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Bird Box Bigotry: Virtual Reality Tech Allows People To Experience The Anti-Black Racism They Claim Doesn’t Exist

Young woman looking through VR headset in park

Source: Lorenzo Antonucci / Getty

Virtual Reality Experience Allows People To Feel Anti-Black Racism

There is a segment of gaslighting white folks who believe so staunchly in American piety that they deny that racism still exists.

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

According to MichiganDaily, Courtney Cogburn, University of Michigan alum and associate professor at the Columbia School of Social Work, has developed a virtual reality experience called 1000 Cut Journey that takes people inside the daily life of a fictional Black man named Michael Sterling. The program allows users to see and feel the racism we experience.

“I was trying to imagine a way that I could complement my scientific, empirical work with something that was more visceral or emotional,” Cogburn said. “How could I give a gut punch to people, to give them a reality check around where we actually are as a society?”

The benefit of virtual reality, Cogburn said, is that it enables perspective-taking, reducing bias. But in some cases, she noted virtual reality can become a kind of “trauma porn,” in which people feel good about feeling empathy.

Cogburn stressed her goal is to do more than simply encourage empathy. Instead, she said she wants her work to translate into actual anti-racist behavior.

“You simply feeling bad is not a contribution to society,” Cogburn said. “What I’m really pushing for in this work is, how do we think and act differently? How do we change the way that we analyze racial issues in society

What say you? Do you think that this type of VR experience could have a real impact on people dedicated to hating Black skin?


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