In the Afro-futurist fiction of Walter Mosley and Octavia Butler, the heroes are often at the mercy of the system, writes blogger Christopher Bradley. That isn't so much the case for Cyberpunk's outsider heroes, he points out.
"Cyberpunk literature toyed with this - but, I feel, never very successfully. It's like in Gibson's work. In some sort of grand theoretical sense the protagonists were "from the street", but their interaction with the system was essential one of equals. That is, I believe, an attitude that is quite natural for white men to take - that the system, even if stupid and corrupt, nevertheless recognizes them as human and acknowledges their ability to challenge or destroy that system. It is my experience, so far, that in afro-futurist works that assumption is not there. The system often does not recognize the legitimacy of the humanity of the protagonists. I feel that even in science fiction where humans are regarded as backwards, and I am reminded of David Brin's Uplift novels, the author tries very hard to assure the readers of the inherent specialness of humans (generally, we are either stronger of will or more adaptable than the aliens - it's pretty predictable), and afro-futurism doesn't seem to deal much with aliens, but the evils that people do to each other. There is no confidence that the specialness of the protagonists will win out (and, indeed, in several of the stories that is not the case)." [Christopher Bradley]