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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Aliens Aren't Minorities.

In the preceding articles, discussed were how aliens could be used as proxies for: Asians, Africans, Amerindians, or Europeans. Now all those groups will be discussed, and how these aliens relate to racism and anti-racism will be explained.

Seemingly as a response to the critique by some that science fiction was 'escapist' literature, modern science fiction is notable for trying to address current issues and their various facets. One of the most prominent of those issues is racism.

That so many science fiction stories and films not only address racism, but try to actively combat it is quite admirable. Especially considering the common reaction of the 'white' majority is one of being a 'silent majority.' The majority despise racism, but don't speak out against it or work to end racial discrimination. Exacerbating this is the fact that many non-'whites' don't have much solidarity. For instance, 'blacks' may join in with 'whites' in insulting Asians or Latinos, while people in those groups may join in with 'whites' in insulting 'blacks' and each other. Then there's the tendency of Asians to be racist among themselves (i.e. Northeast Asians looking down on Southeast Asians). And in rare cases there is contemptible racism towards 'whites' (as opposed to the much more common resentful racism towards 'whites'). Science fiction does a fair job at covering all of this. But, as will be explained, there are still flaws in science fiction authors' tactics.

The earlier articles which set a 'groundwork' of sorts, covered Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5. Although many other science fiction realms delve into racism, these are the stories that will be used here.

Anti-racism via alien relations began early on in Star Trek, with the Original Series. Spock was a frequent victim of 'speciesist' discrimination, subjected to many insults solely based on his being Vulcan.

In Voyager, B'Ellana Torres mentions being picked on as a child for being half-Klingon; racism is given as one of the main reasons for Torres' temper. B'Ellana once wished that her cranial ridges were less noticeable. Further showing how destructive racism can be, Torres initially seeks to alter the genome of her and Tom Paris' child so as to protect the child from the same insults Torres faced while growing up. Analogous to how many non-'whites' seek out 'white' spouses in the hopes that their children will be accepted as being 'American' or can pass as 'white.'

Star Trek Enterprise, in turn, deals with T'pol and Trip's Vulcan-human relationship. In this case, T'pol's mother states that if they had a child, that child would be a shame. After the Xindi attacks, there is speciesism on Earth; the Vulcans hide in their compound while Phlox faces bullies in a bar who try to intimidate him simply because he's non-human. (Somewhat related is the episode where Archer and co. travel to the Xindi colony and abduct the arboreal Xindi scientist who points out that not all Xindi are bad--an obvious link to the September 11 attacks and pointing out that not all Muslims are bad).

While the Star Wars films do not address racism directly--with an exception being the Imperial prison officer's reaction to 'prisoner' Chewbacca in A New Hope--the Expanded Universe potentially beats out Star Trek in this field. COMPNOR is a speciesist institution. Non-humans such as the Wookiees and Mon Calamari are enslaved by the Empire. Non-humans in general are considered as animals, and alien worlds lost their Senate seats soon after the establishment of the Empire. And even the Chiss look down on other species, a case of Asian racism. The Yevetha boil over into full-fledged genocidal speciesism. Meanwhile, the Gungans are just considered to be stupid, but not worth exterminating, by the human Naboo.

Babylon 5 plunges deep into the topic, actually pointing out how history is a large determinant of racism. The Narn hate the Centauri because the Centauri enslaved them. And because the Centauri were able to enslave the Narn, the Centauri hold contempt for the Narn. This parallels closely with many 'blacks' opinions toward 'whites,' and many 'whites' opinions toward 'blacks.' Similarly, humans and Mimbari have hostility toward each other due to the Earth-Mimbari War. Many Asians, and even some Americans, harbor great anger toward all Japanese based on Imperial Japan's aggression over sixty years ago.

While the use of aliens, and alien settings, is a 'safe' avenue for discussing racism, it isn't the ideal option.

Most poignantly is the fact that odds are an alien species would not be at the same level of development as a human. They would be either more developed, or less.

Aliens would probably not have the same neurotransmitter and hormonal levels as humans. They would thus be more or less aggressive or passive than humans, and would notably separate personalities and behaviors than humans.

Such is not the case for human 'races.' Although each human individual has slightly more or less mutations than other humans, and has varying hormonal and neurotransmitter levels than other humans--both within and between 'races'--all humans have pretty close to the same levels as other humans. All humans are quite similar in their physical composition.

And this is why using aliens--who would not be all that close to humans in intelligence and the way they viewed the universe--should not be used as proxies for 'races' of humanity. If science fiction wants to address and combat racism, they will have to be brave and address racism on either a human-to-human or species 'x' to species 'x' level. It is good that science fiction authors are trying to instill anti-racist stances in there readers and viewers.

Now they just have to be plucky enough to do it the proper, but hard, way.

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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