December 6, 2021

White Actors Are Playing Black And Asian Characters In This Tech Company’s VR Diversity Training

A tech company that provides human resource training to large corporations has just been revealed to be using white actors to portray people of color within sessions about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

During the training sessions, there were reportedly scenarios where Child Protective Services removed a child from a Black family and in each case, white actors played the roles of the Black characters.

In other VR simulations, white actors played characters of Asian descent, and neurotypical adults played autistic children.

Mursion, a corporate education company that has clients including Coco cola and Starbucks, has created virtual reality simulations for clients where scenarios are conducted between the participant and an animated human avatar played by live human actors. 

According to a report by Buzzfeed, those human actors follow concise plans while also improvising where they use voice modulators and remote controllers to switch between characters.

This feature means that the actors, known as “simulation specialists,” often play characters of races and genders that are not their own.

In simulations viewed by and described to BuzzFeed News, Black avatars called out other characters’ acts of discrimination, asked participants to rally their companies to support Black Lives Matter, and practiced “supporting a traumatized employee through incidents of racial injustice.”

In a statement, the company told BuzzFeed News that such “open casting” is necessary 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.” 

Mursion, who reportedly employs some actors of color, said the avatars are merely “hypothetical characters.”

But dozens of activists, scholars, and people of color have spoken out about the simulations.

“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,” University of Michigan professor Apryl Williams, an affiliate researcher at NYU’s Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies told BuzzFeed.

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Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.

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