Highline College

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Author says it’s not a utopia for most people

Remi Frederick Staff Reporters May 10

Some people would describe the state of our country as a dystopia. But others at the top of the pyramid of power and wealth would describe it as a utopia.

Tochi Onyebuchi’s lecture entitled “Dystopian for Whom?” explored who gets to live in the utopia while others see the dystopia of the real world.

Tochi Onyebuchi spoke at Highline’s Unity Through Diversity week via Zoom. The Unity Through Diversity week is an annual tradition at Highline where different cultures are explored and celebrated. Onyebuchi is an author of award-winning speculative fiction. He holds a B.A. from Yale and a M.A. in screenwriting from the Tisch School of the Arts, a Master’s degree in droit économique from Sciences Po, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Tochi Onyebuchi

Speculative fiction and science fiction, in particular, speak to our anxieties Onyebuchi said. “Every fantastical story is about our now,” Onyebuchi said.

“Young, white, American, male, cornfed and heterosexual. These stories are about you,” Onyebuchi said.

In 1931 the first science fiction story about an African American was published. It was called Black No More and was written by George Schuyler. Black No More was about a machine that could turn black people permanently into white people.

“The future is in the hands of what male chaos agents designed as visionaries,” Onyebuchi said.

“Data has become increasingly assertive of the notion that we are not all on the same boat,” Onyebuchi said. Some of us are on a yacht and others are sharing a piece of driftwood. “In Flint, Michigan the water is still poisoned,” he said.

“The nightmare of dystopia is its inevitability,” Onyebuchi said “Put this all in a book and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this unreality was simply the product of an overactive imagination.”

Onyebuchi used a metaphor of a tasty looking berry that kills you to represent the police officers that have killed African Americans in cold blood. What looks good may actually kill you, he said.

Onyebuchi said that the things we can do to fix our unreality are things such as the breakdown of racialized capitalism, health insurance for all, universal childcare and also to recognize the good work that is being done today.