I have this theory that The Hunger Games is a story about racial colorblindness gone horribly wrong and basically a warning about how ignoring racism does not help racism, and rather allows racism to grow. I don’t think this is something Suzanne Collins purposefully did by any stretch of the imagination, unless Suzanne Collins completely went back on her beliefs later on. But I do think it’s in there, even if she put it in accidentally.
If you look at Panem, there is little to no discussion of actual race. Most people don’t seem to identify all that strongly with race (they do identify with the Seam, or with the Merchants, but Katniss never explictly refers to these as being racial divisions), but racial divides are still prevalent. Racial divides are especially prevalent in District 11, which is treated horribly compared to the other districts.
Quote from the Hunger Games Wiki: Their industry is agriculture; orchards, fields of wheat, and cotton surround the district. Almost everything they grow goes to the Capitol despite their starvation; if any citizen of District 11 is caught eating any of the crops, they are to be whipped in public.
This is an obvious reference to slavery, especially with the members of District 11 being described as Black. However, when Katniss thinks about the members of District 11 (she does something similar when she describes any skin color), she describes them by comparing their skin color to her own, or merely by saying they’re “dark-skinned.” She never harps on the fact that there might be any correlation between D11’s treatment and any form of prejudice. She recognizes that 1) D11 is horribly treated compared to the other districts and 2) D11 is mostly comprised of people with darker skin than her own, but she never implies that this might have been something Panem did purposefully.
Now going to the racial divide in District 12: The members of the Seam are consistently described as having a different eye color, different hair color, and different skin color than the Merchant class. The Merchants are consistently described as fairer, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed. The two groups live almost isolated from one another, rarely interacting. When Katniss’ mother (a Merchant) marries Katniss’ father (a member of the Seam), Katniss’ mother’s family actually shuns her, cutting off all contact.
Yet, Katniss never explicitly says, “Holy shit, Panem is racist as fuck!” and it doesn’t seem many of the members of the Seam or District 11 do either. Gale is one of the few exceptions to this rule in my opinion. I think he knows.
So, where I’m going with this is that the Capitol has essentially somehow brainwashed the members of its society to not explicitly think of race, while simultaneously instituting huge racial divisions. Despite how blaringly obvious those divisions are, the members of Panem are brainwashed enough that most of them don’t notice. This allows the Capitol to keep racial divisions in place without people questioning them, and not surprisingly, racism is still a thing in Panem despite the fact that many of its members do not think of race in any in depth way.