Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Skaddix Force Ghost

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    Feb 3, 2012
    star 4
    there has never been in universe confirmation. Its white and especially white male dominated because of real world author and editorial bias seeping in but there has never been proof positive of extensive human on human racism in star wars on the basis of skin color. talking normal human skin tones here. bias based on which planet u hail form on the other hand yes indeed.
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  2. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    Small clarification - it's not necessarily when the authors chose, it's when the illustrators chose. There is often no textual description of any features that could have a distinctive 'racial' conotation on many characters. I recently finished Scoundrels, and I was thinking about the context, but there is hardly any character description at all, and this is a novel with several major new characters. Rachele has no description whatsoever beyond being female, the reader has absolutely no idea what she looks like. The twins are described only as being 'attractive,' Zerba as a Balosar, Kell as being boyish, and Winter as having white hair, that's it.

    Now, this doesn't change the net effect in any way, but I think it is important to recognize.

    Why should it be unlikely? It makes perfect sense. Racism is not 'right next' to sexism and speciesm, there's actually a huge difference. Racism is based on entirely superficial characteristics that have no actual effect. Nothing, zero, race is a meaningless distinction in terms of outcomes. Sex and species are not. Men and women are not the same, there are actual, biological differences (both ways, there are species in Star Wars where the females are larger than the males and dominant over them). the same is true of species - the mind of a Twi'lek is not that of a human, and a palace built for a Hutt will include an awful lot less stairs than one designed for something with legs.

    The lack of non-white characters in Star Wars is a legacy of the time and place when the series was created - mid 1970s United States, a very white society >80%, and the fact that almost all the creative voices within have been white people writing from a white background. It is a situation that has improved steadily over time, and the most recent flagship project: TOR, does not have a pro-white bias, the human characters have largely random skin tone and facial feature gradations and no one mentions it at all even though the game has a massive amount of anti-alien bias.

    On the subject of mental illness in Star Wars though, we run up against two problems: advanced medical technology and the healing power of the Force. We've seen both in canon. There are mind-altering cybernetic implants and chemical treatments, and there are Force techniques that repair mental damage (Bariss Offee does this in The Approaching Storm very explicitly). So the issue takes on a different calculus if science and/or the Force can flat out eliminate it. it is arguble that the very presence of mental illness in Star Wars is a reflection of the universe's economic issues rather than any social prejudice.

    Or perhaps there is social prejudice derived from economic failure...in some sense it is very possible to categorize the Star Wars galaxy as dystopian in structure.
  3. CT-867-5309 Chosen One

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    Jan 5, 2011
    star 5
    In my experience, hate doesn't work that way. I cannot buy that the GFFA is full of hate for all things, but not humans of another race, because that's just drawing the line. It's absurd.

    lol dude, many racists will tell you otherwise.

    Logic need not apply to prejudice and hatred.

    Regardless of the OOU reasons, it's still there IU, and it's still there today and in recent years. If it wasn't, this thread wouldn't exist.

    Someone help me out here, isn't there a Epicanthix in Fatal Alliance who is mocked for being "non-human" ? Yeah, Epicanthix are human, eye folds don't change that and statements that suggest otherwise are evidence of racial discrimination among humans in the TOR era, imo.
    Last edited by CT-867-5309, Jan 15, 2013
  4. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Ula Vii, to the point where he hated himself for being "non-human" and felt inferior around the Imperials for whom he worked, even though he hated the Republic as well.
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  5. Kyris Cavisek Jedi Grand Master

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    Nov 12, 2012
    star 4
    [IMG]
    On the podium from Left to Right: Corran Horn, Kyp Durron, Kenth Hamner, Saba Sebatyne, Streen, Ben Skywalker, Kyle Katarn, Luke Skywalker, Kiranna Ti or Octa Ramis, Jacen/Caedus, Clighal...

    The problem isn't his family up at the podium. The problem is the fact that aside from the Skywalker Solos the other human masters far outnumber the non humans... We can keep a few human Jedi to include Corran and Kyle, maybe Kyp. Streen and Kiranna haven't been seen in forever. Kenth is dead. Just as the humans die off replace them with aliens...
  6. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Yeah; it's kind of been addressed already, but given that it's my OP @Firefly took offense to, it really needs to be repeated that I'm not saying those characters shouldn't have been at her funeral. I'm not taking issue with the event as it's depicted (though it is unfortunate that even the anonymous "audience" characters mostly appear to be white humans), I'm taking issue with the fact that the Order would be so overloaded with characters like these in the first place. There was little to no reason that Corran, Kyp, Kyle, Kenth, Streen, et al couldn't have been nonhuman upon their creation, and there's certainly no reason they couldn't have been nonwhite.

    The thing is, we do have real evidence of certain biases going away, or at least being drastically minimized, upon introduction into a sufficiently diverse society. Irish Catholics used to be a persecuted minority in the US, but eventually you get a JFK, and people get over it. I'm sure that particular prejudice still clings to life somewhere, and maybe it always will, but if three billion aliens immigrated to Earth tomorrow, I absolutely believe that 95% of us would get over racism pretty fast.

    I actually have issues with the idea that after 25 millennia people would still be all that bothered by aliens, but I guess you can chalk that up to most planets being relatively insular (and hey, we need to get our allegories somewhere).
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Jan 15, 2013
  7. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
    star 5
    Yeah, it's a longstanding science-fiction trope that, upon the introduction of Aliens into a society, humans band together, both because perceived differences seem much more petty and insignificant in comparison to the much larger differences aliens present, and because people in general tend to have a "pack" mentality.

    Would it work that way in real life? Who knows. Some people just hate what is different. Of course, it's always the greater differences that is more frightening to those close-minded people. I'm sure there are some extremists in the SW galaxy that hate anything that isn't a white (brown haired) human, but all but the most ridiculous extremists would be more inclined to discriminate against the walking carpets and tentacle heads of the galaxy. Even hate groups need support, after all. Difficult to gather support when you close the door on so many.

    A little bit more believable when you consider that many planets seem to be segregated to some level.
  8. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Oh, and @Freac, one last point on the clone thing - we've certainly established that the demographics of the GFFA absolutely have Unfortunate Implications in and of themselves, so naturally those are going to give an army of brown people some troubling subtext under any circumstances. What strikes me as dumb was the notion that the clones were seen as a statement on illegal immigration. There's an enormous leap from "the subtext of this universe's power structure is disquieting" to "Lucas is warning us about Mexicans".

    That's basically the only reason I buy it. Coruscant : NYC :: Eriadu : Kansas.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Jan 15, 2013
  9. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    Sep 8, 2004
    star 6
    In addition to those, the Cult of Kyle Katarn also demands that humans must wear the appropriate facial hair.
  10. Kyris Cavisek Jedi Grand Master

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    Nov 12, 2012
    star 4
    Didn't Kyle Katarn hate the Cult of Kyle Katarn?
  11. Random Comments Force Ghost

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    Sep 25, 2012
    star 5
    To the Mara comments:
    I'd like to point out that, if I recall correctly, it's established that the ENTIRE Jedi council is at the funeral. Not just necessarily "my friends and family."
    Also, Mara is not supposed to be speciesism, so they're no reason "friends" would all (or mostly) be WHM...
  12. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

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    Nov 19, 2007
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    Right up until we finished killing off the last aliens, at which point we'd go right back to where we started.
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  13. Kyris Cavisek Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2012
    star 4
    This is true, my complaint is that the ENTIRE JEDI COUNCIL is White Human Males... not Entire but roughly half
  14. instantdeath Force Ghost

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    Jul 22, 2010
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    Hate isn't the right word... "disappointment" is closer. The futility of emulating Katarn should be evident to all.
  15. Skaddix Force Ghost

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    Feb 3, 2012
    star 4
    Our banding together depends on how first contact if its violent, lasts for a long period and we are losing rally around the flag of humanity would be highly likely I say. If we win easily then unlikely.
  16. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I see the term "space n*****s" coming into use pretty quick.
  17. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
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    No, no, no, Epicanthix are not human. You may determine that, as Freac has mentioned, the labelling of what appears to be a human cultural group as non-human is an alienating and bad practice, but insofar as the universe is concerned the Epicanthix are a seperate species. There are differences beyond the cosmetic, they have longer lifespans for one.

    You cannot refuse to take the universe at its word and then attack it for that, such a move in manifestly unfair and frankly, prejudiced in its own way. Yes the rules of science fiction universes are arbitrary and perhaps do not fit what you personally may believe makes sense. Fine, say that, but that's bad storytelling, not bad social consciousness on the part of the creators.

    In a universe of the author's own creation if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but the story says it's a panther, then it's a panther.

    So, within the Star Wars universe prejudice displayed by Humans against epicanthix, or Ming Po, or Tholothians, or any of the other visually human Near-Human species is speciesism, not racism.
  18. Skaddix Force Ghost

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    Feb 3, 2012
    star 4
    Lol maybe but I think it boils down to what the aliens look like first.
  19. cthugha Force Ghost

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    Sep 24, 2010
    star 3
    As opposed to dealing with people in a private setting, where you would just smack 'em and be done with it? [face_thinking]
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  20. JediFreac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    So the way that race and other social categories are constructed and used in the United States and other cultures is continually in flux. A number of factors contribute to that. For example, the co-opting of groups that used to be considered "white ethnics" into the generic "white American" category happened for a number of reasons, one was that post-Civil War, the group of rich people then known as (white) American (mostly British folk) knew that their power was at risk, there were freed black people, poor white folks, and white ethnic groups that occupied similar social strata and were they to combine as a bloc...suddenly there was a great shift to make groups like the Irish and Eastern Europeans "white" including socialization programs to "assimilate" them into proper American society in a way that kept other racial groups locked out and reinforced the power and influence of white Americans.

    So absolutely, yes, biases go away and are minimized...on the other hand, the bias towards Irish Catholic people went away in the service of reinforcing another bias, mainly the bias against black people at the time. (And, even if there is say, a black American leader, that does not mean that biases are necessarily lessened, even with Barack Obama in things like school segregation, racial wealth gaps, and imprisonment rates are growing... Another metaphor might be the 'acceptability' of a Mormon candidate...the need to beat the other party trumped previously held bias within the party itself.)

    How this maps in the Star Wars universe is interesting because of the additional dynamic of speciesism. A real world metaphor might be this... There is fighting between different ethnic groups in the Middle East but all of these groups would band together opposed to Americanism. Just as in the past in the US different white ethnic groups in the US discriminated against one another but supported white nativism and segregation against people of color. In Star Wars different human subgroups do discriminate against one another and some are more powerful than others (core dwellers, men, wealthy, etc.) but all humans as a bloc held themselves superior to aliens under Palpatine. All the alien groups in Star Wars squabbled but the Yuuzhan Vong scrambled them into cooperating pretty quickly. At the same time, the appearance of the Yuuzhan Vong didn't suddenly mean that those biases fell away. People held their biases even as they worked together.

    That being said, I do believe that exposure to diverse communities and populations reduces bias and discrimination, so it make no sense that characters like Han and Leia only have one black friend, Jacen and Jaina grew up interacting with only white humans, and that Mara Jade has no female friends other than her sister in law and niece.

    There is actually very little evidence that would actually happen. I mean, I guess we do have this "Independence Day" narrative that America would lead the way and we would all collaborate and work together to fight the menace due to our mutual interest in survival...but we see cases like Hurricane Katrina where the distribution of resources, who got rescued, who got criminalized, reflected our culture even in a situation where everyone should have been bonding together. (The Walking Dead show isn't a perfect metaphor, but in that zombie apocalypse scenario, characters didn't become less sexist, they became more sexist in the face of a mutually shared threat.) You can bet if there was a natural disaster in LA the wealthy in Bel Air would hole up, not suddenly lose their prejudice towards poor people.

    Tl;dr the presence of an alien other might magnify human similarities and encourage more bonding but it wouldn't wipe out racial bias all together.

    The decisions of the authors have created a universe that is extremely serendipitous for male white human characters. How much proof is proof positive? Either white male humans are simply more common in the galaxy (kind of a troubling artistic choice, and how do they reproduce then? Asexual budding?) or there is some implied (even if the authors are not intentionally trying to imply it) privileging of light skin...why else are there so few non-white Moffs or Jedi, etc. The weird thing is that we as readers accept the explanation that there are few woman Moffs due to sexism. Yet, we would refuse to point to the disproportionate number of men on the New Jedi
    Order council as a sign of Skywalker sexism (an accidental result of the authors' lack of awareness.) Even the few women in the Empire who we see are white but the idea that perhaps there could have been colorism or shadeism among humans in Star Wars needs all this debate.

    So these groups aren't "human"...they are just depicted using human models and based off of human cultures?

    The Star Wars universe is a fictional bubble universe that exists in our real universe. There are many scifi/fantasy books that use speciesism as a metaphor for racism. Prejudice displayed towards Epicanthix is "speciesism" that is essentially mirroring prejudices experienced by human "minority groups" and cultures.

    The prejudice displayed towards the Ryn is speciesism, but it is directly inspired and mirrors real world racism experienced by the Romani people. Saying "but the Ryn have longer lifespans" wouldn't negate that essentially what happens to the Ryn is identical to an example of specific real world racism.

    (Even the Yuuzhan Vong, who are specifically not human, relies on racialized human traits in it's characterizations. They are named after southeast Asian foods, they declare a Holy War (this is a post 9/11 series, so this was active in our cultural imagination), they use body mutilation and full body tattoos, they are polytheistic, etc. The writers did not decide to make a monotheistic alien invader species named the "Hatfield-Cunninghams" invading the GFFA while riding space-polo horses and wearing top hats. *gulp*)

    Well...I'd argue that skillful writers have social consciousness and that is reflected in their writing. The world building and "boring, non-diverse stable of prominent characters" in Star Wars EU is both bad writing AND the result of a lack of social consciousness.

    It doesn't mean that the writers or editorial are hateful or malicious or deliberately trying to be racist or prejudiced. It is exactly that: consciousness!

    Some insight and consciousness is missing. Because they are missing that consciousness, it is reflected in and becoming more painfully obvious in the SWEU writing. If there was social consciousness the writing would be better.
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  21. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I would ask you why it matters if it's racism or speciesism, but then I remembered that in your previous post, you actually justified both sexism and speciesism by essentially saying that it's acceptable to think that men are superior to women and/or humans are better than Twi'leks because "there are biological differences."

    Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice, whether one lumps all women into a group and stereotypes them as inferior to men, lumps all black people in a group and labels them as inferior to white people (and brain size has been used as an argument for both of these, BTW), or lumps all Twi'leks into a group and labels them as inferior to humans.
  22. JediFreac Force Ghost

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    Mar 7, 2002
    star 4
    It's interesting to note that twi'leks are definitely broken up into different "racial groups" in the Star Wars universe by skin tone and there is even colorism in that species. There are even names for those different subgroups of twi'leks.
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  23. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    One, that would be the BEST STORY EVER; two, just to nitpick, the NJO is in no way a "post-9/11" series - SBS came out about a month later, which means that 2/3 of the writing was done already and probably 90% of the general plotting.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Jan 15, 2013
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  24. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 2, 2012
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    If you really wanna nitpick the Charon also had a Holy War thing before the Vong. Granted they were driven by outright Nihilism
  25. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    No, but you've basically described Imperials to a T. :p