Race and nationality are nothing but self-imposed labels, as we are all homo sapiens, but at the end of the day, there will be prejudice. This holds true even when on Mars, as in Red Mars, race and the tensions associated with it play a major role, showing that deep rooted opinions are not restricted to the third planet from the sun, but can easily expand beyond the stars.
The mention of race and racial divide do not hesitate to make themselves known as on page 9, it reads, “Their thinking clashed radically with Western thought; for instance the separation of church and state was wrong to them, making it impossible to agree with Westerners on the very basis of government. And they were so patriarchal that some of their women were said to be illiterate-illiterates, on Mars!” It is clear that though this mission to Mars is an international one, there are still nations and national beliefs. Even when working together for the good of humanity, man still holds tight to prejudice. Later, on page 12, “ The next boulevard Chalmers was crowded with people clumped outside open-front bars, or kiosks selling couscous and bratwurst. Arab and Swiss. It seemed like an odd combination, but they meshed well.” What this passage is really getting at is that there just can’t be humans clumped outside, there has to be the divisional labels of nationality, that even in a society advanced enough for space colonization, something as archaic as racism is still strong.
But it is to be said that the novel makes it clear who is in charge, or appears to be at least, as on page 37, “Anyway English was the ship’s lingua franca, and at first Maya had thought that this gave the Americans an advantage.” It is here that the reader is given enough evidence to draw a conclusion towards an Anglo-American inspired Mars, not a Mars of all the Earth. On page 45, when Maya is observing rank, she remarks that “The American program had a more military tradition, indicated in even their titles: while Maya was merely Russian Contingent Coordinator, Frank was Captain Chalmers, and supposedly in the strong sense of the old sailing navies.” Even if it is merely just traditional titles, this gives the reader a glimpse into exactly how much American influence the mission really has, for Captain is a title of leadership, and no effort was made to ensure national equality between the leaders of the contingents. While Red Mars may be a novel about escaping the terrestrial grasp of Gaia and reaching new horizons, it is still plain to see that in crossing the cosmic seas, some of Earth’s most vile diseases will readily taint this new world, foremost among them, racism.