Upon the gruesome sight of the bodies, Clay tosses off the line “Goddamn, fried and refried,” with a self-satisfaction seldom seen outside David Caruso’s performance in CSI: Miami. The examples are too numerous to list, but suffice it say that the Sons didn’t suddenly become racist to facilitate a storyline, they had been from the beginning.
But why wouldn’t they be? They operate in a world in which racial segregation is the norm; all of the clubs are racially homogenous, and no one seems to mind. They deal with one another when there’s a strategic advantage for doing so; otherwise they keep their distance. Racial self-segregation is a reality for at least some facets of most people’s lives—say, at churches or bars—but for the Sons, it’s that way all the time. It would be weirder if they weren’t a little racist. But as far as the audience sees these characters, having general racist attitudes toward people they seldom interact with in a meaningful way is one thing, but barring African-American members as a matter of policy is another entirely.
If epic fantasy has diversity, it is often present in a fashion that mirrors the stereotypes of Medieval Europe, with Viking-like invaders from the North and Infidels from the East and uneasy peaces and petty wars with those that look most like the heroes of the stories. This is unfair for many reasons that I hope I don’t need to enumerate here. And of course, there are absolutely amazing authors whose books are populated by characters of every size, shape, color, and species. But it’s still difficult and frustrating to be a fantasy reader who comes up against the same tropes in every book. Because while fantasy novels can be, well, fantastic, they can also be very repetitive and tell the same story with different character names. And I can’t help but think that at least part of the reason is because of the lack of diversity in fantasy book authorship. Because it is hardto break into the fantasy genre as a new author, generally. And even more difficult if your book is about a person of color. And most difficult of all if you yourself are a person of color writing stories about characters of color.