While choosing classes last semester, I contemplated if E-Black Studies would even be a class that was worth taking. Most classes I take center themselves on race, but in a traditional way; reading and writing about the issues. Even when discussing the details of the class with Dr. Nieves, I was under the impression that I would be reading, researching, and analyzing the internet and its content in reference to Race. Instead of just having a class where we analyze Race we end up having to leave it in a virtual reality. As we read and learn about the internet we all incorporate our lived experiences and how Race has affected us. When we think about how that fits in with the internet we begin to think about the disparities between people of color and Caucasians in life, but more specifically on the internet. Before we began to use Second Life we were creating a website, which we decided would be used to help empower people of color and to counter what resources are realistically available on the internet for them.
We have discussed many factors that affect the disparities within technology and race, but in Michelle M. Wright’s article the debate is brought up once again. Our class says that both factors are important, instead she argues that “the barrier, it seems, as it is so often, has less to do with race than with money.” For me, it is too difficult to separate the two factors; they are so intertwined that you cannot say one is more prevalent than the other. If the two factors could stand alone then issues like poverty within urban areas would not be so prevalent and the discrimination that causes it would not matter. The problem is that we, as Americans, want to believe that they are separate issues, when in reality they work together. Nothing is isolated.
Second Life opens another element of what race means in the internet and more so in cyberspace, that I had never thought about or been interested in. I am not the type of person to look into the internet and analyze it, which is why I thought it would be important to unpack the disparities the internet has from a scholarly lens. Second Life goes to the next level because it is a virtual reality. It is a place where people come and create an identity, either their own or an imaginary one. But then comes the component of how we create these identities. Second Life sells skins, which are bodies in distinct skin colors, and then also clothing that fits the respective ages and types of people. This idea that the creator of Second Life can give identities to others is outrageous. This means that whatever white man is sitting behind a computer designing all these types of people, skins, and attire has the power to represent anyone however he wants. In Wright’s article, Virginia, one of the interviewees, states that “we [Black women] have the education but we don’t have the power” exemplifying that even if you are educated it does not mean that someone else is not in control. People of color do not have the power when the vehicle is Second Life because that world is dominated by the white man. It is not only the white man, but a white world that has access to computers and time to invest in activities like Second Life as opposed to in the real world that most minorities have to live.
As we have also been ‘guinea pigs’ for this course at Hamilton College we have also learned how difficult it can be to gain support from the larger institution. The library has been a great support, but when you explain the mission and purpose of the class is something that this particular institution is not sure of what it means. Geert Lovin makes the argument that “the lack of compelling theory is not due to a narrow focus on the internet… it is due to a lack of cultural studies- oriented instruction at a university level… lack of institutional support and intellectual community (62)” which matches accurately with our own institution. We are giving e-Black Studies a meaning on this campus and we are using a space that “white America” can understand. Since most of our campus demographic is white, upper class America, it is not only good, but useful that we learn to use a venue or space that they are comfortable in. The advantage of using Second Life and creating an avatar is that fact that we are gaining awareness and knowledge about a “white space” that we would not normally use. My outer appearance in real life and in Second Life does not allow for much racial discrimination, but my interactions and thought process does set me aside from most within the dominant culture.
My experience in Second Life has been unexpected to say the least. I never thought I would learn so much about myself as a woman through a computer. The creators of Second Life do an amazing job at producing an environment that is for men; I have never felt as uncomfortable in my own skin until I used Second Life. Women are far more blatantly objectified in this alternate world than I am on a daily basis and then you still have to deal with feeling isolated because of physical appearance. Even though this experience might be my most surreal experience, I would never take it back. This course and creation has allowed me to look at this space and value what others deem as their own world and even begin to claim it as another part of mine.
 Michelle M. Wright, “Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black women, Technology, and Identity,” Frontiers Vol 26 No. 1, (2005): 50.
 Michelle M. Wright, “Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black women, Technology, and Identity,” Frontiers Vol 26 No. 1, (2005): 51.
 Geert Lovin, “Talking Race and Cyberspace: An Interview with Lisa Nakamura,” Frontiers Vol. 26, No. 1 (2005): 62.