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Copyright 2013 Walter Harris Gavin

Race Culture & Media

We live in a "race culture" certainly as far as Mass Media in this country is concerned. Skin color in this instance being synonymous with "race." Whether overtly stated or as underlying subtext, it exists as assumptions made by both producers and consumers of cultural product. Could it be otherwise given the history of the mass media in this country and much of the Western world? But must we remain rooted in the cement created by these past assumptions? Are we forever stuck in the mindset of the way it has been, is this the way it must always be?

I just screened Oblivion on DVD via Redbox, the Tome Cruise, Morgan Freeman vehicle based on the Graphic Novel of the same name. Without giving away the plot, such as it is, suffice to say the story follows the same arc as most in the Sci-Fi genre, beings or entities from outer space coming to visit earth for nefarious purposes. Taking place in the not so distant future of 2077, the folks in charge here on earth are all "first-world" types in conflict with "the Scavs," lead by Morgan Freeman, the only "non-white" face of any consequence in the entire film. As with most science fiction, the world of the future is as "white" as today. Even most aliens would be right at home anywhere in Europe or North America and not be given a second look or thought. Even If they're machines or cyborgs, they more often than not look more like Cruise than Freeman, act more like Ike than Obama. 

Given that the nature of skin color on this planet evolved because of proximity of humans to the effects of the Sun's UV rays, I guess the imagination of sci-fi, writers is very much a reflection of their own color consciousness. We know that on this planet the first humans were "black" and other skin pigmentation "evolved" from that starting point, and a race culture along with it. Sci-fi writers can't seem to imagine other worlds any other way it seems. Or when they do, Katness Everdeen of The Hunger Games who in the books is described as "olive-skinned," becomes Jennifer Lawrence for the movies.

So even when there is an opportunity to imagine a world or worlds with a different set of assumptions and ways of being it seems that most non black writers fall back on the same ol', same ol', old white supremacy model. Science Fiction is never really about future possibilities, but always about the here and now it seems.