As a white, middle class male, I have to really watch what I say. As I live in Texas, a generally Republican state, during the Trump era, and I am a white, middle class male, I have to be especially careful about what I say. Particularly when it comes to discrimination.
Now, before you turn away and dismiss my point of view, let me establish that I am not claiming that I have been discriminated against. I have not been discriminated against, and probably will not be.
Nonetheless, discrimination surrounds me. I grew up in a black neighborhood, moved to a small town of rednecks and country folk, and then to a town of primarily Hispanic individuals. Now I live in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, working in a school that is 99% Hispanic. Oh, and I am a raging feminist. So, I have seen a discrimination or two.
To try and figure it out, as I so often do, I turn to Star Wars. And as it so often does, Star Wars helped me figure it out.
First and foremost, let’s look to the stormtroopers. While there are variations of stormtrooper, none have the individuality and design on their armor that we see with the clone troopers. This is indicative of their perceived value. Clones, even though they are “manufactured,” are valued as people by the Jedi and their individuality is allowed to flourish. In opposition, the Empire mass produces stormtroopers via the Imperial Academy, only to not give a flying wamp rat if they live or die. An Empire that seems to have no issues spending money on the military has the capability to put shields onto TIE’s (re: Rebels) but just chooses not to because it is cheaper and who cares about one pilot when he is just an interchangeable cog.
I see the same thing every day at the school I work at; no one really cares who passes, just that X number of students pass. Numbers are dollars and dollars are numbers, discrimination be damned.
Droids are treated very similarly as well. If a droid does not show his “value,” as R2-D2 does for example, then he is just thrown away (re: R5-D4). Jawas, Jabbas, and every other despicable being in the galaxy just tosses them away without a care in the world. Where they came from and what they survived: doesn’t matter. Their good intentions: doesn’t matter. All they are is what they can provide.
Now, it is easy to dismiss this by saying, “Yeah, but they are just machines.” Which is true, until it isn’t. By appearance, yes they are machines. But the way that they are treated by the heroes throughout Star Wars shows us that they have some sort of soul. For instance, C-3PO’s red arm is a tribute to a droid friend who gave his life to save 3PO. In Rebels, AP-5 has to overcome his programming to do what his soul tells him is right. Even looking at The Clone Wars, continually we see the villains using droids only for what they are good for (Grevious taking apart R2, Cad Bane tricking the droids to get into their files, the entire droid army), and the heroes valuing them beyond their gears and wires (Anakin going to search for R2).
Even though it is often dismissed, and more often despised, the whole Meebur Gascon arc is about discrimination and how it damages the galaxy. The colonel wants to prove himself because all people see is a pint-sized “soldier” that can’t possibly do any good when he’s smaller than a blaster. At the same time, he sees the droids as good for nothings because all they should do is what they are ordered to do, but yet they seem to think for themselves (a very strong metaphor for how landowners treated slaves, albeit far less brutal). The entire theme of the arc is Gascon learning that people, or droids, should be valued for what’s inside, not how they look outside.
Cut Lawquane offers a very similar lesson. Due to the way he looks, he is supposed to just comply and be a “good soldier.” Instead, he finds value elsewhere in life, with a wife and kids. Rex cannot believe this when he first meets him, but through time comes to realize that his set of values might not be everyone else’s set of values. Moreover, he learns to not assume that the way a person looks defines who they are, because, as Gascon learns, the inside is far more important.
The biggest example, both in and out of universe, is Jar Jar Binks. In universe he is ostracized because he is clumsy and that means he has no value. That is, until Qui-Gon helps him find his purpose. With time, and patience, Jar Jar is able to become an asset to the Gungans and the Naboo people, despite how he initially appears. Out of universe, fandom hates him for being a buffoon only there to make fart jokes. “Fanboys” don’t care that he brings joy to kids, inspires others, and has real value to the saga. He doesn’t fit their image of “what Star Wars is,” so they bash him to no end.
There is a valuable lesson here that needs to be learned: don’t jump to judgements until you have spent time with the person, thing, or animal.
Almost every day with my dog, I see this needs is a message that needs to be spread. I own an American Pit Terrier, and because of his breed he is often discriminated against. People always give him second glances, or pull their kids away. Despite the fact that he is an emotional support dog and has proven time and again to be an asset to the people around him. In fact, one of my students, who often struggles, has scored 100 on every test while the dog has visited our classroom. But still, that doesn’t matter to most because he is stereotyped, and therefore discriminated against.
Yes, there are black people who deserve to be in prison. There are Mexicans who will work for a case of beer. There are also white people who are racists. But that is not everyone (and in fact is far from everyone). There are clones who are soldiers, Hutts who are gangsters, and Trandoshans who are slimeballs. But that’s not everyone. So instead of judging, stereotyping, and stop discriminating, and instead let’s try to lift each other up.
Header art found at: http://www.followingthenerd.com/site/wp-content/uploads/jar-jar.jpeg