How racism exists in Science Fiction… I bet you didn’t see that one coming

mars attacksRace is an issue that has divided populations for generations. Skin pigment and heritage, two irrelevant physical characteristics, have caused more hate and discomfort in this world than almost anything else. There has been a trend towards acceptance in recent years, and on the surface, the crisis of racial discrimination appears to be dying out. However, discrimination is a tricky beast; it rears its ugly head even in seemingly innocuous forms. Through games, literature, and many other types of media, “fringe” racism often seeps through.

In a field such as Science Fiction, the question of what actually defines “race” emerges. Racial issues are prevalent even in the widely popular online game World of Warcraft (WOW). In this game, several real-world groups of people are mirrored in cripplingly bare-bones stereotypical forms. These representations, specifically the caricatures of Jewish, Native American, and black-Caribbean peoples, are damaging to these contemporarily marginalized groups. These depictions- especially considering the fact that the main player is depicted as a white human with “Western” characteristics, portraying “Western” ideals- demonstrate a degree of “othering”. When depicted in a virtual setting, this racism takes a far subtler form. Many would questions whether this identity appropriation is actually damaging to the marginalized groups in question or not. I had never considered “alien”, or “invented” groups to factor in to a worldview of race. I have recently begun to notice myself becoming more critical of media containing images of “made-up” groups of people. Thinking about the T.V. shows that influenced me as a child, the heroes would often take the form of a Westernized human being, where as the “bad guy” would take an alien shape. My favourite shows were The Powerpuff Girls and Power Rangers; in these shows, good VS evil very rarely strayed from the path of human VS non-human. From the time I was a young girl, the trend of categorizing based on attributes different than my own was being ingrained in me.

No matter who the perpetrator, or what the cause, the effect is always horrific. Skin colour does not reflect what is in someone’s heart, nor is it grounds by which to persecute them. I have noticed that groups that have historically been forced to bear the brunt of discrimination tend to push back when given the opportunity, employing techniques of counter-racism. When a group becomes so “pro-group-a” that they become “anti-group-b”, they are stooping to the same level as their former oppressors.

Although not often discussed, and more than likely not even considered, the types of media people encounter on a daily basis influence the way humans think. From the time we are children, every single experience we are a part of shapes our worldview. What does this say about borderline racism found within many common (yet unexpected) sources? Every time a group is “othered”, it is damaging to their overall image and level of acceptance in the larger society.  Race is not an attribute by which to measure a person’s worth, and Science Fiction offers a unique perspective for readers to reflect on their own preconceived notions of what is to be seen as “other”. When roles are reversed, this notion becomes perfectly clear.

One thought on “How racism exists in Science Fiction… I bet you didn’t see that one coming

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  1. Of course, this is old news and long an object of study…. As early as the 50s writers such as Miriam Allen deFord and Philip José Farmer and later James Tiptree, Jr., explored colonial mentalities in relation to the other, sexualization of the other, etc. They deftly subverted standard pulp mentalities and plots.


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