Journal 6: “Separation Anxiety,” Liberal Prejudice, and Cultural Stagnation

Evie Shockley’s story “Separation Anxiety” makes a social commentary on racism  by portraying a dystopian society where whites and African-Americans are almost completely separated from one another. The story takes place at the beginning of the 22nd century, about a hundred years in the future, to show what might happen if liberal prejudice continues to run unchecked.

In “Separation Anxiety” most African-Americans/blacks live in heavily guarded and restricted neighborhoods, or “ghettos.” White people are only allowed in by permission. The reason for separating blacks into ghettos was to prevent white racist hegemony and preserve black culture. This reasoning is an extreme example of liberal prejudice that Samuel Delaney mentions in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction.” The reasoning  in “Separation Anxiety” is prejudiced because it implies that African-American and white culture are inherently different and irreconcilable. Delaney faced a similar issue when the editor of Analog magazine, John W. Campbell, refused to publish one of his novels in a serial (or was it a story?) because he thought that Analog‘s mostly white audience would not be able to relate to a black main character even though he personally enjoyed Delaney’s work.

“Separation Anxiety” focuses on a group of dancers living in one of the ghettos. Various aspects of their lives, including “reproductive patterns,” dietary habits, and entertainment choices, are monitored by the “department of ethnic and cultural conservation.” Every week everyone who lives in the ghetto must put all of their waste in different color coded bins, so the government can closely observe their culture. This is another example of prejudice because it implies that black people cannot be trusted with their own culture.

One of the most interesting parts of the story is when main character, peaches, complains about how traditional dances they perform cannot be changed even by one step according to decc mandate. This shows that separation of African-American culture from white culture and emphasis on “preserving” African-American culture leads to cultural stagnation. For cultures to thrive and progress they must interact and trade cultural elements with other cultures. If African-Americans had been completely separated from whites in United States history we would not have the blues, jazz, or their many derivative forms today.


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One Response to “Journal 6: “Separation Anxiety,” Liberal Prejudice, and Cultural Stagnation”

  1. Warren Rochelle says:

    I think it was a story by Delany. Campbell was, as you know, VERY influential.