People from communities of color are underrepresented in publishing. Our books make up less than six percent of the titles released each year, and that’s despite a century of fighting against the gatekeepers. The results of this systematic exclusion are clear: we are also elided from the national conversation, starting in elementary school. Those who live in this country are trained by textbooks, libraries, classrooms, TV, cinema to see US life as almost exclusively white. Certainly literary and intellectual life are constructed to make us invisible, and that project is complicit in promoting the racist white hegemony that is even now morphing into white nationalist fascism.
As a Mexican American who writes for both children and adults, I grapple with the consequences of this elision in multiple contexts. One of the most poignant for me is the view of the future that the publishing world has constructed in science fiction — overwhelmingly, the bulk of the corpus projects the existing inequities of white fundamentalist capitalism forward in time, so that our present erasure becomes permanent and neoliberal homogeneity (despite the superficial racial diversity that is sometimes espoused) is decidedly white.
The roots of this inescapable inequity are in the colonial project that violently transformed the Americas. Writer Alberto Chimal, referring to Mexico with words that apply equally to the US, describes the problem well: “This is a country with a history of racism that even predates its formation as an independent nation: 500 years of systematic and constant oppression against its native peoples. Ours is a racism so internalized in the dominant culture, so exclusive and embedded with other prejudices, that it has completely denied an equitable, varied and abundant representation of indigenous populations in national media.”
In the US, of course, that oppression has been compounded by three hundred years of enslavement and then another century of systemic exclusion of Black people. Then those carefully crafted tools of dehumanization were employed against Latinx, Asian, and Pasifika communities.
In a country so determined to keep liberty out of the hands of everyone but white folks, it should come as no surprise that the mainstream vision of the future should only behold white people facing aliens who are clear cyphers for the groups they’ve wreaked violence upon. Progress has been depicted by most science fiction as a deeply white concept. The rest of us could yearn to…