With Donald Trump continuing to make statements which many consider offensive to various groups, leading him to be branded a bigot by many, the concept of bigotry, racism and oppression is high in the news agenda and an interesting thing for us to examine here. Is everyone in your invented world treated equally, or are some groups more equal than others?
In the real world, we can claim that prejudice and discrimination can apply in many situations, according to factors like race, gender, social class, sexuality, disability, religion, age… and we might continue on into oblivion. Since these things can take so many forms and influence so much in the real world, they might also be interesting to add to your invented world. You don’t have to explore them as issues, you could simply use them to add texture to the world you have created and show up its imperfections.
Example: The planet Lantary’s population is divided between the humans and the native Mallinsha people. Centuries after their enslavement by the Terran Empire they have finally been granted their freedom, though they do not have the same rights as the humans; they cannot vote nor run for office, and their economic activity is strictly regulated, barring them from owning land or running businesses.
Here we can see that Lantary has a legally enforced discrimination system, one which we might liken to Apartheid South Africa. There exists in the world two distinct classes of being in society, which is completely unrelated to their relative intelligence or merit (indeed, this may even be made more interesting if the Mallinsha are clearly more intelligent than humans). We might see splits and tensions in society as a result of these different levels – since the Mallinsha get no representation in government, their interests may not be taken into consideration when designing policy.
This needn’t be in only one dimension. Say Lantary also discriminates against females of any species. How might the life of a Mallinsha woman compare to that of a human man in such a system?
Example: The Kingdom of Nantiia prides itself on its progressive views. They see as backwards and ridiculous the beliefs of the neighbouring kingdoms, who behave as if women and the dark-skinned men from the Southern Lands are somehow inferior beings. Nantiia has no such ridiculous beliefs. Nantiia knows that all people are equal, which is why they do not trust those who say otherwise, particularly those who claim to be wise men, the mages, who believe themselves superior.
Here we see a society without any “official” prejudice. All people in Nantiia appear to enjoy the same legal rights and protections. But while by law there is no discrimination and no legal impediment to various groups (and indeed, there may be legal ramifications for acting in such a way) it is clear that a prejudice exists against mages, who are viewed with distrust.
In Nantiia, mages are as free as anyone else is; they are able to own land, to marry, to learn, to trade, and to practise their religion. But that doesn’t mean they are treated equally. The non-magical population may avoid them, mistrust them, give them less favourable deals. Whether or not the mages actually do consider themselves to be superior would appear to be irrelevant; the population believes that they do, and will treat them accordingly.
What prejudices might exist in your created world? Are they parallel to ones in our world, or different? Are they legally enforced, or merely occurring in practice? Asking yourself these questions might make your world less utopian, and more realistic.