Political Correct Term for Different Intelligent Beings

Is using "race" to differentiate different intelligent beings insensitive or politically incorrect?

  • Yes. You should use species.

    Votes: 1 6.7%
  • Yes. You should use some other word or no word at all

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No

    Votes: 14 93.3%

  • Total voters
    15

S J Lee

Inkling
me, I reckon that "species" is a no no, that vocab doesn't belong in any "medieval" fantasy - it would work better in sci fi.

you could use "The elvish people" or just "the elves"

I cannot remember Tolkien ever using the word "race"? Robert E Howard used it a LOT - Lair of the White Worm, eg, the tall blond invaders were are "more advanced race" than the "picts" and yes it looks a bit cringy today, a pity cos it is not a bad story and REH could write. Mind you, he did not say "SUPERIOR race..."?

Tolkien just said "Elves, dwarves and men" and it was just fine.

He introduces "the Noldor" and just refers to those elves as "the Noldor" - he never says "The Noldor tribe" and he sure as hell never says "the Noldor race" - or have I missed it?
... "And the Noldor had grown to a great people" before leaving Aman after Feanor swore his oath....

When the hobbits meet Treebeard, they ask:
"An Ent?"said Merry. "What's that?..."
and he says: "What are you, I wonder? I cannot place you. You do not seem to come in the old lists I learned when I was young..."
Merry does NOT ask "lists of WHAT? Lists of races?" --> it worked for Prof T, it would work for you?

There is NO need to use the word "race" at all. You could use the word "kind" or "kindred" but there is no need to even go there....?

I reckon the poll is too "blunt an instrument" - the use of "race" COULD be "racist" depending on the tone of the whole book. Or, it could work just fine. Depends on more than just one word quoted here out of context, I think, so I don't feel I can vote.
 
Truly, there is no Need for much of anything. There is always a different way of saying something - a different way of telling something - a different way of writing something - a different way to illustrate something. Even a story, plot line, concept, motif, etc. can be changed, altered, spun, added, or deleted. Use of words, the type of words, the spelling of words, the meaning of words, etc.. they all can be changed. Shakespeare made up words all the time. Dr. Seuss is an extremely popular children's author, and I don't even think I need to explain how he fits into my point.

The crux of the matter, I think, is whether it is proper to use "race" in a fantasy novel in our day and age. My answer is that it is a preference thing that should be up to the author. If someone claims that no one should use race (even if the reason is that it is not necessary), then would that person not be just as close-minded as someone who uses race in a derogatory manner? Perhaps that is phrased too strongly, but in most issues, there are extremes on both sides, and the majority of the time, both extremes are dangerous in their own way. To sensor a word simply because the word has some connotations that are bad - to the ignorance of the good connotations - is unbalanced in my opinion. Language is much more fluid than that, and people are often much more understanding than we give them credit for.

To reject something simply because there is NO NEED for it is a very dangerous and slippery slope. That reasoning can be used for just about anything. Applied to most scenarios, the logic falls apart. This generally reveals the reasoning to be of poor quality... I hope that all made sense...
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
Tolkien definitely uses it. I was able to check this morning. He simply writes Elves or Men, etc. more often, but he writes. of Dwarves, Men, Elves, and Orcs as races in Lord of the Ring and also writers of ‘races’ within some of those categories.

If there is a good argument against its use generally, I’m open to it.
 

Queshire

Auror
A good argument? Eh, probably not. There's a few potential arguments against it that I've thought of though.

1) Quantitative differences in abilities between races.

This primarily goes back to D&D where your race gives you a bonus in certain stats and in previous editions a minus to others. It might be easy enough to say that Orcs grow big and bulky enough that it'd be only natutal for them to get a bonus to strength, but it gets a bit dicey with reductions to more abstract attributes such as Intelligence or Charisma. Do you really want to say a race is inherently less intelligent than another race? Really? I'm pretty sure that with the standard rules an Orc with the same education as a human would have the same minuses so it's hard to justify it as a result of culture.

Luckily the most recent editions got rid of racial reductions to stats. Positive bonuses can also be a bit sketchy since positive stereotypes like Asian people being good at math is still a stereotype. They've further introduced options to customize what you get from your race in D&D so my badass wizard orc can be just as badass as any other wizard.

For something more directly related to writers the biggest complaint I've seen about the X-men being an allegory for racism is because they have powers that often make them legitimately dangerous to muggles. This is bullshit of course. I can easily imagine a story about a guy struggling with society viewing him as a monster, knowing that one slip up could ruin his life and that even if he has nothing to worry about from one guy with a gun he knows that he can't deal with the army / Avengers if they get sent after him.

2) (Fantasy) Racial stereotypes.

Racial stereotyping is bad m'kay, and it's easy thing to fall into with fantasy races. All Dwarves are scottish, all Orcs are honorable warrior race guys, etc and so on. Might just be me, but a lot of times in fantasy it seems like humans have a higher chance of having multiple cultures while other races get one.

3) Fantasy races as direct expies of real life races.

What, so the graceful, immortal, better than you elves have the culture of samurai Japan? Lol, you weeb. Orcs are black people? Hmmm, I see how it is.

4) Always evil races.

Holy fuck, watch some D&D lore videoes sometimes. Orcs? Gnolls? Drow? There's a ridiculous number of races unrepentantly evil for one reason or another (often because of their gods) so that our heroes can slaughter them without feeling bad.

To use another example in the game Final Fantasy XIV it's possible to summon creatures called Primals. These Primals are often based off of the gods of various groups, but they're more like living spells. To continue to exist they need a constant supply of magic and enough people "casting" them through prayer. Luckily they have a method to warp the minds of most people (not the protagonist) to turn them into worshipful followers. The condition can't be killed, and since the Primals will inevitably cause environmental devastation due to draining all the magic from the environment to maintain themselves the Primals can't be left alive. The end result is a steady stream of brainwashed enemies for the protagonist to slaughter without guilt even if they manage to befriend other factions of the races that summon the Primals.

Sometimes slaughtering the enemy without having to worry about pesky morality is the whole point *cough*Goblin Slayer*cough* but wars aren't that hard to set up without that.

Notably, none of these are directly about races as a word, but just like saying Elf brings a mental image to mind they're some of the associations that might be brought up when someone talks about fantasy races.
 
I would say these arguments are pitfalls of general tropes, not necessarily an argument against the use of race. In fact most if not all of these points can still occur without the use of the word race. That aside, those are good points that all authors should be wary of.
 
Someone recently brought it to my attention that using the term "race" is very controversial. In the field of fantasy and fiction writing, I always considered it correct to term different intellectual beings as races - such as the human race, race of dwarves, or elven races, etc.... Has that been outmoded for more politically correct terminology? Or is that still vogue/proper usage? I kinda wanted to poll the opinions out there, but I would also like to hear what words you think is best to replace it if you consider it necessary to replace it. Personally, I'm not sure "species" really fits the bill.... but I may be wrong.

The trouble with using race as a classifying principle is that it (race) has been used as a way to stigmatize and endanger certain "races." Even most physical and biological anthropologists today use race mainly in the genetic-historic context, as frames of reference to well-established genetic, racial, or specie-related classifications. "Race" as a social category has very little critical currency, though it is still widely prevalent in the popular imagination. Cultural anthropologists do however study how "race" is thought of by individuals and cultures, and this only reinforces that race is sort of an arbitrary concept, defined differently in different contexts. As for using "specie" in place of race, that is also dubious since a race is usually treated as a subset of species.

However, one can still write about "race" in fiction, irrespective of genre. Even if it is fantasy, which is deeply alluring because it often tends to radically alter certain aspects of the real world. Besides, even fantasy can function as social commentary (for instance, writers can allude to recognizable supremacist movements from the real world). I recently read that Orwell's Animal Farm could be regarded as a work of "anti-utopian literature" (Source: Animal Farm - Overview), which is interesting since a similar work of fiction--Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil--has been described as "misconceived and offensive." IMO, Beatrice and Virgil was much better and immensely more cerebral than Animal Farm, yet it has largely received horrible reviews because it is not considered a politically correct work. In other words, sometimes the most earnest, most compassionate work can be shunned for not being "politically correct," while other middling works may enjoy popularity thanks to careful pandering (this is not at all a comment of Animal Farm or Beatrice and Virgil). The decision is the writer's alone, but it is not an easy decision at all.
 

AlexK2009

Dreamer
Hmm....

I would say that if elves and dwarves can interbreed they are separate races of a single species.

In real word usage race tends to mean tribes of humans (The term is scientifically meaningless) and Species refers to non humans, specifically animals.
 
I cannot remember Tolkien ever using the word "race"? Robert E Howard used it a LOT - Lair of the White Worm, eg, the tall blond invaders were are "more advanced race" than the "picts" and yes it looks a bit cringy today, a pity cos it is not a bad story and REH could write. Mind you, he did not say "SUPERIOR race..."?

Tolkien just said "Elves, dwarves and men" and it was just fine.

He introduces "the Noldor" and just refers to those elves as "the Noldor" - he never says "The Noldor tribe" and he sure as hell never says "the Noldor race" - or have I missed it?
... "And the Noldor had grown to a great people" before leaving Aman after Feanor swore his oath....

When the hobbits meet Treebeard, they ask:
"An Ent?"said Merry. "What's that?..."
and he says: "What are you, I wonder? I cannot place you. You do not seem to come in the old lists I learned when I was young..."
Merry does NOT ask "lists of WHAT? Lists of races?" --> it worked for Prof T, it would work for you?
I don't blame Tolkien because (like all of us) he was a product of his times, but I find LOTR pretty racist - for lots of reasons I won't bother with here. I'm just responding to the comment above.

In the very same chapter SJ Lee quotes we have the following from Treebeard speculating about Saruman's Orcs: "Are they men he has ruined or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!"

Not arguing with the main thrust of the thread, just correcting an impression of Prof Tolkien.
 
As far as I'm concerned there's absolutely nothing wrong with the word "race". You may as well be pissed off with the words "basin" or "flagpole".

Plenty wrong with the way "race" is sometimes used.
 
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