We are all prejudiced to some degree. We cannot help it. It is inevitable. We can learn to recognise in ourselves as well as in others. We can fight it.
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.” Maya AngelouOnly it is not easy. What do I say when a mother sits across from me at a dinner party and says that she hopes her boys never make friends with a Muslim because Muslim youths are so easily radicalised? I do what I can. I describe the marvellous adolescents I have met who are Muslims. I scrabble about trying to find a positive male, Muslim role model in the media. I fail because she stops listening. I am the leftie teacher who doesn’t have children and therefore does not understand.
I leave it. I have tried. It is not the time or the place.
According to a recent YouGov poll, people like me and my dinner companion think even less of white men in their 20s than they do of Muslin men of a similar age. According to the poll white men in their 20s are rude, lazy, promiscuous, hard-drinking druggies. Perhaps my dinner companion should be more worried about her sons’ white friends.
My 24-year-old nephew is nothing like that. Her sons will be nothing like that when they reach their 20s. We both know that the stereotype is just that, a stereotype. Our experience balances, or even modifies, our prejudices.
Only most people’s experience is limited. That is where imagination can play its part. As a child stories took me places I could never go and introduced me to people I would never meet. Fiction, whether on page or screen, expands one’s horizons.
“The show doesn't drive home a lesson, but it can open up people's minds enough for them to see how stupid every kind of prejudice can be.” Redd FoxxSo I write my stories. Unlike that dinner table, they are my time and my place. I choose Science Fiction because the world I have built, story by story, is outside the reader’s experience. In my vast interstellar world there are countless societies, each as confident about its constitution, code or laws as the next. Those who do not fit or who have no prospects often choose to leave the planet of their birth. Then they are faced with a choice. Do they join a crew that follows the spacer code and trades between the stars? Or do their join the pirates or slavers who prey on the weak?
I invite readers into my world. It is world in which their prejudices have little or no meaning; a world where racism is about how many non-human genes you carry and Artificial Intelligence is the only taboo. I invite readers to broaden their horizons and identify with my characters, even if they are strange and different.
I invite you into my world.
Mannah Pierce is a debut author who's book, Cast Adrift, is part of a Science Fiction saga published just last year. Pierce is also a former scientist and teacher who has contributed to the UK education system through her diverse lesson plans and syllabus. Find out more at www.mannahpierce.com
If you're like Mannah and you have your own story to tell, please visit the Contribute page, where you can quickly and easily take the first steps in having your voice heard. I look forward to working with you!