ENG499: Apocalypse and the American Imagination
REVERSED RACISM IN THE POST-APOCALYPSE
“Even with the best skin coating, everything about her screamed lower class.” This is a quote from the 2012 novel, Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden, by Victoria Foyt. In this post-apocalyptic story, Foyt depicts a future world where racism seems to have reversed itself.
Caucasians or “Pearls”, are a minority due to the harsh solar conditions that exist, leaving fair skinned individuals more susceptible to “The Heat”. The Heat is skin cancer and is common in a world where temperatures average 115 degrees fahrenheit. Asians are referred to as “Ambers” and Latinos as “Tiger eyes.” Blacks are “Coals”, the dominant power and populous majority. Albino’s are thought to be extinct due to their lack of melanin to protect them from UV rays.
As I originally intended on writing about the progression of racism in America, I was quite intrigued when discovering a modern story that involved strong racist narratives in the post-apocalyptic genre. Foyt clearly uses many known racial and stereotypical tropes, as well resemblance to factual events and occurrences to connect to and incite the reader. While I will be giving away “spoilers” to the story to help with understanding, instead of talking about the story itself, I will be interpreting Foyt’s reasoning for choices in her novel as a way of understanding racism in the apocalyptic genre; an outside looking in perspective.
From the first page, it was easy to see the author’s goal of relating her narrative to known stereotypes and reversing them. The title in itself, is derived from the stories relation to racism. This is arbitrary because in today’s world, pearls are a kind of rare jewel and symbol of beauty; more envious than abundant coal, which is commonly seen as a loose and dirty substance.
The main character in this story is Eden, a Pearl who is just six months shy of her eighteenth birthday. This also means she is just six months away from the government deadline of having a mate or else she risks being banished and forced to live on the surface, where she does not believe she would make it two weeks. Eden is ranked at a low fifteen percent “mate rate” by her government, the “Uni-Gov.”
Eden’s dilemma is that she refuses to mate with another Pearl. She wants the best possible odds for her child to live. In this future world, Eden believes love is gone, the primal instinct for the continuation of the species is the primary objective. She is determined to mate with a Coal, regardless of how hopeless or dangerous it is. This novel being primarily about race, is also about interracial relationships.
Coals were known to beat and murder Pearls who attempted to seduce Coals. Foyt portrayed this as a representation of the violence that occurred against black males in regards to inappropriate behavior with or around white women. An example would be Emmett Till, a fourteen year old African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white woman in 1955. The two white southerners accused of the murder were proven innocent in court only to boast and confess to the murder months later in Look Magazine. Because of the double jeopardy statute, they were never punished criminally.
“Never engage a Coal. Don’t look a coal in the eye unless requested.” Pearls are expected to treat Coals with the utmost respect, almost in a servant to master manner. Foyt clearly bestowed a strong difference in class to recreate the superiority whites placed over minorities in America prior to the twenty-first century.
The Federation of Free People (FFP), are a militant group of Coals who vow to rid the planet of Pearls. While they are not seemingly connected to the government, they are not opposed by it either. The FFP seem to serve as a rendition of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a...
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