Talk about getting it wrong: A company that uses technology to conduct diversity training for major corporations has been using white actors to portray people of color in fictional scenarios where race plays an important factor, BuzzFeed reports.
The company, San Francisco-based Murison Inc., specializes in creating virtual reality and artificial intelligence simulations as part of its “mission to improve human interactions”, according to its website. But according to BuzzFeed’s article, that often has involved using real humans as part of the action. That’s where it gets complicated.
The simulations, created by corporate education company Mursion, are hypothetical scenarios between a participant and animated humanoid avatars. The avatars are played live by human actors, who follow detailed scenario plans and sometimes improvise. Mursion’s actors, called “simulation specialists,” work alone, playing all the roles in each simulation by using a voice modulator and remote controller to switch between characters. As a result, they often play characters of a race and gender different from 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.” One involved a scenario in which Child Protective Services removed a child from a Black family. In each case, white actors played the roles of the Black characters. In other Mursion simulations, white actors played characters of Asian descent, and neurotypical adults played autistic children.
Murison’s CEO told BuzzFeed that so-called “open casting” was necessary to its business model and also prevented Murison from putting its nonwhite employees in the position of having to constantly relive microaggressions or uncomfortable situations in simulations.
We know, it’s a lot. We already knew Silicon Valley is no Wakanda, that Black founders have a hard time raising venture capital and that artificial intelligence tech has some serious problems with race.
But it’s Friday, the holidays are coming and we hoped we could get at least the weekend to not think about any of it. Oh well.