Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. The media over the past couple years has increased the profile of inequities in the criminal justice system in how minorities are treated, which is a long-standing problem and a disgrace. The inequities are buried deep; we learn about them at an early age. Look at the lack of Oscar nominations for people of color. Kids are raised on media that doesn’t reflect the world around them. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering, Where are we now with race relations in the U.S.?
I grew up in a liberal, multi-ethnic community in California and went to public school. I was taught and internalized the values of non-discrimination, respect, equality, tolerance and justice. In a way, I was brought up to be race-blind.
As I grew older, of course, I came to realize that racism was alive and well, but it always seemed to be somewhere else. As a white kid, it didn’t affect me, but that didn’t stop me from seeing it and feeling let down that the “utopian” ideals I’d been brought up with were as illusory as Santa Claus. The sad truth is that I benefit from white privilege and ask myself what I can do about it.
As a writer, I try to create characters and worlds that showcase the shortcomings of society and how characters struggle to assert themselves in opposition to injustice. But I also get to create worlds that don’t have some of the problems ours does. In my book, Broken Mirror, which comes out this Friday, Reconstruction after the Civil War resulted in reparations for slavery, full equality for all minority groups, and a changed culture that embraced the notion that “skin is skin.” Victor, the main character, comes from a mixed-race family who can trace their ancestry back to both emancipated and slave-owning families. There are other important, diverse characters as well: a Latina woman, a Native American, a black hacktivist.
I say all this because I think it’s important to speak up about what I believe and what has influenced my writing. Maybe there’s a young person out there who will read this book and for a moment get to experience a world without racism.
(Disclaimer: the world of Broken Mirror is not free of discrimination. Much of the story takes place in Semiautonomous California where people with mental illnesses and Asian immigrants both face discrimination and injustice.)