Angela King was 110% racist. I say over 100% because she was also part of a skinhead gang, and not just internally racist, but openly, violently and aggressively racist too. Some people are closet racists; only saying their real thoughts/feelings around their trusted circles. But skinheads are outright about it, and gangs are an open and constant threat.
She grew up that way. She was part of a skinhead gang, and it was all that she knew and understood well into her adulthood. In Meeting A Monster, you were part of her pivotal experiences. When she was a child she was bullied, ostracized and isolated until she stood up to the biggest bully of all. Then overnight after standing up to the biggest bully, she became the biggest bully, and people wanted to be friends with her. She now was part of a clique. She was no longer ostracized. She was part of something.
People began to know her for her aggression. They either feared or loved her because of it. Her anger consumed her, and was what people expected of her. She was always part of groups, and not lonely and ostracized ever again. But like in any cliques and groups, there is a lot of social pressure.
Her room was depressing, very baron with the walls and floor tattered and worn. From her room you could tell that she grew up with nothing. She grew up poor, like many that are drawn away from education and into gangs. The town was rural and poor. It was a predominantly white town and area. It was easy to not understand diversity because they didn’t have any. For at least 8 years she was part of the white power movement.
At some point she went to jail. In jail, African-American fellow inmates were nice and helpful to her, and even tried to befriend her. Initially she was very disoriented and confused. Over time, she got to know these women and became close friends with some of them. They only showed her understanding and kindness, whereas she was in habit of showing them nothing but hate. Through this she came to realize that maybe she was actually the monster, not people of color.
When she was out of jail, she found and joined a support group of racists and skinheads trying to reform their thoughts and ways. They burned their confederate flags and paraphernelia. They met up and talked things out in a safe environment with trusted people who could understand.
She’s still alive, and very outspoken about her story, changed perspective and ways. Her story was fascinating. This VR exhibit was only 9 minutes long, but thinking back it feels like it was 90 minutes long, like a movie; the kind of movie that really impacts and stays with you. But why? I think because viewing a story via VR really is immersive. Seeing her perspective directly from her shoes felt like a richer and deeper real-life experience. I hope that as many people as possible can experience VR stories like Angela’s in the future, because I think it would drastically increase empathy for others. Empathy from fellow inmates is what freed Angela from a world of pure anger and hate, and maybe empathy is what can free us all of our own indiscretions, fear of the unknown and misguided anger.
Meeting A Monster was created by filmmaker Gabriela Arp, and key collaborators were Oculus VR for Good and Life After Hate. It was shown at Tribeca 2018 Immersive, Virtual Arcade – Cinema 360.