The Oankali are a lot like Europeans/Americans.
There, I said it. Certainly, it's not the only metaphor that can be drawn from the relationship between Human and Oankali in Lilith's Brood, but it's an interesting one to look at. In light of the colonialist implications discussed in class, it's also one of the more obvious ones. There is, however, a defined parallel understanding of Human-Oankali relations with regard to race.
The biological understanding of value and character bears a striking resemblance to the sorts of arguments leveraged by White scientists for the last few centuries in an attempt to explain, and by explanation prove, the inferiority of Black intellect and emotional life. So convinced are they of their own developmental superiority that they cannot accept the input of humans into their own fate. They wait, instead, for the maturation of a child with Oankali genes, because even acknowledging their own inability to understand human culture, they're unwilling to build from the desires and opinions of the lesser species. Even an immature, partial Oankali is given a stronger voice than fully acculturated humans, such as Lilith. The humans play into this sense of superiority by fixating on the surface aspects of their life with the Oankali, such as their children's tentacles, and ignoring the more profound loss of humanity they've experienced in a lack of meaningful freedom
The motion of the narrative voice toward a more Oankali perspective also maps the acclimation of humanity (and Lilith in particular) to the Oankali world that they seem immovably stuck in. By the end of Imago, Lilith seems to have given up any form of deep resistance, mired as she is in mothering the children she'd originally resisted. Her silent betrayal of Jesusa bespeaks a profound accommodation to the Oankali life that is now the vast majority of her existence. Jodahs itself believes itself to be in touch with its human side, and to understand humanity through itself, but displays a lack of empathy with the humans it encounters. It seems confused, and even perhaps disdainful of Lilith's attempts to keep bits of human culture alive; "She does that sometimes â€“ insists on keeping human customs." (p. 528)
What can we take from this narrative of cultural subsumption? Butler describes a universe in which humanity, in all of its cultural diversity, disappears into barbarism or alien existence. As evidenced by reactions in class, readers find this prospect disturbing, and of questionable morality, if applicable. In this removed form, we can question the medium-term effects of colonization without the cultural baggage of clichÃ©s so often implied in discourse on the topic. In examining our own reactions to the Oankali paradigm, we see more profoundly what it is about humanity we do value.