The Conclave

The Ordos Majoris - Hobby, Painting and Modelling => The Dark Millennium => Topic started by: GAZKUL on January 27, 2011, 09:44:31 PM

Title: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 27, 2011, 09:44:31 PM
this has annoyed me for some time but why arn't there any Black or other ethnic space marine chapters? could it be that GW are racist or eurocentric?

Discuss.

Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Frostspear on January 27, 2011, 09:49:46 PM
*sigh*

Before assuming anything, I can vouch that he isn't just trolling.

I've done my best to explain various aspects, including Marine pigment alteration and the various European influences surrounding the universe in the first place...but it didn't sink in.

Perhaps somebody could explain better...
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on January 27, 2011, 10:33:08 PM
1) there are. Various Marine chapters have been shown to either be majority dark-skinned (sometimes the Sallies, depending on which you listen to, and there was another one, though I can't remember which) or non-Caucasian (White Scars being the obvious) or to contain non-white officers (Imperial Fists have at least one dark-skinned character).

2) GW are a bit Eurocentric, though not racist, I would argue. GW tend to simply leave out non-white groups (other than Mongols, as mentioned) - JRR Tolkein, the inspiration behind it all, was actively racist, or at least has been interpreted this was, with the distinction between the Good kingdoms of Norse/Celt Gondor and Rohan, Little England Hobbits, and super Aryan Elves and the Bad Fallen Kingdoms, with Bedouin robes and elephants and scimitars. This covers a lot of influential fantasy - Narnia contains the good, civilised kingdom of white people and talking animals in Narnia, then their barbaric and cruel Arab/African neighbours to the south, featured in The Horse and His Boy, while Lovecraft named his cat "Niggerman", and wrote extensively about his disgust for the "half-breeds" that he lived among in a poor immigrant area of New York. GW is mostly pretty good when it comes to race relations - unlike my box of colouring pencils as a child, they didn't called Bronzed Flesh or Elf Flesh just "skin colour".  They also made a Turk the ruler of the Galaxy...

I think the pigment alteration should actually create darker skinned Marines, frankly. But I haven't done anything about that
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: MarcoSkoll on January 27, 2011, 10:44:04 PM
Even just looking at the First Legions, the White Scars are based on Mongolian tribal culture, the Salamanders are depicted with skin colours ranging from brown to pure black (depending on artist) and the Thousand Sons are heavily Egyptian in theme. And I also think there's one that has elements of ancient Chinese culture, but I may be misremembering something there, because I can't work out which it was supposed to be.
And yes, the Emperor himself is from Turkey.

GW is primarily intended for a western market, and so their products reflect that, but that does not make them racist.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Myriad on January 28, 2011, 12:44:40 AM
As others have pointed out, there's more a lack of different ethnicities than any active discrimination.  In the 40K case especially, I think there's a passive kind of racism in the omission.  It is more simply eurocentrism though - in WFB, the old world is basically europe and most of the other areas happen to be occupied by lizardmen, ogres and other fantasy races.

By the time a marine is through the various augmentations, I always reckoned traces of his original ethnicity would be remote.  A few chapters are described as dark skinned though.  I'm a bit more disturbed by the lack of diversity in the guard, which I guess we could put down as much to the skin tones in their paint range as anything else.  Oddly enough, I did once get worried by the lack of ethnic (and gender, as I recall) diversity in my own inquisitor collection, with the result below - if this really bothers you do something similar!
(http://lh3.ggpht.com/_orTPwyJEoiY/TCPWa0OIT7I/AAAAAAAABqY/_rB39iNI0XQ/s144/DSCF4477.JPG)
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Morcus on January 28, 2011, 02:37:30 AM
As above I think your reading into something that isn't really there.

There are SM of many different 'Ethnic Backgrounds' and the same for guard and everything else. Also Intresting that Ratskins haven't been mentioned as they could arguably be a bit racist (I don't think they specifically are but I think some people might.)

I think it would be more racist to have 'token Ethnics'.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 28, 2011, 05:51:24 PM
A lot of valid points here, in particular the ones about the stereotypical fantasy influences.

it's something which has irritated me since entering the hobby, in particular the notable majority of guard regiments who're white (catachans, steel legion, krieg, elysians, cadians, valhallans, skull takers etc), okay there are some exceptions to this but like Morcus said they're more along the lines of token ethnics to any real attempt to integrate coloured and other ethnic groups into the game.

In my own guard army, the Cadian 541st i've aimed for a fairly even split between black, white and Asian. i'm sure many others have done the same but how come GW doesn't seem be able to grasp the concept of racial equality?
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: greenstuff_gav on January 28, 2011, 06:10:14 PM
in particular the notable majority of guard regiments who're white (catachans,

wasn't there a period where the majority of Catachans were black?
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: MarcoSkoll on January 28, 2011, 06:31:50 PM
I'm sure many others have done the same but how come GW doesn't seem be able to grasp the concept of racial equality?
Because "Oh yeah, the platoon sergeant is black" wouldn't go down very well in a Black Library novel, and feels like shoehorning in a black guy for the sake of it.
Also, using a term like "Asian" would be really disruptive to the immersion of a story, because it means about as much in 40k as the words "British" or "French" - the old Terran terms for different ethnicities or nationalities would no longer mean anything in the 41st Millennium.

I don't think it's that GW don't grasp the concept, but that actually describing someone by their ethnicity is a bit of a taboo thing and because most of the terms we use to describe nationalities are probably long since lost by those days.

Also, have you any idea how many ethnicities there would be in the 41st millennium? While you're grouping modern ethnicities into large groups like "White, Black, Asian", that's probably not even possible in the Imperium, and many of their ethnicities would be completely alien to us.
I doubt there's anyone in the 41st millennium who could make sense of more than the most basic racial groups of their own planet, let alone any other planet, so that they no longer bother is not that surprising.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Kaled on January 28, 2011, 07:11:59 PM
In my own guard army, the Cadian 541st i've aimed for a fairly even split between black, white and Asian.
I see why you've done what you've done - but what makes you think Cadia has an even split of ethnic groups corresponding to what you'd call black, white and Asian? Why haven't you included all the other 'ethnic' groups that might exist by then. After millennia of genetic tinkering and mutation there's likely to be plenty of other arbitrary groups you could and, in the name of 'equality', should have included n your army if you think Cadia has an even split of all the different ethnicities that exist in the Imperium.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 28, 2011, 09:22:22 PM
In my own guard army, the Cadian 541st i've aimed for a fairly even split between black, white and Asian.
I see why you've done what you've done - but what makes you think Cadia has an even split of ethnic groups corresponding to what you'd call black, white and Asian? Why haven't you included all the other 'ethnic' groups that might exist by then. After millennia of genetic tinkering and mutation there's likely to be plenty of other arbitrary groups you could and, in the name of 'equality', should have included n your army if you think Cadia has an even split of all the different ethnicities that exist in the Imperium.

good idea, on to it. on topic i guessed that cadia would be a temperate world smiler to earth and races would be similar.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on January 28, 2011, 09:32:37 PM
Apart from Cadia, like all human worlds apart from Terra, is colonised - and the implication in various sources is that he original colonies were very very small, single communities that spread. 20 to 30 thousand years will create variations, obviously, but the variations between human populations took longer, I believe.

Also, Cadia, being a military world, could well involve a lot more "shuffling" of the population, as families are moved between the Kasrs, and hence a lot more mixing of the genetics - and so would have little to no racial distinctions within a couple generations, especially as planetary and Imperial loyalty would override regional, and so remove any taboos on intermarriage between Kasrs.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Heroka Vendile on January 29, 2011, 12:22:28 AM
I think most of the important points have already been covered, but I would place special emphasis on the fact that all human worlds in the imperium except Terra are the results of colonisation - their origins could be anything from 20 survivors of a crashed shuttle to a packed colonisation ship carrying 500,000 people - but the point is that from this will come an overall planetary set of genetic traits to define the "race" of each world. So you will find planets of what we would refer to as Chinese or Peruvian or Maori or whatever, but to the Imperium they're just "humans from planet X".

Plus over 28,000 years (now in 2,000 till Great Crusade in 30,000) humans have developed into Ratlings, Ogryns and many other "abhuman" types, heck Voidborn is an ethnicity as far as the imperium is concerned, nevermind talk of skin colour - who knows what the average human will look like in 38,000 years time anyway.

If we were to be super cynical about all this and look at it strictly from a business end though - Arian men are the most reliable way to sell anything globally pretty much - that's not racism, that's cold hard fact.


Another separate point is that I have never seen a Death Korps of Krieg model or artwork with a bare head. They have German-sounding names, sure, but why does that mean they're necessarily white?
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: biggreengribbly on January 29, 2011, 03:09:05 AM
Another separate point is that I have never seen a Death Korps of Krieg model or artwork with a bare head. They have German-sounding names, sure, but why does that mean they're necessarily white?

There is one to my knowledge. In one of the old 'Regiments on Armageddon' Articles in White Dwarf. I can find the number if you're that curious. There's a three-headshot boxin of a stock gasmask/helmet trooper, the vehicle crewy variant mask/helmet, and a third with a bare head. It's little snippets like that of old that sour my opinion rather of Forgeworld's Faceless, nameless, lifeless, permanently masked meatwall-expendable in an army pf meatwall expendables in a culture of meatwall expenditure, clone-soldier take on the Korps.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Macabre on January 29, 2011, 01:39:09 PM
Most of the model-made IG regiments were based on historical archetypes; the Catachan were based on US troops during the Vietnamese War, The Tallarn were (at least originally) a Lawrence of Arabia type but they've become more middle-eastern now, the Attilan Rough Riders are based on the mongol horseriders, the Praetorian were influenced by the Light Brigade and other regiments of that era, the Mordian guard were (in my opinion) based on the US Marine no.1 uniform, the Steel Legion were based on both the British and German uniform of WW1, and the Valhallan regiments have obvious ties with the troops of Stalinist Russia.

Likewise, the same could be said for the first founding Astartes legion, now they've been expanded, you do have some racial traits applied to the various legions, such as; the dark, almost black skin of the Salamanders, the Mediterranean lineage of the Ultramarines and Emperor's Children (who have been described as having olive skin and long noses), the mongol inspiration of the White Scars, the Scandinavian look of the Space Wolves, the decidedly Persian heritage of the Word Bearers and the Egyptian visuals of the Thousand Sons.

This trend of 'passive racist' from GW can be possibly explained by three reasons;

One: GW has to appeal to their main customer demographic, which is (let's face it), middle class, socially awkward, white caucasian male teens. Now although this doesn't have a significant bearing on this subject, it may shed some light as to why the human race in 40k has an obvious lack of other racial representation (much in the same way as statistically, female 40k gamers tend to play Tyranids).

Two: GW would rather shy away from other racial representation in their models, due to the s**tstorm of litigation that can often occur (which is the major reason why Araby has never been expanded upon beyond Warmaster). Unfortunately, unless you're a superlative sculptor, you run the risk of any 'ethnic' miniature looking almost caricatured or stereotypical (such as Al Muktar's desert dogs with their big beards and moustaches and turbans), and that such imagery is more often due to sincerely held religious observance rather than a genetic trait.

Three: as has already been pointed out, ethnic boundaries and racial groups have almost no bearing in the 40k universe, we have moved on beyond inter-species conflict and hatred mostly because we have bigger concerns with other alien races.

Indeed, territorial claims such as; "you're Pakistani" or "you're British" are just ludicrous concepts now, one might as well say "you're Tallarn" or "you're Cadian" which is no more derogatory than a statement of fact.

Likewise religion (which is arguably the cause for most of our inter-species conflict and hatred today) is all controlled by a single governing body, the Ecclesiarchy. And whilst it is true that there are many difference variances in the Imperial Church that stem from world to world, and on occasion this does lead to a war of faith, ultimately it will be over the fundamentals of doctrine rather than racial bigotry.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Ancelyn on January 29, 2011, 01:49:48 PM
This is one of the most pointless discussions I have come across on this Forum. If you want a none caucasian force then create one and stop whining about supposed "racism". Gadzooks! Talk about making mountains out of mole hills.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 29, 2011, 02:03:07 PM
just curious, lots of good points, it just irritated me about how just about every army in WD looked like a KKK meeting, incidentally the Cadian range was influenced by the Mobile Infantry from Paul Verhoevens 1997 film Starship Troopers, google it for pics.

Ancelyn: that's right, shoot the messenger. 
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: MarcoSkoll on January 29, 2011, 02:07:29 PM
that's right, shoot the messenger.
Actually, that's a very effective way to stop them sending messengers...
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: N01H3r3 on January 29, 2011, 03:55:43 PM
incidentally the Cadian range was influenced by the Mobile Infantry from Paul Verhoevens 1997 film Starship Troopers, google it for pics.
It really wasn't. The first Cadian imagery and background, which changed only slightly since then (when the Cadians became plastic, as they needed to simplify the design, notably around the shoulder pads, to make it easier to cast) appeared in the 1995 Codex Imperial Guard.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on January 29, 2011, 09:53:16 PM
Given that the ST movie was orignally called BUGS! and had nothing to do with Heinlein's book, its more likely that they were based on Cadians vs. Tyranids - Verhoven is odd like that, very pop-culture literate.

Ancelyn has a point though. Worried about the lack of non-white characters? Make some. I have. There's someone here, if I recall, who made transgendered characters because they themselves are transgendered. Inquisitor is the perfect place for this.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 29, 2011, 11:03:15 PM
you learn something new everyday.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Macabre on January 30, 2011, 12:24:27 AM
Well, transhumanism is a key byword in the 41st millennium, so gender identity (and by extension sexual orientation) are probably also explored there too (not to mention expanded to include a variety of new sciences and social interpretations).
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: GAZKUL on January 30, 2011, 12:54:55 PM
Well, transhumanism is a key byword in the 41st millennium, so gender identity (and by extension sexual orientation) are probably also explored there too (not to mention expanded to include a variety of new sciences and social interpretations).

intresting, better get to work then :)
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Ancelyn on January 30, 2011, 02:20:44 PM
Funnily enough, my character Boamond le Savage is a black asian trangender lesbian, with one arm and a limp.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Heroka Vendile on January 30, 2011, 05:06:35 PM
Funnily enough, my character Boamond le Savage is a black asian trangender lesbian, with one arm and a limp.

That's one hell of a box-ticker for an equality assessment.

Dapper is right, she hasn't appeared round here for ages to my knowledge though.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Alyster Wick on January 30, 2011, 10:39:43 PM
Quote
who knows what the average human will look like in 38,000 years time anyway.

Clearly their hands will have grown  huge, which allows them to make weapons of enormous proportions.  :P

I think part of the issue is also uniformity of models.  Having characters in a 40K army with different skin tones has the potential to fracture the unity of the army's color scheme, not to mention being a pain in the ass.  True, if you're lovingly creating a small force of true-scaled marines who each have their own backstory and you're a fantastic painter then you can pull it off, but if you're slopping buckets of paint on dozens of guardsmen then god be with you if you decide to incorporate affirmative action into your guard recruitment.

In Inquisitor terms it's far easier to get away with different skin tones while maintaining a coherent force because we tend to tie our warbands together with only a few unified colors.

That all said, race is just a touchy issue now days.  Once you start viewing things through the framework of, "oh shoot, we need to add some diversity because I just realized we don't have any," then you're pretty much heading down the wrong road.  Some may say that armies modeled after certain ethnicities are offensive because they're stereotypical and pandering, while others may say they were inspired by historical imagery.  People tend to create what they know.  Jesus is generally depicted being the race of the painter or culture that produced the work in question.  Basically what I'm saying is that this stuff is complicated and I have no answers.

My solution?  All my dark eldar have dark blue skin :)  

EDIT:
On the subject of "What does 'race' look like in the 41st millennium" (probably the most pertinent question in terms of Inquisitor) I can't say anything that hasn't already been said.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: precinctomega on January 31, 2011, 08:34:42 AM
The Mortifactors recruit from a world with a strong thread of African racial extraction, according to Graham MacNeil's Ultramarines Omnibus (I forget which book).

R.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on January 31, 2011, 12:32:49 PM
Thats who I was thinking of! I saw a really really good 54mm Mortifactor once, with a very well sculpted African face, and massive dreads.

Alyster makes a good point, that its offensive to start including "minorities" (as if Europeans are not a minority on Earth! We're all a minority) because they "should" be included - rather than because it suits for some other reason.

There's also the Glavians - they're all darkskinned, though it's rarely mentioned.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: N01H3r3 on January 31, 2011, 12:46:09 PM
they're all darkskinned, though it's rarely mentioned.
This is something worth pointing out. When it comes to the background, including but not limited to the novels, matters like skin colour (because race as we understand it today is unlikely to exist in the same form, as already established in this thread) are seldom mentioned at all and when they are, it's with occasional off-hand references. Midas and Medea Betancore aren't defined by their race... it's one of many details about them.

In those cases and others, the matter is presented as being something that everyone accepts and nobody much thinks about. Just because it isn't mentioned more frequently doesn't mean that everyone else is white... it just means that it isn't important enough to the characters and to the story to point it out as more than an incidental detail.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on January 31, 2011, 01:48:23 PM
In fact, the Betancores are an excellent example of good far-future SF writing that features different races. Too much SF assumes that, in a few thousand years, Africans will be Africans and Chinese will be Chinese and Americans will be Americans and so on and so forth... But the Betancores are dark-skinned, but clearly not Africans. They have Greek names and their own culture, unlike any Earth culture. They are Glavians. Even authors I adore, like Cordwainer Smith, have a bad habit of exporting current stereotypes into the future, mostly around Germans, with his Sixth Reich/Menschenjager, and Chinese, with the conquest of Venus and Lord Loveaduck - and don't start me on Star Trek, and their planet of Irishmen. Bleh.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Allod on February 20, 2011, 04:36:48 PM
I think that as far as in-universe explanations go, Heroka Vendile has already summed it up perfectly. Nothing to add.

That being said, maybe ethnicity doesn't crop up in a lot of novels (not only Black Library ones) because it doesn't really tell you anything about a character? It's like nose-shapes - usually they simply do not matter, unless you want to create the clichéd "hawk-nosed investigator" or crap like that.

Thirdly, and this is a purely personal opinion, I would sure hope that "ethnicities", as hard to define as they are even today, would be gone in 40,000 years' time because people on the whole finally started not to look for a mate of the "same" ethnicity as a priority.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on January 15, 2012, 10:55:23 PM
Has nobody mentioned the fact that, with the odd exception (Salamanders, Raven Guard, Night Lords) - due to genetic defect, hence inhumanly pale/dark skin, black/red eyes - space marine skin colour actually changes to adapt to the local conditions? As they spend most of their time on starships or wearing helmets, they'd probably be pretty pale most of the time.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Draco Ferox on January 16, 2012, 05:22:06 PM
I would like to point out that it doesn't matter what skin colour a Krieg guardsman has, as they all wear the exact same faceless rebreather, which covers their skin, and in all of the pictures I can find of them, they wear gloves- it's a bit silly to have a heavy NBC proteacted trench coat, an gas mask, and everything-proof boots, only for your hands, one of the most vital parts of a soldier, to be exposed to all of that nasty stuff the Krieg regiments tend to slog through.

Besides, this can lead to the awkard situation where the black guy dies first:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackDudeDiesFirst (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackDudeDiesFirst)
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: TallulahBelle on March 10, 2012, 12:04:24 AM
I have always seen the bl;ack library books imply racial stuff with accent and clothing and build descriptions. the tanith I see as drawing from an irish influence and look for example with lilting voices whereas the chemdogs I see as being drawn from 70's new york I see race implied rather than stated plus racial discrimination wont really exist because Black and white will just gang up on green.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: DapperAnarchist on March 12, 2012, 01:14:43 AM
The accent/clothing etc are cultural markers, not racial... also, I can't stand the "lilting voices" description of the Irish. We don't have "lilting" voices, as far as I can tell (what the hell is lilting, anyway? Going up and down?). We tend to have a sort of grumbly voice, rambling on like whatever....

While race, defined as skin colour, seems to have little relevance in 40K (though a frontier world or an isolated world could certainly begin a pogrom of all people with a certain skin colour on the claim it is a mutation, and thou shalt not suffer the mutant to live), race in the broader sense of a genetically related group distinct from other groups with the human species is definitely there - Catachans are all considered thuggish, dangerous, but reliable in a tight spot, Cadians are methodical, Galathamorians are religiously superior, etc... Never mind that that can't be true of all cases, these are the stereotypes the Imperial populace will hold, and they count as racial stereotypes.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Dolnikan on March 12, 2012, 07:40:41 AM
Most planets would be inhabited by a single 'race'. There is very little interplanetary travel and the Imperium's common people would in many cases assume that someone who looks different is a mutant, a bit like in our middle ages where people with other skin coloursa would be assumed to be very strange, add to that the fear of mutants and a pogrom is born. On some planets there will be a distribution like on earth, mostly planets where the mobility of people is low. When it is easy to travel the potentially different groups will mix to such an extent that they would become a homogenous group. Here on earth races developed when there was very little mixing of populations over longer distances, it was very unlikely for someone to mate with someone from another part of the world.

There also would be cultural stereotypes, even on a planet, like people from Hive Gamma are shifty, you can't trust them, those from two villages away are a bunch of retards, just like you see here on earth. Stereotypes about people from outside one's own group tend to be negative.
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: Ancelyn on March 12, 2012, 08:35:27 AM
This thread is still going?. Final comment from me, the Deathwing were based on native Americans. Thus demonstrating that Space Marines are not all caucasian. ;D
Title: Re: Blacks and other ethnic groups.
Post by: TallulahBelle on March 12, 2012, 01:00:26 PM
science fiction relies on stereotypes for a lot of things race included, the cultural stuff is entwinned with race to talk about it I mean the vitrians were described as dark the guard in the book Imperial Glory are basically the ghurka brown skinned small, carry knives etc.