The year is 3023. Earth is a different planet than it was at the beginning of the 21st century. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past. Virtually everything runs on solar power. OPEC hasn’t been around since 2085 when the last oil pump in the world was shut down. When world powers realized that oil was being used as a political and military tool they decided to finally mandate more energy efficient vehicles, focusing on self-recharging electrical ones. With the fall of OPEC and the emergence of a hugely popular new religion that merged Judaism, Christianity and the Muslim faith, more than 90% of the world’s population worshipped in one common fashion. The lines that divided countries by race and religion blurred until they became almost unrecognizable. Still, people celebrated their cultural backgrounds and cultural identity – even though virtually no one on the planet was racially “pure” – was still a part of historical education programs and marked in various weeks on the calendar. In the year 2999 everything changed. That was the year we were first visited by the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri V.
For the first few years that the Centauris, as we called them, were here things were fine. They were new “friends” that we were getting to know. We had differences. They certainly looked different with their thinner bodies, bigger heads, longer fingers and shorter legs. The average Centauri only stood 5′-6″ with legs that measured about 18″ long. Their torsos were long, and their arms reached about to their knees. Their eyes looked surprisingly human… an observation that they found offensive. In 3005 the first accord was reached that allowed Centauris to take up residence in various cities on Earth. The major population centers found themselves hosting small enclaves of Centauris: Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Sidney. They all ended up with growing populations of Centauris.
At first it was cool. It was all one great big growing experiment. Human children learned to play side by side with Centauri children, but their food seemed so radically different that human children were cautioned not to eat at Centauri houses. The Centauris weren’t cooking anything not grown on Earth and as far as anyone knew there was nothing done in preparation that would make the food dangerous… but it looked so different.
The Centauri children had a hard time with the human languages though, so they started their own special schools in their neighborhoods. At first they were welcomed in the human schools, but the children didn’t understand well and the teachers couldn’t understand the Centauri language. The Centauri delegation leadership actually asked the reigning Earth powers to pass laws requiring teachers to learn the Centauri language but that didn’t fly. After all, we humans were here first. It was our planet. Centauris were visitors.
Obviously, there were no human children going to the Centauri schools and, maybe just because we humans like conspiracy theories, there was talk about what the Centauries were plotting in their schools. Whispered words passed over shadowed dinner tables in the back corners of restaurants. Were the aliens teaching their children overthrow plans? Did they want to take over our planet?
The conspiracies flew wild. Before long there were restaurants putting up signs prohibiting Centauris from entering. The Centauri ruling delegation filed protests with Earth’s leadership but to no avail. Business owners had a right, they said, to restrict entry only to humans if they saw fit. After all, the Centauris didn’t really like much Earth food anyway, so what was the difference?
After the ruling Earth council had announced that private businesses could restrict Centauris from entering it began to happen all over the place. Pretty soon cities started restricting certain areas as “only for humans.” No one complained except for the Centauries and who cared about that? They were just aliens visiting our planet. It wasn’t theirs.
In 3012 a group of human lawyers banded together and filed a brief with the Earth’s Supreme Court, comprised of a senior judge from each of 32 major countries, espousing the belief that Centauris, as sentient beings, held all the same rights on Earth as humans do. Therefore no form of prejudicial treatment should be permitted against them. All businesses, cities, schools, etc. should be required to treat the aliens in an equal fashion, not denying them or restricting them in any way.
The court heard arguments from both sides. The large majority of humans weighed in with the belief that Earth was the human domain and it was simply wrong to put the needs, desires or feelings of visiting aliens in front of the humans who rightfully possessed and lived on Earth. Another brief was filed by the lawyer group requesting that the word “alien” be restricted from further use as it was considered demeaning by the Centauris. The Court upheld that while it heard further arguments about Centauri rights.
After several weeks of arguments being heard the court finally decided, in a 17-to-15 vote (meaning if just one person had changed their mind it would have been a tied vote) the Earth’s Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal, in accordance with the Earth Constitution, to act prejudicially in any way to the Centauris. Schools were forced to have the teachers learn Centauri language so that they could teach Centauri children. Desks, chairs, swing sets, jungle gyms – everything in a school – were redesigned to fit Centauri and human children equally well. Earth vehicle manufacturers were required to change their designs to be equally safe for Centauris as for humans.
To help educate humans about the needs and concerns of Centauris and to help the Centauri community feel a greater sense of unity and strength, a new magazine was started called “Out-Worlders”. It was ostensibly dedicated to “all life forms not indigenous” to Earth – which meant (for all intents and purposes) it was dedicated to Centauris. As a matter of practice and policy, no articles about humans were permitted; no staff member was an Earthling; no pictures or advertising had anything to do with Earthlings. It was 100% dedicated to Centauris. One human lawyer made the argument that the creation and operation of such a magazine was prejudice against humans. The court decided that it was okay; after having been unfairly treated for years (all of about 7) it was necessary for the Centauris to have their own identity and means of protecting their cultural background.
The first week of August was designated “Centauri History Week” and all children everywhere on the planet were required to be taught about the evolution of the Centauri people. A special non-profit organization was started that assisted Centauri individuals and families who thought they might have been treated prejudicially. The Universal Association for the Fair Treatment of Centaurians (UAFTC) was begun. A lawsuit was filed that such an organization was prejudicial by nature and promoted the segregated thoughts about Centaurians but the court dismissed the case as frivolous.
In 3017 an amendment to the Earth Constitution was passed that permitted Centaurians to run for elected office in the Earth Ruling Council system. Hand-in-hand a law was passed that recognized any Centaurian born on Earth to be an Earthling and therefore completely eligible to run for any public office.
Welcome to the year 3023. In such a future our past is relived. Where one group of individuals feels treated unfairly, they unite, form organizations, and fight for their fair recognition. Once they have achieved it, shouldn’t the organizations be disbanded? Once a minority is no longer an actual minority, do their “minority” rights still need to be protected? Better yet, doesn’t the mere existence of groups to defend a specific demographic call attention to the differences of that demographic? Doesn’t such existence and action PROMOTE prejudicial thoughts and (therefore) actions?
The people of Earth are a wide variety of folks. Their skin colors vary from continent to continent and section of society to section of society. Their religions differ in some small ways and occasionally in large ones. The way different population segments prepare food differs greatly and that prepared food isn’t always appetizing to everyone. Laws have been passed to protect the interests of certain minority groups. If the same logic is applied in a millennium, protecting aliens to the extent of altering human evolution and development to the benefit of said aliens, wouldn’t we be doing something wrong?
Don’t you think that maybe… just maybe… we should be judging people based on their capabilities and accomplishments? How about if we outlaw all organizations that are racially or religiously specific? Would that be good or bad? I’m sure that the people who are employed in such organizations would argue that it’s bad; and the people protected by such organizations would argue that they still need the protections offered by the organization. I’m not so sure that those people – who have had equal opportunity and the blessings of the United States – are in need of those protections anymore. I believe it’s possible that the mere existence of organizations dedicated to a single demographic promote racial thought by identifying that demographic as different.
Do you think we’ll learn that lesson before the Centauris get here?