Yo, is this racist?

No really, I have a question. 

I’m brainstorming world building for a book I’m gonna write, and I’m having LOTS of fun. Working out food shipments and gravity generation and all kinds of stuff. However, it seems both boring and inaccurate to assume that SOCIETY OF THE FUTURE would be primarily drawn from my own culture. Particularly because, y’know, I come from an island in the North Atlantic. People eat fried bread dough and fried bologna for breakfast, with molasses on both. SO I wanted to take a bunch of other cultures and make a melting pot of awesome, basically. 

AND then I was wondering whether it would just come across as rude and appropriation-ist if I have this stew of elements from cultures that aren’t mine. If I have, Asian and European and American ELEMENTS, but not a careful homage to any culture. 

I figured I should ask this now, before I get a bunch of it all nailed down in words. 

My motivating theme for the book is THINGS THAT ARE AWESOME, and you know, racist grossness is not exactly awesome. 

P.S. The world has kitchen gardens and chopsticks and awesome collars and kids with wings and magnetic trains and quarantine zones and DEATH and grapefruits (maybe) and biometric scanners and embassy blocks and spy trains and secret thieves writing and NO KISSING and amnesia (yes, this is my amnesia story (I figured I’d go all the way and try so make a novel out of my one story.)) and friends and con boys and oxygen rationing and incense. And possibly faith, too. Also, a girl named Pax who has a sideline as the personification of Justice. 

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5 thoughts on “Yo, is this racist?

  1. In a setting like that I would try and ask: What cultures/states would be likely to contribute to this future society, and then ask what aspects of those cultures are likely to be most useful?

    As for ‘is it racist?’ my answer is–somebody will inevitably think so, but they can suck it. The questions to ask on your end are; ‘Is this element being used by me to diss someone?’ and ‘Am I possibly ignorant of this topic?’

    I doubt the answer to the former is ‘yes.’ as for the latter, whether yes or no, it’s not racist, but it’s a lot easier to justify and to dismiss inevitable accusations of racism if you have a confident grasp of the elements you’re borrowing, their real world context, and why you think it’s worth borrowing.

    In a resource-starved society, I might be tempted to borrow the rural Tibetan practice of multiple brothers marrying a single wife, in order to maintain the family’s wealth. However, it’ll have to be tweaked in a society that is not Patrilineal, or if there is always room for expansion, or if there are other checks on population growth/wealth dilution … Obviously this is not the best example, and Yet I could still go on for another hour. But you see my point: it’s a lot easier to get away with such cultural potlucking if it’s not just a curiosity or something that’ll be ‘fun’ to throw in.

    But, you know, that’s just my opinion which, despite my brilliance, is yet not worth a whole lot when all is said and done!

    • It’s worth a fair bit! 😀 Thank you! I’ll keep it in mind.

      Structures of relationships/marriages across cultures are fascinating, and I hadn’t even really thought about them, so thanks. You keep referencing the Tibetian model, though. A fan, are you?

      • Not particularly. I just think it’s so weird to most Western people, and yet it’s relatively easily explainable (at least opposed to mortuary cannibalism among the Wari which I think is super awesome), so it makes a useful example of a ‘weird’ social order that makes a lot of sense.

        Also interesting is the old (very old) Arab practice of temporary marriages. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikah_mut%E2%80%98ah) I intend to eventually make a case for the adoption of temporary marriages in the modern West.

      • Another cool thing, if you’re interested in relationships across cultures, is to consider the ‘prime relationship.’ The relationship around which a given culture is built. If I recall, we’ve discussed this before. In the west right now the prime relationship is husband-wife; Newlyweds establish a new home, and are these couples are potent cultural actors.

        In pre-great-leap-forward China the prime relationship is father-son. This has all kinds of interesting implications, such as the nature of wives. The ‘wife’ becomes less the spouse of the son (as we would understand it) and more the daughter-in-law of the father, through whom another generation in his line can be propagated. There are cultures with other prime relationships as well, such as brother-sister, or mother-son.

        Why not find a reason to establish a new, possibly completely-made-up prime relationship? In a sci-fi setting one might make the prime relationship the one between a person and their AI construct. Teacher-student (Jedi?). How about a radically individualist society where the closest thing to a relationship one can conceive of is between two internally alienated parts of themselves? That would be a mess, but an interesting one.

        Just some brainstormy thoughts, written out as much for my benefit as for yours. 😛

      • That IS interesting. I don’t think I’ll be messing with the prime relationship in AoM, given that it’s MG– there’s only too much world-changing I can introduce before it just looks weird– but I’ll definitely be playing with it in other ones. Dude, Expendables totally has prime relationship as class-wide. HMMMMMMM THINGS ARE INTERESTING.

        Also, are you writing anything?

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