1. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    Supernatural Racism

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Holo, Aug 2, 2012.

    I have seen mixed reviews on supernatural racism from fandoms of the fantasy genre. I know it is a big plot point in True Blood, but I did not like its portrayal. Mostly because vampires were dangerous and oppressed and harmed humans while demanding equality. This turned me off from their "plight".
    Is there a way to write supernatural racism right? What aspects of it should an author focus on and what should they avoid? Is anyone else writing about this issue in their story? And what stories have you read that do this right?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Racism in any form will be a touchy subject. Some people will be vocal about it no matter how you address it.
     
  3. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    Yeah I know it's a touchy subject. It's why I am trying very carefully to write it in an effective way that is not too over the top, but also a main focal point of the story. In my story, the antagonist is basically playing puppet master with different organizations, people, and issues for her own personal gain. (Her daughter got turned into a werewolf. She's trying to do the impossible: find a way to reverse lycanthropy to "save" her daughter. But she doesn't want to try something that will harm her so she turned her pharmaceutical company into a cover for experimenting on werewolves to find a "cure" for lycanthropy. In order to keep people from wondering why werewolves randomly disappear, she uses this paranormal affairs organization as a means to gather up werewolves as her test subjects. She is publicly a sponsor for werewolf equality and set up sanatoriums where werewolves who have trouble go to correct themselves, but these are really just her labs where the experiments are performed. So the paranormal affairs organization gets a bad rep while she comes off as a hero, keeping the protagonist and her allies from knowing who to look for.) So while countering supernatural racism is not the main focal point of the story, it is an integral part of it and what motivates many of the characters.
    In some stories like True Blood, the fact that vampires are dangerous and abusive towards humans is something that is never brought up by anti-vampire groups. Instead, they have this religious slant that makes them seem closed minded, when it would be more interesting if they said that humans are treated poorly by the same people demanding equality and actually made a good point. But on the other hand, I don't want to make the supernatural prejudice seem justified in any way.
    Does anyone have any good examples of supernatural prejudice done well, as in there is no black and white view on it? I really don't want to offend anyone or seem like I am preaching in the story.
     
  4. Quinn T. Senchel
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    Quinn T. Senchel Member

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    That sounds less like racism to me and seems more akin to the treatment autistic people, schizophrenics, epileptics, dwarves, ect, received in the middle ages. They believed they were possessed by demons and they were ostracized from society. In the past the mentally disordered (and sometimes physically handicapped) got treated very poorly. There was a period where they were thrown in cages and put on display like circus freaks. This occurred until the concept of lunatic asylums began. The mentally disordered where put in buildings where they were basically strapped to a bed, starved and covered in their own excrement. Anyone suspected of being mad were thrown in the asylums, regardless of how sane they truly were. They were often beaten, and a lot of the time wound up on the streets because no one wanted to or could afford to care for them.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Talk to people who are not native-born to your country - very likely they'll have experienced things that you didn't even know still happens in your home. I was raised in England, think and act like any other English person, speak English with an English accent - I'm just short of plastic surgery to be like a true Englishwoman - and I've been met with various forms of prejudices and racism still, even though most of the time I am regarded as "one of them". Sometimes it's unintentional, sometimes it's malicious, sometimes it's just pure ignorance that's not meant to harm at all, sometimes it's just stereotypes that people take as a joke without knowing it is harmful reinforcement of inequality (say, in the media).

    The worst thing in all of this - or rather, the most irritating, for me anyway - is that the natives do not recognise racism. Try telling your friends you've been discriminated against! They have no inkling, it's unimaginable. Their responses? "Are you sure you're not over-reacting? Being too sensitive?"

    Why don't you read To Kill a Mockingbird? It's about racism in America. Disney dabbled at it with Pocahontas but IMO didn't do a very good job - however, their song Savages I felt was very well done, and very telling - find it on youtube and listen to the lyrics. I found it extremely interesting how the Natives AND the English were both calling each other "Savages, savages, barely even human..."

    The English described the Natives (in Disney's Pocahontas):
    "They're not like you and me
    Which means they must be evil...
    Their skin's a hellish red
    They're only good when dead
    They're vermin, as I said
    And worse"

    The Natives described the English (same song):
    "This is what we feared
    The paleface is a demon
    The only thing they feel at all is greed
    Beneath that milky hide
    There's emptiness inside
    I wonder if they even bleed...
    Killers at the core
    They're different from us
    Which means they can't be trusted"

    I love the lyrics - I believe they are very telling. At the root of it is that we fear what's different, and we lack understanding - or worse, we lack the willingness to try and understand - and then we take small truths and expand them into one big generalisation that colours our judgement to the point of not seeing reason or evidence. We get to a point where we only believe evidence that reinforces our viewpoints, and take all counter evidence as "exceptions". At its heart is hatred, self-righteousness and pride, the idea that "I'm better than you".
     
  6. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    If you want to see how one great fantasy author handled it, I recommend "Fledgling" by Octavia Butler. Ms. Butler was an African American author who weaved themes of race into her work in a way that was compelling and integral to the story, and "Fledgling" is a fantastic vampire book that pushes the envelope in lots of fascinating ways.
     
  7. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    I have to seriously disagree on this point. While "hatred, self-righteousness and pride" does find permutations in some forms of racism, racism is incredibly more complex than that and takes on numerous forms. Even within scholarly literature, the components that comprise racism are fiercely debated over (well, at least in the field of history, based upon my own research). Some argue that racism is as just you described and existed since "white" people began the Age of Exploration, and others have argued that racism did not really emerge until the Industrial Revolution, when a technologically advanced West had to try to explain why it appeared to be "better" than the rest of the world. To further complicate matters, your typically definitions of race ("white," "black," etc) were/are not fixed categories. Until the late 19th century, the Irish were not considered white, regardless of their actual skin color, and it was not until the 1930s and 1940s that southern Europeans (Spanish, Italians) were considered to be "white" by Western standards.

    My point is that racism is incredibly complex matter that should not be reduced to a few generalized phrases of hatred or superiority. I would suggest to OP that he do serious research onto the matter and explore some scholarly works before trying to include racism as a major, or perhaps even minor, point of his work, even if it is in a fantasy setting (though it would be more forgivable to forgo research for a fantasy work).
     
  8. Lemontine13
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    Lemontine13 Member

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    I love this thread, for I too am writing a fantasy with racism! My novel is in 1st person, so what I do is include degrading accusations and assumptions in the inner dialogue, and I believe that works - just a thought or action here and there where the situation allows, like real life, not stating the situation obviously because subtle racism shows how ingrained it is
     
  9. Feivel
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    Feivel New Member

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    I actually thought racism was handled quite well in the Harry Potter series the whole pure magic blood against "mudblood" that was at the centre of Voldemort's ideology. Although, I think that largely focused on 'good versus evil' part of it. A more complex view of how and why it's fermented, would be a great thing to explore. (one song that stands out for me on this subject is Dylan's Only a Pawn in Their Game, if you can get a hold of that song.)
     

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