Published on June 30th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Startup Tackling Systemic Racism With Virtual Reality Training
To understand another person’s life experiences, there is perhaps no better discipline than practicing empathy. But what if that is really not possible? How can a white person really feel and understand what it is like to be the target of racism? A step in that direction is the immersive experience of VR. Tom Vander Ark reports at Forbes about a virtual reality training software that places users into situations where they experience racism and harassment. Then, there is accompanying learning exercises that teach and enlighten based on the experiences. This type of empathetic experience has been used for sexual harassment training as well. VR experiences that enhance empathy for others can be a valuable and powerful tool to move all of us towards a better and kinder community.
Photo Above: Morgan Mercer
If you haven’t been the victim of racism, imagine stepping into someone else’s shoes and experiencing it first hand. Imagine being transported into the realities of harassment.
Morgan Mercer combined insights from these immersive experiences into a venture-backed startup, Vantage Point. As a female founder, fundraising was a challenge but the Los Angeles venture launched in 2017 with a few clients and a beta product.
By Spring of 2020, Vantage Point was taking on systemic racism in Fortune 500 companies through immersive virtual reality learning experiences on topics such as racial discrimination and gender inequality. Mercer closed a second seed round of funding as the pandemic struck. The company has shifted to a distributed VR model. Headsets are mailed to clients with a prepaid return postage label.
Participants have independent and collective experiences with facilitation to move conversations forward. After an immersion, participants respond to tough questions like, “Do you have privilege in that situation that a person of color might not?”
Mercer grew up bi-racial in North Carolina and remembers examples of blatant racism and microaggressions with undertones of racism in everyday life. Important lessons from her upbringing were how to have hard conversations with the people that you care about and how to determine your own values and beliefs. She explains the difference between existing within a belief system that you are born into and creating your own belief system based on your own values and lessons learned.