One of the things that really bothers me with fiction and comics is the way that bad history and white supremacy get in the mix. The number of times I have seen people suggest that including People of Colour in a situation is woke and historically inaccurate is distressingly high.
The problem is that so many people have got their minimal historical education by watching films that were made by people who were racist and/or had other issues. American films from the first half of the twentieth century would cheerfully have white men playing people from anywhere in the world while failing to include People of Colour in times and places they most assuredly would have been. It’s not improved much since then.
The evidence is widespread, the art, the historical information, the written records, the photographs… Ignorant of actual history and fed only a whitewashed history, some people get really cross when faced with better representation.
The oceans of the Victorian era were multicultural places. People working on boats worked on whatever boats they could. If you lost a few key crew members to accident or illness, you’d take on people wherever you next landed. Crews were diverse.
And therefore we can confidently say that people with an option of shipwrecking off the coast of Hopeless, Maine would also have been diverse. We’ve populated the island with people whose ancestors came from all over the place and had no intention of getting stuck here! We’ve also kept it deliberately vague because we don’t have the knowledge to depict the specific experiences of people from around the world. It’s a balance to try and strike – inclusion but not trying to speak for people. We’re very aware that the publishing world lacks for diversity, and that representation matters.
We’re not good history, we’re wilfully anachronistic, and we like to play with things. But we’re still more accurate than the whitewashing.