As a white woman living in 2017, it is very difficult for me to say that I have an understanding or a grasp on the concept of slavery. I admit whole heartedly that I am unable to fully understand this topic to all of its depths and in no way have experiences with race issues close to that of Octavia Butler’s. This being said, I do not want to come across as the privileged, white girl who cried slavery. I do not question her motives for her story, Bloodchild, yet, as a reader, my mind immediately approached the realm of the concept slavery when reading her story.
I am unable to say if my mind would jump to the issue of slavery when reading this, had it not been for my brief knowledge of who Octavia Butler is and my experiences studying abroad this summer in Senegal while spending large portion of our course work focusing on issues of slavery. This story particularly struck me as embodying issues of slavery on page 25; “The animals once began killing most of our eggs after implantation long before your ancestors arrived. You know these things, Gan. Because your people arrived, we are relearning what it means to be healthy thriving people. And your ancestors, fleeing from their home-world, from their own kind who would have killed or enslaved them – they survived because of us. We saw them as people and gave them the Preserve when they still tried to kill us as worms (Butler, 25).” To me, this brings up the question, what does it mean to be a slave?
Reading this story of humans who migrated to this new place to settle, only to be surprised the planet was inhabited by a different species almost reminds me of a sort of reverse situation of the Europeans coming to the “New World” (America) for the first time. We all know the story of how the Native Americans were treated like savages in their own land. I find this similar to Butler’s work because in both cases acts of hatred and war broke out. Similar to Butler’s story, there was a major issue with race between the Europeans and the Native Americans. Much of this has to do with the visual that we discussed in class. Exploring this text allowed me to realize that a lot of fear and hatred stems from foreign visuals.
In my beliefs, slavery can be seen in this story when the humans first came to the Tilc’s planet and they were restrained, imprisoned and forced to mate with each other; “still tried to kill us as worms” (Butler, 25). One could think that slavery can be seen when one does not have the ability to make decisions about their own body. Although Ghan agrees to carry and host a Tilc child, he is ultimately unaware of the violence of the birth and the arrangement that happened years before he was born stating that the humans would carry the Tilc’s children. Due to this happening years ago, Ghan technically had no say in this. Does that mean that it was actually his choice? Additionally, the eggs given to the Terran have an intoxicating impact, much like that of drugs. To me, this raises the question of if they are fulling aware of the decisions they make because they are under this drug like trance.