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About the Project

A Virtual Experience

Actively confronting racism is a difficult task that is complicated by uncertainties about respectful ways to approach individuals belonging to groups that we ourselves do not belong to. For many, it is not easy to imagine being discriminated against to a point where even physical safety seems to be at stake.

In 1961, John Howard Griffin published a book entitled “Black Like Me,” which provided a true, detailed account of his travels through the Deep South after taking high amounts of a skin-darkening medication traditionally used to treat vitiligo. This change in skin color allowed him to experience life as a Black man, and many white southerners at the time resented him for exposing truths about how Black southerners were treated. Although Griffin did not believe his work would be of great interest to many, it is now considered a classic and is an international bestseller. This account from a white man who was treated horribly for doing nothing other than changing his skin color and walking outside impacted readers of all races. However, it was particularly impactful for white people, who were finally able to see this perspective and understand that the poor treatment of Black people was very real and not based in Black paranoia, as was often assumed. As a result, a number of white people who never understood the issues involved in racism were moved to take action.

Although altering skin color (darkening or lightening) comes with severe health risks and is not recommended by medical professionals, we still have an opportunity to expose people to the struggles of Black life in America. We also have the chance to focus on encounters that Black people experience in professional settings like hospitals, offices, and universities. Using 360˚ cameras, low-cost virtual reality headsets, and Black actors, viewers will see in these videos a hospital/university campus that looks very different from the norm. This art installation, which puts the viewer on the receiving end of race-related comments in a first-person perspective, will show what Black people's day-to-day lives on campuses like this around the country might be like.

*NOTE* All dialogue was scripted from personal experiences of Black members of Oregon Health & Science University.

Welcome to Black Like Me 360: A Virtual Experience. 

About the Project: Bio
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