister or i bring this up people treat us like we are scum. we are not the ones creating this, we are just the victims of this. in secondlife we have been called the worst names and treated in the worst ways. and it still does not make sence why. we are targeted and Persecuted and then are told to shut up. we are not allowed to speak or protest. but it is a very big wrong they are doing and someone MUST stop this from being allowed. lately we are called niggers in voice, at outings. no one says or does anything about it. and if we speak then WE are the ones mistreated for it. my sl charactor is pushed around and mistreated because of my color. they want me to feel ashamed about being the color i am? they have another thing coming. thank you for bringing this up. the people who were so angry at you for posing pictures of there words must be very ashamed of there Behavior, otherwise they would not have been so angry to have others see what they said.

    • Aemeth

      Hi princesskalika! Thank you so much for stopping by and giving your perspective, I really appreciate it!

  14. kenyon2016

    Stereotyping happens. Is it fair? No. Muslims blow up, Blacks are lazy and get angry if you point it out. Asians are bad drivers but smart. Offensive as hell. But it exist. Mostly because people don’t take the time to get to know people. They judge books by the cover without opening the pages.

  15. Sparkles

    This is months late. But I just stumbled on this post. I literally had no idea you could use those words in marketplace listings. I’ve never, ever searched for them because no one should use them. That needs to change. Now.

    As for the over sexualization of native wear, well yes. But so much is over sexualized in second life that I’m not sure where to start with that. It’s gotten to the point I wish I could search marketplace using the terms “Not sexy” or something. Just to routinely find the truly beautiful gowns and stuff that are out there but hidden under the plethora of “How low can you go” tops, pants and dresses.

  16. Ashlyn Voir

    I am aware this is an old post, but I’ve been searching about racism in Second Life and found no real mentions of it being a problem much like real life. I find when I switch over to a white avatar, people seem a little more friendlier and more open to chatting. Not all the time, but I’ve gotten more people approaching me using white or Asian avie than a black one. People will purposefully ignore you if you play a black avatar in-world. Even worse are the people who act strangely toward you when they find out you’re black in real life. Even on Flickr, I’ve noticed less likes on photos with my black avie than white one. I wish more people would realize how awful SL is towards us blacks and it’s irritating when people will ignore me just because I am black when I want to experience SL like the whites do.

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