1. When people are furious and/or new to writing, it’s pretty common for them to write about issues in one dimensional ways like this. Either they don’t understand their ‘opponents’ as well as they think they do, or they don’t know how to express/depict the issues in a realistic and nuanced way.

    That’s where a lot of these advocates tend to lose people. As I read your summary, I had reactions like ‘If I were in charge, I would have been immediately upset and suspicious of the aliens coming in and making a proposal like that’, and ‘I seriously doubt my (white) cousin would have been ok with giving up her (black) husband and children’.

    And considering the history of the Holocaust, there would have probably been at least some Jews that were extremely against the idea of an entire race being shipped off like that. Maybe some of them would have reacted like the chars in the short story did, but from what I’ve seen it’s reasonably common for Jews to feel wary of anything that reminds them of what their people went through(which is of course understandable). And a lot of them don’t want that history to repeat, no matter what races are involved. If the author of The Space Traders ignored possibilities like that and only(or even primarily) showed nefarious motivations from the Jewish chars, he could easily be accused of being racist to Jews.

    In spite of any inaccuracies a story like this might have, though, it’s important to really understand and figure out where the person is coming from and why they’re saying certain things. When someone talks about guilt in that manner, for instance, it’s because they feel like the only time progress is made is when they get in people’s faces and attack their character. Otherwise, they don’t see many people speaking out against racism or finding meaningful ways to fix it. But if that becomes someone’s primary mode of enacting change, they’re more likely to feel bitter because they have to twist people’s arms to get results. When someone has to do that on a consistent basis, one of the few conclusions they can draw is that people don’t actually care and only do things to avoid feeling bad(whether the bad feelings are guilt or losing comfort or whatever).

    Guilt is only one component of empathy. So if it’s the only component present then it truly can come off as selfish, whether or not it actually is. This leads to an endless cycle, though. One one hand, people realize that even if they truly do care and help others in their daily lives, no one will believe it unless they actually show some sort of proof to the world. But showing proof can get someone accused of pandering, looking for absolution, or just wanting a pat on the back. So some people are stuck between two accusations: ‘I won’t believe you care unless you show me, but if you show me I’ll just think you’re being fake.’

    Of course it’s not always like that, and people SHOULD genuinely care and try to help others. But we should stop assuming that if we don’t see the exact facial expressions, behavior, social media posts, etc from another person, that person is automatically indifferent or fake. There’s a million and one reasons behind people’s behavior, and if we can’t even take the time to figure out what’s actually going on, then maybe we don’t have any business going after people unless it’s an actual emergency. There’s a lot of better ways to solve problems.

    • Travis Perry says:

      The story featured the character Rabbi Abraham Specter talking about the story set-up as a “Final Solution” for American Blacks–i.e. the character objected based on the Holocaust, based on Jewish history.

      But a moment of omniscient narrator revealed Specter’s real motivation was something else. What I said in my post.

      Yeah, that was not very kind of the late Dr. Derrick Bell. I think this related to his opinion of the black situation being one white people will never do anything to help unless it’s in their self interest. Which was really a very negative opinion on his part.

      As far as showing proof of help is concerned, yeah, that can be difficult…

      • Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.

        Since I have a little time I’m going to go ahead and clarify some things too, for the sake of whoever else might be reading the comments. I mostly believe authors can/should write however they want, so my earlier comment WASN’T to say stories like Derrick Bell’s “shouldn’t exist”. I also dislike it when people accuse authors of bad things solely based on a few stray comments they make or what the chars in their stories are like. Because of that and the fact that I know next to nothing about Derrick Bell, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on some things. Maybe he wasn’t trying to say that all Jews were bad. Maybe he was just pointing out how people ASSUME minority groups will help each other when the reality is that they don’t always. Sometimes authors miscommunicate very badly when they write, and it’s not necessarily because they’re racist toward the group in question. Bell could have easily been so focused on the point he was trying to make that he didn’t realize how his writing came across.

        As far as how unrealistically he portrayed whites, maybe he was going for A Modest Proposal type strategy, where he greatly exaggerates certain things to get his point across, get people thinking, and motivate better behavior from others. (In the case of this story, maybe he hoped it would make white people care a little more and decide to help, just to prove the story wrong or something.) And maybe the story isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds from the plot summary.

        All that said, even though I don’t think the story should be dismissed out of hand or attacked, it isn’t above critique either. A story that works so hard to point out racism seems hypocritical if it does something that could blatantly be taken as racist toward a different minority group (Jews in this case). Especially when read during a time when cancel culture is quite rampant and willing to eat someone alive for accidentally writing a story that implies bad things about a minority like Bell did. And then if its portrayal of whites, Jews, etc comes off as a mix of hateful and unrealistic, it makes it look like the author hates other races for things that aren’t even true. And it isn’t bad to question whether or not his story actually helps. Or helps in the right way.

        Honestly, just about everything a person does has positive and negative consequences. A story like this might be good for stirring the pot a little and inviting conversation, but if it’s meant to be the primary narrative of how we view each race, race relations, people’s behavior, etc, it could end up being kinda toxic. I’m somewhat reserving my judgment since I haven’t actually read the story, but these are some of my thoughts based on what I’m hearing.

  2. When I was younger, one of my favorite book series was The Lionboy Trilogy by Zizou Corder. It’s been forever since I read it, but from what I recall it did a decent job handling race. That certainly wasn’t the focus of the book, but it did a lot of good things, like have an interracial family in the forefront and portrayed positively. The story called out racist things that other people did, but it was about getting angry at backwards people, rather than acting like any particular race was bad. The book was written by a mother and daughter team and from the picture in the back of the book, it looks like they are a mixed family as well and are probably writing partly from their own experiences.

    The basic premise is that the main character, Charlie, is the son of two scientists. During his infanthood, he was on a research trip with them and, due to an incident, gained the ability to speak to cats. One day, he returns home to find his parents missing. After evading the kidnapper himself, Charlie goes on a journey to rescue his parents. His ability to speak to cats comes in handy in terms of finding clues. Eventually, he also encounters a pride of circus lions, and they promise to help him find his parents if he helps free them.

    I’d say Zootopia also did a decent job of bringing up racial issues. It was clever in the way it used common stereotypes of animals for both comic relief AND addressing stereotypes people have of each other. It seemed to have lots of little things people from different backgrounds can relate to, and the characters were approached with a decent amount of nuance. A lot of people enjoy the main chars and like watching their journey, so they’re going to be more open to watching the show and discussing it without getting defensive.

    Obviously Lionboy and Zootopia aren’t perfect or all encompassing discussions of race, especially since they have to stay reasonably clean for younger audiences, but they are good for conversation. And even if an adult didn’t care to view them because they’re ‘for kids’, those stories are probably still good for bringing up and discussing the topic with children.

    • A story aimed at adults that tackles race very directly would be The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve only seen the movie, though. But it’s very good. Not speculative, though.

      If we are mentioning books that aren’t speculative but tackle racism, I remember the Phantom Stallion series by Terri Farley did so several times as well. That’s another series that’s meant to be family friendly, but maybe an older person would enjoy it too if they were looking for something about horses and ranch life.

      In sixth grade, Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry was assigned reading in my class and it was pretty good. Not my usual genre, but it was pretty interesting and there were several storytelling aspects I liked and respected it for.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Enemy Mine, which was about war between humans and aliens as a not-too-thinly disguised shot at all prejudice, ethnocentrism, and racism, was probably my favorite movie relating to racism.

      Glory, about the Civil War era unit with black soldiers and white officers is another favorite of mine. However, in recent times Glory has been criticized for portraying someone with a desire to be a “white savior.” Which in fact may have been sort of true that the commanding officer thought that way–but nonetheless, black and white men fought together in one unit, which was good thing.

      • I don’t think I’ve heard of those before, but they sound interesting.

        I just remembered that movie that came out a few years ago called Bright. Will Smith played the main character. It takes place in an alternate universe where faeries, orcs, etc live along side humans in modern times. The main char is a cop that ended up working with the first orc police officer. Racial prejudices are described and part of the plot.

        • Travis Perry says:

          Yeah, I saw Bright. Was pretty good. Another one was the sci fi series Alien Nation (from the 90s, before your time).

          District 9 wasn’t really my cup of tea, but it made some important points about racism, too.

          • I did see and enjoy District 9 🙂 I was born in 94, but yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alien Nation. Maybe some day, though.

            It’s been forever since I’ve seen District 9, but what did you dislike about it? I’m kind of curious now.

  3. notleia says:

    Due to circumstances, I don’t really have the energy to engage with this much, so feel free to assume that Travis is wrong about a couple-few points.

    • Travis Perry says:

      I read the story. Please read it yourself if you haven’t, then offer your thoughts when you feel more energetic…based on what the story actually says. Thanks.

      • notleia says:

        Nah, it’s more meta than that. I’m willing to take your word for it that it’s a clunker written by someone who isn’t talented in That Way, bless his heart.
        It’s that this is a piece with great amounts of cynicism, but that is what you think is wrong with it. Henry James and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World can be cynical, but this guy is not allowed to be cynical? Granted, he may not be talented enough to be good at it, but there’s not really any reason he can’t be critical of society and specifically white people.

What do you think?