A lot of the time, I think white writers pay a simplistic lip service to the idea of diversity in literature. It doesn’t matter what genre, but as a fantasy writer, that’s the milieu I know best, and believe me, the problem is rampant.
Because an awful lot of us (myself included) act as if all this means is white writers parachute in characters and settings that reflect more than northern European archetypes.
And I’m not saying this is not a good thing: more stories that let more people identify with characters is wonderful, and long overdue.
We also are becoming aware of the need to tackle some of the problems that PoC and non-binary/neuro-atypical people face, and this too is mainly a good thing.
SFF has always been a place to challenge socio-political situations, to sound the warning bells about where we might be headed. But I have to say that what was written in 1955, while still somewhat valid and interesting, seems heavy-handed and unsubtle – and maybe that’s why most of it lies by the wayside now.
And this is one of the reasons I champion the need for white writers to make space for new voices.
When we tell stories of fascism and oppression, we are not nuanced. We paint these in broad strokes, in splashy colours. The allegorical and metaphorical devices we use are crude and obvious. We see these things in – pardon this expression – black and white. We do not see the middle ground.
“Oh!” I hear you cry. “But I can imagine it! That’s why I’m a writer! And my life hasn’t been a bed of roses, and I have no privilege, and all my Asian friends tell me I am not at all racist and…”
Your friends aren’t going to go out of their way to upset you by telling you something they know you don’t want to hear; “privilege” isn’t saying your life hasn’t been difficult, but that the difficulties are NOT because of your skin colour (or whatever); intersectionality is a thing; and imagination can only take you so far.
Sure: you can imagine what it would be like – but there’s a good chance you’d still focus only on those big, obvious issues, and never even notice the myriad micro-aggressions that those we have labeled “Other” face all day, every day, in every situation they encounter.
We haven’t lived these stories. We haven’t spent every day battling these things – so much so that they hardly register as anything but “life as usual”.
We have merely observed the surface results.
Those who deal daily in the coin of prejudice and systemic bias can show us the rest of the reality, if we make room for it, and all of us, as writers and readers, will grow.