Perceptions of racism in fantasy go back to the origins of the genre. Is it a coincidence that D&D’s dishonourable, dark-skinned elves come from a matriarchal society, or that its savage orcs bear uncanny resemblance to a traditionally white, western conceptualisation of barbaric peoples from the “uncivilised” world?
*sighs* More race-obsessives. They're everywhere now, in every type of hobby or pastime...
Take JRR Tolkien. On the one hand, he spoke out against Nazi race doctrine and has been heralded for “multiculturalism” in his work. Nevertheless, his stories are steeped in Eurocentric bias.
See? It's not enough for fanatics that you denounce things. They can always find something that makes you guilty.
And if they can't they'll just invent it!
One of the best – or worst – examples of a flawed understanding of history leading to perceptions of a racist representation is George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, seen on TV as Game of Thrones. Martin has said: “I wanted my books to be strongly grounded in history and to show what medieval society was like.” But the sexualising of young women, exoticising of non-white characters and white saviour storylines in the series are typical of the prevalent white-washing of medieval history.
And the 'pushback' against it leads to absurdities like a black Anne Boleyn. They might as well put a dragon in there too!
The pushback to structural racism in fantasy, be it fiction, television or gaming, comes in many forms. Starting conversations about diversity and inclusion in publishing is a start.
Aren't we all bored to tears with 'conversations about diversity' by now? The race-obsessives are the only ones who really care.
“Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is strength, for only a diverse group of adventurers can overcome the many challenges a D&D story presents,” begins Wizards of the Coast’s diversity statement. But in an unequal world, words such as “diversity” are loaded. Pushing past the legacy of colonialism is the only way to create a more level playing field; fantasy should not be an excuse for stories to perpetuate the prejudice that resulted from imperialism.
“Part of our work will never end,” continues the statement. In that, at least, it is right.
Well, there can be no more implacable and relentless foe in fantasy than the one in real life, that's for sure...