Moving Beyond "Diversity"

How many people of color have you read in books?

More specifically, how many people of color have you read in sci-fi lately?

That one crewmember who was the main character’s second in command and died terribly?

That girl, you know, the one who’s going to bring down the corrupt government? Not her, but her best friend?

Or maybe none at all, just an endless array of white folks and alien species that are not so subtly people of color.

The erasure of people of color from literature is pervasive and terrible.  But it is even worse in science fiction and fantasy.  When you go to great lengths to create brave new worlds and can’t seem to find yourself imagining more than a few token people of color, or none at all, this speaks volumes.

With a few keystrokes you have systematically erased most of the world as we know it. You have created a future or whole new world where people of color no longer exist, and if they do exist they serve no purpose beyond forwarding the plot for your white main character.

It’s time to start calling this what it is.

Literary genocide.

We like to pretty up our language when we talk about the bleak representation of people of color in books and media.  We talk about diversity and elevation of marginalized voices and increasing representation.  But I think it’s time we start acknowledging what it really is.  It’s cultural genocide, as though not seeing ourselves reflected in media will eventually make us disappear from the real world as well.

When you write stories with no representation by people of color, especially in a created world where you control what it means to be a person of color, you have become an architect of erasure.

Literary genocide.

It’s time we stop pretending that it is anything else.