I've been writing a children's novel inspired by action cartoons, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, paganism/Wicca, mythology and Harry Potter. It's a very dark children's book I'll admit, but Harry Potter was dark for a children's book and it's popular. It's based on my make-believe with toys as a kid.

I've been basing my world-building in the novel off of America, England, Ireland, Viking countries, Greece, and Native American culture. However, as time went on I've been hearing discussions from most writers as to whether or not racism needs to exist in fantasy stories. Using racism can lead to it being hard to write. Not using racism can affect the mythology and culture.

So should I use racism as one of the parts of my worldbuilding, or write a story without racism as part of my worldbuilding?'

Edit: It's been so long since I've been on this site. I don't know how long ago this post was, but after some time I decided not to write about racism. The hard part is that there are races in my book, but there's no racism so that's going to be a bit tricky.

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    Hi Willfire Z Tiger, welcome to Writing SE! Does your story call to confront racism issues? If not, this is rather a "what to write", or worldbuilding question.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:18
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    Related: writing.stackexchange.com/a/41151/14704 (substitute 'racism' for 'religion') Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:22
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    @MonicaCellio Probably the older kid ages. Like 9-12 maybe. Let's go with that. Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:28
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    Does it advance the story or serve any purpose?
    – user34214
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:36
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    We were all new once. It takes a while to get used to things.
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:57

15 Answers 15


There is more than one way racism can be present in a work.

For example, when Star Trek have on the bridge of the Enterprise an Asian pilot, a Russian navigator and a black Communications Officer, and they all get along swimmingly, all at the time of the Cold War, the Yellow Peril and the Civil Rights Movement, the show deliberately confronts the viewers' perceived racist expectations. Racism is present in its conspicuous absence. The show speaks loudly on the topic by showing racism not being there.

In one episode, Star Trek chooses to speak about racism in a more focused way: a fellow officer accuses Spock of being in league with the Romulans, on the basis that he has pointy ears like them. This trope is called Fantastic Racism. That allows one to talk of racism by way of a metaphor.

Finally, you can highlight actual real-life racism. For example, in Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, a story about a Jewish girl in late-medieval Lithuania, anti-Semitism is very much a part of the story.

Now that we've established that,

What serves your story best?

Does your story even have different "races" - different ethnicities, or different sentient species, or whatever? Is there anyone to be racist towards?

Does racism "belong" in your story?

There is no Jewish character in All Quiet on the Western Front, even though Jews fought on both sides in that war. Nor are any other "races" represented, or mentioned, and so, there is no racism or conspicuous lack thereof. Because that particular issue is not part of the story Remarque set out to tell in that particular book.

There is no racism in the Amber Chronicles, because the Princes of Amber treat all humans as "subhuman" compared to them. Again, racism doesn't "belong".

To quote myself, your story should contain all the elements that it requires, and nothing but the elements it requires. "Including" racism, or anything else, that isn't useful to the story in any way is called 'shoehorning', and is not a good practice.

Is your story served in any way by some of the characters experiencing or engaging in some form of racism? Does it add tension where tension is required, does it set up some theme you wish to explore, does it do anything? Then go ahead and include it. If it does nothing for the story, then don't.

  • Thanks for the answer. I agree, racism should serve the story and be part of it's themes. If there's no themes of racism, don't include it. My story includes many races. However when you put it like this, yeah racism should serve the story if you're tackling it. (sorry if I got the grammar long in the last bit). Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 20:31
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    +1 for Star Trek example of "conspicuous absence of racism". Let's remember what kind of commotion Kirk and Uhura's kiss caused in real world.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 21:17
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    @BrianLacy that's a fair point. But there's a difference between adding details in order to create a rich believable world, and adding details just so they're there. You cannot describe everything that exists in a world - sickness, prejudice, sloppy architecture... You choose the details that are somehow important. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 22:32
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    @Alexander But the article says “There were, however, few contemporary records of any complaints commenting on the scene”, so it seems like a case of the makers and NBC executives worrying about it rather than it causing any commotion in the real world. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 15:51
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    Another - and to me very memorable - example of Fantastic racism in Star Trek was the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battefield". The reason it was so powerful is that to a human, a black-and-white alien looks the same as a white-and-black alien, while to them, the difference was completely irreconcilable.
    – Jasper
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 2:03

So should I use racism as one of the parts of my worldbuilding? Or write a story without racism as part of my worldbuilding?

Yes, you should add racism to your worldbuilding. Wait – hear me out.

Racism is real, and it's an "ism" – I mean, it's a society-shaping force. Racism is not neighbor squabbles between an elf and a dwarf. Racism shapes the tiers of society, and the geography of neighborhoods. It is woven into the schools, the politics, the national identity, and the fairytales.

Racism is why maidens are "fair", pirates are "swarthy", and gypsies sleep outside the city gates. It is defined by a power imbalance that is maintained through institutions, curfews, the legal system, who gets to be mayor and who is a servant, which religions are pushed to the fringes, and taxes on foreign spices at the trade market.

Your story doesn't have to be about race, or acknowledge racism as a theme. But in nearly every fantasy adventure you'll have a "Dorothy Gale" stepping out into a strange world. That world has structure: haves and have-nots. People with power, and the underclass. This is not topsy-turvy power. There is a clear oppressor and an oppressed. Tigers and bunnies. This power dynamic is never reversed.

It stays that way because the oppressor race is – ongoing – decimating the oppressed by imprisoning their leaders, robbing their workers, and marginalizing their children. You'll have pockets where the structure is strictly enforced, and other geographic areas where the structure is relaxed but not reversed (tigers and bunnies co-existing, but no bunny-eating tigers). It is the "terrain" of your society.

What you don't want is racism just to justify racist characters: the Southern sheriff, the Nazi commandant. That's a self-serving loop. It will always feel "preachy" and artifical.

What you do want is racism that creates a ghetto and an opera house, banks and slums, all in the same city. You want the kind of racism that gives your characters terrain handicaps. It's not enough that they go to exotic places, they should experience situations and reactions that de-center and challenge them. The storyworld is at least equal to, if not greater than the character in importance to the stakes.

They stick out, they don't know how to behave, they need help from wary locals. But also they are treated unfairly, misjudged, and run afoul of authority. Maybe they witness injustice, or get unearned glory. It forces them to adapt and grow, and teaches learnable "rules" for the world. This makes your worldbuilding relevant to the story. It offers plot points and narrative obstacles.

Since Star Trek was mentioned, remember it was the utopian ideal in-world, but also this was a fresh take at the time and it was almost like a UN mission. Everyone from different countries. I think the current cliché is the 2 warrior enemies who form a respect on the battlefield, but none of these acknowledge the real power dynamic of how racism works, and continues today. You don't have to solve it or necessarily build your story around it, but ignoring racism is going to be like ignoring physics. It depends on the story you're telling and how realistic/escapist you want it to be. You say "dark" so, I don't see how you gain by pretending it doesn't exist. You are not writing utopian Star Trek. You should add racism, and allow it to inform the world you build and the story you write.

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    Your claim that the power dynamic is never reversed when going to different geographic areas is not true. Someone might be part of an oppressed minority in one country, but find that in another country it's their people who are the oppressing majority. Though, going from one country to another, one might find that differences in language or dialect still singles you out as different.
    – Kapten-N
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 7:45
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    I'm also confused about the "this power dynamic is never reversed" statement. The reverse of an oppressor-oppressed power dynamic is also an oppressor-oppressed power dynamic. It's also unclear to me that oppressor-oppressed is as universal as you think. People with more power are not inherently oppressing people with less power, nor is power discretely distributed among groups. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 18:12
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    "Power dynamic is never reversed" Ok, I will explain this ONCE. There was no reverse Apartheid within Europe. There was no Nazi Holocaust where Jews and Romani exterminated 6,000,000 Germans. There was no "reverse famine" where Bengal engineered the starvation of 3million British. There was no trans-Atlantic slave trade where millions of white Europeans were transported as free labor on plantations owned by West Africans. LAWS. INSTITUTIONS. COLONIZATION. RESTRICTIONS ON HOUSING. MILITARY and POLICE are tools of state power, not localized grudges.This is rac-ISM as a system of oppression.
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 12:47
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    @wetcircuit, you are pushing pretty hard for a particular definition of racism to be included in this story. Perhaps what the author has in mind is more of a "Huh, that's odd -- why can't I get a drink around here? Ohhhh......." kind of racism. I gently suggest that your impatience ("I'll explain this ONCE," followed by a bunch of caps and bold) and insistence that the OP include your particular focus on race issues is not actually answering the question.
    – user19004
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 3:27
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    "It is defined by a power imbalance that is maintained..." No. Or rather, this reflects a very modern, politically-oriented view. Racism as you describe it is the expression of an underlying more-or-less universal aspect of the human condition: we are social animals who belong to groups which compete against other groups. And since we are visual animals as well, we tend to hostility toward those groups which do not look like us. The institutional/political/social effects which you use to define racism are instead effects and symptoms of the underlying condition. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 20:07

You as an author must be aware of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and other issues that exist in the real world. You as a person need to be aware.

How (or if) you depict these things is up to you. But it needs to be an informed decision, one where you decide how best to deal with the issue.

Some authors make their entire world lily white and ignore all issues of race or racism. Don't be like that.

If your story is set in the real world (past or present) then, yes, racism is a part of that world. You can show it directly or not, but don't write as if you're unaware of it.

If your novel is set in the future, an alternate Earth, or another planet, then issues of race will be potentially very different. Humans as a whole make distinctions and then rank them. I don't know any society where that never happened. Race isn't always one of those distinctions (and in places where there is only one race, as we would label it now, ethnic distinctions may or may not be a factor). There will always be something. Gender and social class being popular choices.

Look also to your source material. How does it deal with issues of race? If older mythologies, it might not deal with it much, if at all, though people of the world interacted a lot more than many think.

How does your source material deal with difference? In what ways did they classify, judge, and rank people? What about people not as individuals but as members of groups? Groups they were born in to and can't change?

If your book is already dark and has elements from a wide diversity of racial and ethnic groups, it would be odd not to include racism, even if it's something that happens outside the story.

  • (sorry if I @ 'd the wrong person) thank you for the answer. Yeah racism is a hard subject and sensitive subject to talk about and tackle. I agree authors need to be aware of racism. My story takes place on another planet, so the racism in the story would be different there. I guess I might not use it in the story and write diversity anyway (see my reply to Alexander). Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:48

"Should I add racism?" No. That is, you shouldn't add racism just for the sake of adding racism.

I've seen a few questions on this forum to the effect of, "Should my story include this or that social problem, because it exists in the real world and it would be unrealistic to ignore it?"

I'd say emphatically no.

You can certainly write a very good story that is about racism. You can write a very good story about drug abuse or world hunger or any other social problem. A lot of great literature is specifically about some evil that the writer wants to call attention to.

In some cases a social problem might be so obviously relevant that to ignore it would be unrealistic. If you write a love story set in Mississippi in the 1950s where one of the couple is white and the other is black, it would be rather odd if racism NEVER came up, if everyone they met just totally accepted this mixed race couple and no one ever said anything about it. At least that is the impression I have of the 1950s South. Put the same story in the 21st century and I can say from personal experience it might well never come up: My wife and I are of different colors. When we got married I was somewhat concerned that we might face hostility, that a store might say "we don't serve mixed race couples here" or some such. In fact that has never happened. My point isn't to say that racism doesn't exist, of course, but that it is not an inevitable part of people's lives today. You can easily write a plausible story where it never comes up.

The question is, Is it relevant to your particular story, and/or does it add something to your particular story? To adapt my same example above, if it's a standard romance plot, how this couple meet and they get into some silly argument and break up but then in the end they get back together and live happily ever after, a heavy discussion about racism (or war or world hunger or child abuse or whatever) would likely just distract from the story, not add to it. You could, of course, write a great story about a couple who have problems caused by racism, but that's one of many options.

I've been using a love story as the example just because the idea of the mixed-race couple came to mind, but the same applies to any type of story. You could write a time travel story where the hero goes to another time where his ethnic group are the targets of racism and he has to deal with whatever problems. But you could also write a time travel story where the subject never comes up.

I had a conversation, I think it was on this forum but whatever, where a writer said that failing to discuss prevailing social evils would make a story unrealistic. The examples he himself gave where that a story set in 21st century America where the characters never talked about President Trump or opioid addiction would be wildly unrealistic. I think his own examples refuted his point. Yes, I and my friends are certainly aware that opioid addiction exists. But the subject almost never comes up in conversation. I have never, ever said to my wife, "I love you madly, and I want to carry you off to the bedroom for wild sex, but I can't because my mind is so weighed down thinking about all those poor drug addicts out there." Similarly, I and my friends rarely mention the president, whoever it may be at the time, in conversation. Sure, if I worked at Republican Party Headquarters I suppose politics and politicians would be a subject of daily conversation, but I don't so it isn't.

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    Thank you for the comment. Yeah adding racism just for racism sake can ruin stories. And yeah it has to make sense in the setting. I don't think it adds anything to the story since it's not the main focus, at least for now. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 17:13

Whether you should or not boils down to what is true for your setting.

If you've built a world where there are multiple ethnic groups (and you definitely should do that, it would be unrealistic to have a homogenous world), would these groups have cleavages along ethnic lines? Or other social lines, like religion, gender, nationality, politics, etc.

That is, literally, the only answer that makes sense here. The same way that certain factors foster warfare, certain factors encourage different kinds of bias and strife.

Usually those factors are economic. Do you have two capitalist countries, side by side, where one has been bombed into dust, and the other has plenty of decent paying jobs? Guess how immigration will flow.

And because we've already established that these countries practice wage labor, private property and market exchange mechanisms, these folks have been de-facto tossed into a competitive situation. And unless there's a reason why they would exert social pressure on the wage-payers, rather than the competition, you have a recipe for prejudice. If that prejudice has enough social power behind it, e.g. the prejudiced group has enough numbers, enough money, enough political power, now you have bonafide racism.

Social dynamics are a part of worldbuilding. It's like asking if you should have a desert somewhere. If you have your coasts, mountains, etc mapped out, that determines where the deserts are. If you want to a world without deserts, you'll probably need to redraw your coasts and deserts.

Sadly, most societies will have some kind of ethnic strife. Even if its uncommon, and even if it doesn't rise to the level of an oppressive social structure (like racism) the chances of prejudice being totally absent are slim.

Look to how your world works and ask what the logical outcome would be. If you don't like the answer, it means you need to re-calibrate some of the aspects of your world.


Maybe not Racism, per se...

Any group of sufficient size is going to exhibit patterns of tribalism. That's just how humans are wired, and it shows up in even the most tolerant of societies. Tribalism taken to an extreme can manifest as racism or nationalism, but even mild tribalism is often conflated with racism, whether intentionally or not.

I think not acknowledging that tribalism is a natural tendency of humans would remove a dimension from your world. Feel free to ignore it if it gets in the way, but it can certainly be a hook to help drive your plot and create interesting dynamics between the characters, as well as directions for character growth.

  • So basically rival relationships between societies? An interesting idea. I mean there have been wars in the world building. I never considered tribalism, so I'll add that to a possibility to the world building. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 17:04

Your prime examples contain pretty hard racism. For the major example, take Harry Potter. Muggle born wizards are calls "mudblood". In the widest terms, this is pretty hard racism, cause it discriminates everyone, who isn't born as a "pure" wizard.

Your question can be broken down to a simple sentence, covering all answers in one: Your world is your own playground, so make it how you need it

Imagine a world, where no racism exists. It would be a pretty nice world for sure, but what is one of the prime instincts for humans? That they can stand above others. Sure there are exceptions from that, but normally humans tend to this behavior. A world, where racism and discrimination is common or shown seems more realistic and gives a certain depth to the story. Even some conflicts can be added through just this detail.

Even if you base your world on the American and Native American history, it should base on pure racism and greed, the darkest motives of any kind of history.

But in the end it is completely up to you. You are the author and it is your world. You need to know what depth and problems your world needs.

  • This is true. I am the one in control of the story. However I like to ask advice on parts of my writing. And yeah racism gives realism to most stories. So thanks for the advice. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 17:00

Two movies Three Men and a Baby and Night of the Living Dead. Neither require racism, although Three Men is necessarily sexist.

Racism, sexism, heroism or whatever ism that you can think of only needs to exist in your story to tell your story. Raising Arizona includes classism, but it didn’t have to, the birth parents didn’t have to be of any particular economic background although it shaped some of the fine details. David Weber’s Safehold series includes nationalism, classism, and religious bigotry but not racism.

If you were rewriting The Black Stallion today, the choice of racism or not would totally depend upon the atmosphere and story you want to tell, the basic plot neither requires it or excludes it.

What to put in a story depends upon the story you want to tell, does your character either overtly benefit or suffer from racism? Put it in. But the story of a lone character walking in the woods while waiting for the world to end, that only needs it if part of the characters reflection on the end of the world involves it.


So, should you include racism in your story? You have a lot of groups in conflict, and they're probably going to have a lot of hostility toward each other.

By the way, if you find this post useful, copy and save it before it gets downvoted and deleted.

If you accept the definition of racism as a belief in innate qualities which make different races or groups inferior or superior, I wouldn't bother with it unless that belief is a specific part of the plot or a character arc.

If you consider racism to be the disliking or hating a of group for whatever reason, then you're going to have to include it, because if you don't your story will probably be a painfully unrealistic rose-tinted utopia that could very well insult your reader's intelligence.

It is completely reasonable for characters to have negative opinions about groups whose members have harmed them in some way, even if these opinions are inaccurate generalizations.

Break free of the thought restrictions that others are trying to force onto you with their ideologies and social demands, conventions and norms that they enforce with spastic rage and unwarranted shaming.

Then, use your own logic and intellect to determine how the people in your story world would reasonably think, feel and act according to what they've been taught and what they've experienced.

Then, ask yourself: What is racism?

The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

This next quote is from the same definition, but it better defines actions motivated by racism.

Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. ‘a programme to combat racism’


Bear in mind that racism is a belief.

Now consider prejudice.

noun An unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

Any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable. unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.


Racism is a belief. Prejudice is an action. Prejudice is an internal mental action, a thought, but it is still an action. Discrimination is an external action where someone discriminates against another person.

Now that we have some definitions, here's an example:

"Elves are naturally excellent archers."

This is a racist statement because it attributes a skill to a Elf because of his biological heritage, his race.

"Elves are excellent archers."

This is not a racist statement, because it doesn't state that Elves are excellent archers because of their race. The statement is a generalization, because somewhere there's an Elf who's an incompetent archer, but the statement is not racist.

"Elves are excellent archers because they're trained from birth."

Again, this is not a racist statement, because it states that Elves are excellent archers because of their training, not their race.

This belief that Elves are excellent archers, whether it is racist or non-racist, can cause racial discrimination:

"Nay, Willfire, you cannot join my elite troupe of archers, for you are not an Elf."

The person denying you admittance to the archery troupe is 1) prejudging you, because he decided you aren't as good an archer as an Elf without even seeing you shoot, and 2) discriminating against you because of your race, because you are not an Elf.

The notion that 'Elves are excellent archers' is also a stereotype.


: something conforming to a fixed or general pattern especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.


So we've nailed down definitions (to paraphrase):

Racism: The belief that races have innate qualities which make races inferior or superior to each other.

Prejudice: To form an opinion before having the facts or a decent amount of information that would enable one to draw a reasonable conclusion.

Discrimination: To treat someone differently because of a reason not related to their merit or qualities relevant to the issue.

Stereotype: A standardized oversimplified opinion or uncritical judgement (a judgement without looking at the specific facts).

Now let's take it to your story.

You have a lot of groups in your setting: Native American, Viking, English, Irish and Greek. These groups are probably going to be in conflict, and therefore they may not like each other very much.

Consider what the characters in your story have learned, both from what they've been taught and from what they've experienced. Look at the world through the perspective of each character.

A character who has lived through a Viking raid will probably think Vikings are bloodthirsty murderers, no better than ravening wolves, and so Vikings should be put down like wolves.

A character who was pushed off of his land will hate and despise the group that did it, and form unreasonable generalizations about them, like they're all heartless greedy exploiters.

A character whose home is destroyed and ends up as a vagabond falling in with a group he previously feared can discover that while that group can generally have fierce warriors, they also display love, affection and honor. The character can come to understand there is good and bad in that group, even while struggling with his grief and desire for vengeance. Or the character can reject it, and stick with the conviction that they're all killers deserving of being killed themselves.

Note that the character's intellectual conclusions and opinions often serve deeper motivations. The character wants revenge more than he cares about facts, so he sticks with conclusions which make it easier for him to seek revenge. See what I mean?

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    Thank you for the message @TheLeopard . You do have some good points. And yes there are some commenters debating in the comment section. I saved your message to my google docs. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 19:46
  • Glad to help. Like another poster said, it's more about tribalism or people preferring their own group than some pseudo-scientific rationalization why some groups are better/worse than others. IMO, 'racism' as a rationalization needs an understanding of logic, biology, and the scientific method. Groups without these academic fundamentals are not going to go into complicated rationalizations trying to prove people are better or worse than others, they're going to express group experiences over time, like 'they're liars, they've always betrayed out people, they can't be trusted.'
    – TheLeopard
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 20:56

I don't think you need to, and I don't include it. Racism is learned, and often by association with something not caused at all by race (like poverty, and poverty that leads to crime).

Studying racism in sociology (my sister was a sociologist), there are strong indications that "racism" against any visually identifiable minority, across many countries and many centuries, is highly correlated with poverty, lack of education or illiteracy, poor use of the native language, and the low level of jobs the minority is required to work. This holds true even for migrant groups when there was no noticeable racism against the minority before migrancy increased. But once it starts, racism can be a self-perpetuating cycle; the minority cannot get decent jobs, so every generation is mired in poverty, lack of education and low level jobs (even if they gain fluency in the language).

I'd leave out racism. The purpose of children's books is entertainment, you don't have to teach them anything. They want the same thing as adults in their fiction, although it needs to be slightly easier to follow: Adventure, heroics, and an exciting story, and mystery, and magical powers. They turn the pages for the same reason adults do: To see what happens in the next few pages, and in the next chapter, and at the end of the book. (All three of those simultaneously).

The purpose is NOT to teach them about X,Y,Z or racism; the purpose is NOT to show them the pain and despair and injustice of the real world. That is what they are trying to escape! The purpose is to entertain and make them feel their hero triumphed against the odds through her brilliance and skill, with the help of the friends she would walk through fire for, even that irritating boy.

It's okay to be dark, Harry Potter proves that. But racism is pretty much irredeemably dark and it is not a darkness one can overcome. The hero can defeat a villain, or a crew of villains, but she cannot defeat a billion racists in the world. Even in a book like Harry Potter, you need a happy ending, and if you introduce them to the issues of racism you aren't going to have one. And you will alienate the majority of potential readers, because they are either minorities that have experienced racism, or people that are not minorities but despise racism.

The point is not to reflect the real world. The point is to entertain people, and I see nothing entertaining about racism.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 3:21

Either the races of the characters do not matter at all, or they do. Chances are they do. Therefore your setting will have racism, whether you explicitly deal with it or not.

Your characters will interact with each other. They will have stereotypes about each other, which will be more-or-less based in reality. Are your dwarves afraid of being stomped on by giants? Do your Vikings like Irish lasses? Do your elves think dwarves have cooties, what with being so hairy?

Are characters of each race better at communicating with members of the same race? Are misunderstandings more likely when characters of different races interact? Are mixed-marriages less fertile, on average? Then characters of the same race will tend to interact more with members of their own race than random chance would suggest.

You don't need to explicitly mention any of these things. But since you will be showing the interactions of your characters, you will wind up showing "racist" phenomena that exist in your world. These phenomena will result in story conflicts, which you can resolve however makes sense within your world and its greater story arcs.


Racism is a real thing and likely a real issue that your audience may come across.

Even the likes of Harry Potter dealt with this kind of bigotry, as do a lot of fantasy franchises. Harry Potter had blood statuses, Lord of the Rings had animosity between elves and dwarves, Star Wars (in the non-canon Legends, at least) dealt with unfair treatment of various alien races. Where differences exist in the real world, you can expect a form of bigotry to exist also. It's a dark part of the human condition, but it's one that can be addressed to kids in a tasteful manner, and dealing with the human condition, even in stories about aliens/robots/whatever, make your characters a lot more relatable to the reader.


Leave it out.

The world is messed up enough as it is.

The next generation will figure out about racism on their own, and figure how to deal with it on their own.

There is no real point to imposing (Y)OUR idea of racism to the next generation.

We all have preconceived ideas about other races (positive or negative).

But is it fair to the young for us to GIVE them ours from our own "bitter" life experiences?

Life invented death so that we can get a fresh start.

Let the children figure out whether they want to make the same mistake we have or not.

Let's not make those mistakes for them.

And no... I am not saying you are writing a negative racist book. I am saying whatever positive message you are trying to say, you are coloring the blank pages of the next generations with our generation's worldview.

I have a strict rule of never doing that.

  • I think I understand what you mean: depicting a racist society implies that racist societies are the norm, and that's not a message one might wish to convey.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 18:53
  • @dolphin_of_france I totally understand what you mean. At least I think I do. It's been a while since I viewed my answers to this question and most of them say that I shouldn't add racism in my book. I kind of already decided against writing a book about racism. So yeah. Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 23:13


While most cultures may come up with some sort of religions, a relatively small number of them have real racism. People may not like foreigners, or "barbarians", but they are not exactly racism. If not racism, someone can be a barbarian for lack of a better identity, similar to a slave, but it's not impossible for them or their descendants to get a new identity.

It is not wrong to add ideas related to racism to stories about the history where racism existed. But as you have said, "using racism can lead to it being hard to write". That means you feel the story more natural without racism.

After considering nationality, education, wealth, etc, race alone is a quite random characteristic, not much different than being fat or blond.


Don't put racism in for the sake of it. Sure, there' plenty of example of tribalism or communities being wary of outsiders (eg my white mate moved to a rural village where everyone else is white. he's still considered as "not one of them").

But racism as we know it is a relatively recent invention. In ancient time, people were judged much more by their "character" (ie wealth) than their skin colour. This is why even in America black men as well as white owned black slaves - nobody really cared about skin colour like today, but whether they were "one of us" or "one of them". Many similar examples exist throughout non-modern history.

In modern terms, racism was invented (or at least 'weaponised') by Lenin to create division within his country to allow easier rule over the people, particularly the 'nationalistic' Slavs.

So if you can break down those us/them barriers, then there's a good reason not to have racism at all. If you cannot, then some form of antagonism between communities is bound to exist, but not necessarily because of a constraint such as skin colour. (this in turn makes things interesting - such as Will Smith's racist cop character in Bright - black and white humans together showing racist behaviour towards the orc character)

This latter approach is a way to bypass the problem - there's no racism within humanity, because we have an external enemy to be racist towards. I don't think its a satisfactory solution, but it works.

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