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May 15

Flashforward Friday: Diversity

For this week’s Flashforward Friday post, I’m filling in for a guest-post cancellation. Sometimes I miss doing these, so I don’t mind the chance to fill in!

The topic of diversity has come up in conversation lately, and it’s something that I hope we continue to evaluate and understand as we move forward into the future. The dictionary defines diversity as:

  1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness:
    diversity of opinion.
  2. variety; multiformity.
  3. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.:
    diversity in the workplace.
  4. a point of difference.

Yet we (as humans) struggle to understand what true diversity is. Diversity is not just your brand of diversity, meaning you only accept those different from you if you believe in or agree with their way of life. Diversity and true equality come from the acceptance of everyone who is different, without issue or concern.

Young toddlers and children do this best. They don’t care about skin color, ethnicity, age, disability, gender, or weight. They don’t care if someone has two dads. They discern differences in people often based upon emotions via facial expressions and body language.

Diversity is sometimes difficult as science fiction/fantasy readers and viewers because we’re used to an established history with characters who look a certain way. But as we move into the future, if we never try for change for the sake of diversity and equality, we will continue to be bogged down by our own prejudices and biases.

Take for example the announcement that the next human torch will be played by an African-American actor. While most SF/F fans wouldn’t strike me as particularly racist, many fans are outraged by this change. Why?

Next Human Torch played by African American actor

Why is this a problem?

Some would argue that the human torch as always been a white man, so he should continue to be one, but by that same argument, I could justify the continuance of Jim Crow Laws.

Or worse.

I mean, if African-Americans were always property, then what motivation do we have to change that? A little extreme, sure, but you catch my drift (or so I hope).

If we never buck the system and attempt change for the sake of diversity, we won’t achieve equality. Someone has to fight for change if we’re ever going to reach a future were equality is as much a part of our way of life as breathing.

From Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness to Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, science fiction & fantasy is often used as a platform to discuss these topics. While I’ve heard folks say writers shouldn’t use their craft to soap-box, it’s necessary to explore these topics. Harper Lee used her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, to comment on the prejudice and racism ripping apart the United States.

As much as the future of technology and space travel are fascinating topics worthy of discussion, we’ll never reach that future if we’re still bickering over skin color, gender (and gender identity), sexuality, ethnicity, weight, and disability.

Prejudices and biases are learned. We aren’t born with them. And I, for one, have always been a rule breaker.

It’s time to buck the system, folks. For diversity and equality.

(Image of Human Torch is Copyright Marvel Comics. Both it and the image of Michael B. Jordan are used under Fair Use for educational and criticism purposes only.)


Click here to read other Flashforward Friday posts by other authors including Jean Walker, GG Silverman, and more.

About the author

Raven Oak

Bestselling science fiction & fantasy author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood, Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays.

She spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet. When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on, enjoying cartography, or staring at the ocean.

She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.

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