Erasure of African American Bodies in Science Fiction and the White World

Categories Applied Digital Studies, Blog post

As a mixed race child of divorce raised primarily by her white mother, issues such as racial representation did not occur to me until I was at least halfway through college. During the Baltimore riots that took place in the early half of 2015, I began to truly look at the world around me. What I saw made me queasy- the political and social implications of race, which meant the difference between life and death for many racial minorities, were and are denied by the White World. The White World is a place that was built from and is maintained by the complete erasure of racial minorities. To white people, it seems, the world is white.

This tenant of whiteness becomes particularly evident when one views science fiction media: often, futuristic utopias are imagined that are completely devoid of any color. One cannot help but ask, where did all of the African Americans go? Did they form their own colony on an Afrotropic planet somewhere? Did they all die out?

I ask these questions only as means to keep up a sense of humor. I know the answer. There are not any black people in futuristic, science fiction worlds because to the white people who envision these scenarios, these racial minorities never existed. The ultimate form of erasure goes beyond the refusal to admit that one is discriminatory—it is also the refusal to acknowledge that a thing exists. Such a thought is deeply saddening, and becomes even more so when one considers that racial minorities are not subverted because their white peers are inherently evil; rather, whiteness is a system built on the erasure of every single facet that does not promote the white power structure which white folk

There are not any black people in futuristic, science fiction worlds because to the white people who envision these scenarios, these racial minorities never existed. The ultimate form of erasure goes beyond the refusal to admit that one is discriminatory towards a certain type of being—it is also the refusal to acknowledge that a certain type of being exists. Such a thought is deeply saddening, and becomes even more so when one considers that racial minorities are not subverted because their white peers are inherently evil; rather, whiteness is a system built on the erasure of every single facet that does not promote the white power structure which white folk

Such a thought is deeply saddening, and becomes even more so when one considers that racial minorities are not subverted because their white peers are inherently evil; rather, whiteness is a system built on the erasure of every single facet that does not promote the white power structure which white folk enjoy. That is to say: instead of white people just being mean, they often do not realize what they are doing, as the world they live in keeps them in power and encourages them to never face the responsibility of their own privilege.

This ignorance is clear in white rhetoric such as, “I don’t see color”.  The failure to acknowledge societal differences based on skin color allows whites to maintain power while giving themselves a round of applause for their own progressiveness. The white willingness to believe that there is no social or political hierarchy based on race is absolutely fascinating in that in demonstrates just how warped and colorless the white reality is. Rather than a promotion of truth, the white power structure seeks to protect white feelings and secure itself as the dominant cultural ideology.

Many people talk about how revolutionary Star Trek is for including a black female character given the time period the show was originally conceived in, but these discussions tend to fail to address her portrayal: she is a character with little agency, and besides that, the statistical improbability that there would be only one black woman in space is slim. Again, even with a “progressive” program such as Star Trek, the question must be asked: Where are all of the black people? There are certainly aliens in space who seem to borrow the characteristics of black people. Is this on purpose? Why not just include more African Americans?

In terms of offering solutions, whiteness studies is as important a subject as it is an annoying one. In order to combat the white power structure that is detrimental to minorities as well as whites themselves, the condition of whiteness must be understood full scale. It must be understood that, as I said before, our society does the most it can to protect white feelings, enforce colorblind philosophy, and guarantee that white people can go through their entire life span without once considering matters such as race, representation, and privilege.

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