mixed-race avatar

The many faces of race research

by John Goddard
The technology to turn oneself into a mixed-race avatar might be confined to movies, but Brian Banton plays with racial manipulations of himself online.

As a York University graduate student, he explores questions of racial hybridity as related to corporate design. Much of the work is obscurely theoretical, Banton says. “But I also want to be playful. (Mixed race) is a serious issue but I don’t want to be heavy-handed.”

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(York University graduate student Brian Banton, who is half-Scottish and half-Jamaican, used an online tool to manipulate his race. The real Banton is top centre.)

Banton was born in Brampton, the offspring of a Scottish-born mother and Jamaican-born father. When visiting his mother’s family, he feels black, he says. When he’s with his father’s family he feels white. He calls himself “mixed” and “biracial” and “just myself,” but he also admits to a low-level underlying anxiety. People have guessed him to be Italian, Greek, Arab and South American, he says, never half-Scottish half-Jamaican.

“There is comfort in being explicitly part of a community,” Banton says. “I’m in this middle space, not fully committed to one side.

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