Black Like Us? Virtual Experiment Pushes Empathy Among Races

In 1961, journalist John Howard Griffin, a White man, published the book, Black Like Me.

He described his six-week journey throughout the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia, passing as a Black man. This was during a time when segregation was in full effect.

He explained the difficulties Black people faced and recounted his experiences in 188 pages of text.

Culture shock, indeed.

We often hear the phrase, “walk a mile in my shoes,” but Griffin  did it.

That theme carries on via a recent study, conducted by researchers from London and Barcelona, who teamed up to produce a virtual experiment aimed at destroying racial stereotypes.

Taking on the tasks with an interactive approach, the scientists offered the opportunity for participants to physically experience their bodies with different skin tones with the title, “Rubber Hand Illusion.”

With this, White participants watched a “dark-skinned rubber hand” being stroked on screen, while their own hand was stroked simultaneously. The synchronized movement caused participants to feel as if the Black hand was really theirs.

Along with two additional studies, “Enfacement” and “Full Body”, where Whites took on the features of Black people, the study concluded that women who embodied Black avatars became less biased against Black people while women who experienced the stimuli as White, or another ethnicity, showed no change.

The technology in this virtual reality experiment is fascinating, but do you think it will push us beyond dialogue and help us get rid of racial bias once and for all?

Check out more of the experiment, here.

Share your thoughts in the comments!