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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Aliens Aren't Africans.

From the Vulcans and Klingons of Star Trek to the myriad aliens of Star Wars, to the Mimbari, Centauri, and Narns of Babylon 5, extraterrestrial non-humans, and human reactions to them, have been used to address racism toward racial minorities in the West, primarily the United States. Although borne of good intent, this tactic for combating racism is neither ideal nor the smartest option.

Firstly, the aliens with their corresponding 'race:'

From Star Trek, the Klingons bear some resemblance to common, Western portrayals of African cultures, and racist attitudes toward African peoples. In a lesser strain, they are linked a bit to the Middle East. The Klingons are darker skinned than most Vulcans, and all of the non-TOS Klingons are darker than what would be considered 'white' in a human sense. They are a highly physical species, strong, but brutish. Their facial appearance, from their multiple brow ridges to their teeth seem designed to further their brutish aspect. Culturally, several Klingon knives share a curved shape in common with Middle Eastern weapons. The jejtaj could be based on a particular Zulu blade. Additionally, the Klingons live to a degree in squalor and filth. And they are depicted generally as being barbaric--when following their own cultural norms.

In Star Wars, including the so-called Expanded Universe, George Lucas was justly criticized for practically stating that the Gungans are Jamaicans. Their ears approximate a common Jamaican hairstyle, and there form of speech--an odd variant of Basic--is strikingly similar to Jamaican English. The Gungans are more technologically primitive than humans, and are depicted as somewhat less than competent (and not only Jar Jar).

For Babylon 5, which seems in part a series designed to combat racism, Africans are represented by the Narns. Narns were formerly slaves of the Centauri (Europeans), and at the start of the series hold an enormous and irrational grudge against their former masters. However, even in this series whose goal is to strike a blow at racism, the Narn ambassador himself, G'Kar, refers to his own species as being the youngest race to Delenn (and the Mimbari as the oldest) and points out that Narns are the only ones of the five major races represented at Babylon Stations. These points basically state that Narns are less developed both culturally and genetically than the others; by extension, this suggests that Africans are less developed culturally and genetically than other human 'races.' Clearly racist. Oddly, the Narns share in common with Klingons a Middle Eastern substratum--through religion in the case of the Narn--along with their African base.

Although with a spattering of complimentary aspects to 'African' aliens, as a whole, these races get a pretty bad wrap. Compared with the 'Asian' aliens, who are frequently portrayed as more sophisticated than humans (commonly used to represent 'white' Westerners), a common theme for 'African' aliens is that they are more primitive and barbaric than humans and other races, occasionally even genetically. The highest levels of clearcut racism, BY THE AUTHORS, are towards the 'African' aliens.

[This is the second part of a four part series, concluding with an article on how these 'racial aliens' are used to address the concept of racism; this article is primarily to set-up how aliens are linked to human 'races,' while the last in the series will actually address the racism part. The next article will discuss 'Amerindian and European' aliens.]

Found this article interesting? Check out:
The Vegetarian Diaries.

The Roadmap to the Future.
The Roadmap to the Future--Africa.
The Roadmap to the Future--Asia.
The Roadmap to the Future--Europe.
The Roadmap to the Future--Latin America.

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Found this article interesting? Check out:
History: The Roadmap to the Future.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Africa.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Asia.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Europe.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Latin America.

The Science Fiction Channel + Technorium.
The Vegetarian Diaries + Biologeel.

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