Study Guide

Snow Crash Prejudice

By Neal Stephenson

Prejudice

It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists. (7.10)

There you have it: No amount of being smart will save you from the unconscious draw of stereotypes. It's even worse when your smarty-pants self image prevents you from accepting that yep, you might be narrow-minded in your own way too.

"Are you saying these guys are homos?" Fisheye says, his face shriveling up. (49.28)

Nice to know that even in the dystopian future that has virtual reality as an everyday thing, homophobia's still alive and well.

"How did you come to be in possession of such important family heirlooms from Nippon?" the businessman says.

Hiro knows the subtext here: What do you use these swords for, boy, slicing watermelon? (11.13-14)

Apparently an uptight Japanese guy looks at Hiro, sees his dark skin, and assumes the worst: He stole the swords. Because clearly a black guy couldn't honorably possess anything important. Ugh. Racism thrives in the world of Snow Crash.

"Where you from?" Y.T. asks.

"Tadzhikistan," he says.

A jeek. She should have known. (6.96-98)

We're big Y.T. fans, but this is a pretty obvious display of prejudice on her part. Is there a "dislike" button we can hit?

Young men blasted out of their minds on natural and artificial male hormones must have some place to do their idiotic coming-of-age rituals. (31.5)

We bet this one slipped by you. Obvious displays of prejudice (like making fun of immigrants) are easy to spot, but the intellectual elitism that leads the smart characters to look down in stupid people? It's subtler…and perhaps more insidious.

One thing's for sure—this is not a delivery to be entrusted to any Kourier, any punk on a skateboard. Jason is going to trundle his Oldsmobile into Compton personally to drop this stuff off. (17.55)

Do we detect a hint of class prejudice here? Wouldn't surprise us, coming from a Mafia goon like Jason.

NO WAY, JOSÉ! Uncle Enzo holding up one hand to stop an Uzi-toting Hispanic scumbag; behind him stands a pan-ethnic phalanx of kids and grannies, resolutely gripping baseball bats and frying pans. (18.8)

One of the smarter ways to deal with prejudice is to acknowledge that it exists, and then use it in your marketing strategies, the way Uncle Enzo does. Create images of your group—which is so awesome that it transcends racial barriers—uniting to fight an outside threat.

"Your mistake," Ng says, "is that you think all mechanically assisted organisms—like me—are pathetic cripples. In fact, we are better than we were before." (32.70)

There's a name for this: ableism. It's pretty common in the real world, too. Unfortunately.

It is the Kourier talking to him. The Kourier is not a man, it is a young woman. A f***ing teenaged girl. (2.48)

Good job, Hiro. Normally you come across as pretty egalitarian, but here you assumed that a Kourier hardcore enough to keep up with you was a dude.

She knows that the people in the Street are giving her dirty looks because she's just coming in from a s***ty public terminal. She's a trashy black-and-white person. (29.5)

The uneven distribution of technology according to wealth sure does make for some nasty prejudices. We know how awesome Y.T. is, but no one in the Metaverse would give her the time of day if she showed up with a cheap, crummy avatar. Sadly, snap judgments seem to be just a part of the way the world works.