RACISM may be defined as: the Belief that Race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and abilities, and that racial differences produce an inherent Superiority of one race over another.
SCIENCE FICTION, with its brave exploration of Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities, can open our eyes to the Consequences of Racism, through storytelling inspired by Real-World conflicts — like Slavery, Civil Rights, and Immigration.
I, ROBOT (2004)
I, Robot sees Detective Spooner embarking on a puzzling case of suicide where he believes it was actually murder. By a robot. In this future society, robots are used as Slaves to humans in all facets of life.
In the year 2035, humanoid robots serve humanity, which is protected by the Three Laws of Robotics. Dr. Alfred Lanning (the now deceased co-founder of U.S. Robotics) leaves behind an interactive holographic message for Spooner — with clues to the cause of his death. Spooner discovers that the robot suspect, Sonny, is a specially built NS-5 with a secondary processing system that allows him to ignore the Three Laws. Sonny appears to show emotion and claims to have “dreams”.
In response to the right question, Lanning’s hologram informs Spooner: “The Three Laws will lead to only one logical outcome: Revolution.”
Significantly, Spooner (a Black Man) must overcome his prejudice and distrust toward robots by learning to trust Sonny, who helps him discover the true culprit behind a series of unexplained robot attacks that threaten to deprive humanity of Free Choice.
Introduced to the world of Marvel Comics by creator Stan Lee in September 1963, the X-Men were a team of teenage mutants, led by their teacher and mentor Professor Charles Xavier, who fought super-criminals and other mutants, led by Magneto, bent on the destruction of humanity. But rather than be a black-and-white battle between good and evil, the X-Men had a wrinkle: mutants were hated by the “normal” humans they defended.
“I loved that idea,” Lee said in 2000, as the first X-Men movie hit theaters. “It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time.”
“Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said in a 2017 video published by Marvel. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”
Although he was deeply influenced by the Civil Rights struggles unfolding around him in the 1960s, Lee was more of a chronicler than an activist. He was a good reflection of how the average American was awakened by everything that happened in the ’50s and ’60s.
By creating characters that looked and acted differently, Lee tapped into the struggles that readers of his books experienced every day. “Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window,” he explained a year before his death.
ALIEN NATION (1988)
Alien Nation is a Sci-Fi flick doubling as a sometimes-brilliant metaphor for the experience of Asian Immigrants in the United States. Set in 1992, the film details the arrival of Aliens on a derelict spacecraft. Genetically engineered slave labor of an unknown species, they are four million strong, and marooned off the coast of San Francisco, a port town famously rich in Asian diversity.
The story begins as a murder mystery and leads to the discovery that an alien drug is being introduced into the ‘Newcomer’ population through the agency of an upper class seeking to exploit them.
Conversations, misunderstandings, and preconceptions about ‘Newcomers’ are all familiar to anyone who is Asian-American.
A human foreman, when shown pictures of Alien suspects, apologizes that all the Slags “look alike” to him. Their food smells “strange” (raw beaver meat) and offensive to humans. The females, however, have found a foothold in human society as “sex workers”. Their exoticism mirrors the attitude toward Asian women in the West, spawned by generations of American servicemen first meeting them in foreign brothels.
Alien Nation deals critically with the idea of racism against Asians in many forms. It’s far from perfect — but it has perfect moments.
THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY
As Awarding-winning Authors of Young Adult Sci-Fi, we have created THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY (2016-2018) to empower Women and People of Color:
Book 1 A GLEAM OF LIGHT explores Native American Mythology as UNA, half-Hopi bureaucrat from D.C., is summoned to Hopiland. Her connection to the white man’s world makes her uniquely qualified to help solve a mystery linked to an ancient discovery, as she tries to reconnect with her roots and cultural identity.
Book 2 THE DRAGON’S GLARE explores Asian American Mythology with UNA on special assignment to investigate unexplained violence in Chinatown, New York City. She discovers a deep-seated cultural connection with Tibetan immigrants as Ancient Chinese wisdom battles a threat from Ancient Evil.
Book 3 BEYOND THE WORLD explores African American Mythology as UNA, briefly stranded on her honeymoon adventure in Yosemite, uncovers a UFO mystery that leads to an Alien Conspiracy. Together with teen members of Explorer’s Club from the Kikuyu Tribe, she must track down the source of strange events and fight to save humanity.
Each life-changing story in the TRILOGY sheds light on racial injustice — as it explores the human connection to Ancient Aliens through the eyes of Native Mythology. Throughout history, native peoples have borne first witness to the TRUTH about our relationship to Planet Earth … and Life elsewhere in the universe. In the modern world, that Truth has been lost.
In recent years, the term “Wokeness” has been used to describe a “newfound awareness” of injustice and discrimination in society, especially RACISM. Science Fiction franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek have increasingly introduced storylines that explore Diversity and Inclusivity. They are moving in the Right Direction.
When I was growing up, with few exceptions, SCI-FI offered an optimistic take on the Future: the promise of Progress through new Technology and Morality, overcoming Obstacles that drive people apart (like Prejudice and Racism), and opening Doors to Truth beyond our wildest imaginings — that lead to Enlightenment.
Hope to see you there.