Race in D&D

The way race is treated in Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy stuff becomes harder to swallow as I get older. Even when I played the game as a kid, I had trouble with the orcs and goblins because there was just no real world equivalent to the idea of good race and bad race I could accept. The idea of evil orcs and noble elves seems like nostalgia for a racist worldview.

I found a link to this essay by Chris Van Dyke about race and D&D at the Roolipelaaja forum. Near the end of his text, Van Dyke writes about going to the white supremacist webforum Stormfront to look for material for the essay. There he found this illuminating post by user Holy Roman Emperor:

From reading and posting on the Opposing Views section of the forum, I read a lot of foolish comments from the anti’s. Statements like “I know a black person who is really smart, therefore everything you say about racial intelligence differences is wrong.” Well, of course, the lack of understanding of statistics this statement shows is staggering. I try to recall when in my life when I could have fallen for such a foolish statement and I can’t think of when I would have.

I completely understood how there could be smart blacks and yet blacks be less intelligent than whites as a whole when I was a child. When was the first time I thought about an idea like that? When I got into Dungeons and Dragons at the age of nine or ten. I knew that elves were more agile than humans. I knew that because they had a +1 bonus (back when I started playing, now its +2) to Dexterity, I knew they were more dexterous even though the average elf had a Dexterity of 11.5 and humans could have a Dexterity of 18.

And this point may seem a bit silly, but it introduces an important idea that most white people are conditioned not to believe in – racial essentialism. The idea that race determines certain characteristics or tendencies. We knew that elves we dexterous, that dwarves were tough, that orcs were mean and nasty. We also knew that there were exceptions and that exceptions didn’t mean that general trends didn’t still apply.

D&D also has a lot about racial loyalty. Elves band together in protection of their forests. Orcs raid human villages and have to be stopped by the hero. In D&D, you have loyalty to your people and you know that sometimes a race in general can be a threat to your’s.

As I’ve grown older over the years I’ve continued to enjoy role playing games and my though the games I’ve played have advanced beyond just fighting orcs and finding magic items – but I think that some of those ideas I was exposed to as a child were good lessons that maybe helped me come to terms with ideas that are part of beings a White Nationalist.

As Van Dyke writes, this neatly summarizes all my misgivings about D&D.

Related Post