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D&D General The Rakshasa and Genie Problem

Like, I feel like tying such things to "intent" misses casual stereotypes and the harms they do. Like, you should look up the discussion around calling an African-American person "articulate", because I feel like it shows how intent doesn't really matter.

I am not going to get into real world racial examples because of the point about mods I made earlier. What I will say is intent still matters. There may be cases where regardless of your intent, something you do or say still has a bad effect. But intent is still an important factor. This is why we consider motive when charging someone with murder for example. And it matters because as readers of a book, or a game book, we have some responsibility to gauge what the author as trying to say. Now you can always have some things that, no matter what the intention, you think are wrong. Fair enough. But I think it is really lazy, and not very charitable to just declare intent doesn't matter, so you can always go to the conclusion you want. When think an author is trying to say something bad, but their intention is actually the opposite, it matters. Take parody and satire for example. Some people saw the film Starship Troopers and thought it was an endorsement of Fascism. They can defend that by saying: intent doesn't matter, this is how I felt while watching the movie. But anyone who makes a modicum of effort to meet the director halfway, can see it is satirizing fascism and militarism. The intent mattered a lot. And the book has a totally different message, and understanding the intent there matters as well.
 

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I never played in the Al Qadim setting, but from what I understand that was where genies were by far featured the most prominently. From a few quick Google searches I see that elementals and elemental magic also were key features (and D&D genies are from the Elemental Planes).

Would the problem stated be remedied or at least mitigated if there was an official 5E Al Qadim update that was done right? It seems like the setting where genies are the most integral (although it still raises worldbuilding questions as to why genies are culturally similar to the culture of mortals in a section of the Material Plane).
 

Also nope.

I get paid for this stuff. Why would I give it away for free so someone can use it as ammo to prove I'm not sufficiently 'D&D' enough for an argument?

Should have just posted this.

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Remathilis

Legend
I think it's worth noting that while it's good to have ideas about how to change thing, sometimes you can simply think something is wrong without having something in mind to fix it. Like, my solution was just something off the top of my head because you asked, so it's not going to be perfect. I can understand why some people don't want to put themselves out there when they haven't come up with a solution they've really thought about.

It does feel disingenuous though to say "x is wrong" and then criticize any solution without offering your own ideas. You offered a starting point, I might not like it but at least it something to discuss. Likewise, you might think my idea if heavy handed, but it's at least an attempt to address it. We foster discussion rather than flinging darts.
 


I am not going to get into real world racial examples because of the point about mods I made earlier.

Look, I'm not asking for anything in-depth, but it's one of the simplest examples of something being racist without the intent. I mean, I could go more fantastically if you like.

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It does feel disingenuous though to say "x is wrong" and then criticize any solution without offering your own ideas. You offered a starting point, I might not like it but at least it something to discuss. Likewise, you might think my idea if heavy handed, but it's at least an attempt to address it. We foster discussion rather than flinging darts.

I think that saying something wrong doesn't necessarily require a person to suggest a solution. Can it be irritating? Well, it depends on the situation. But it doesn't make the point any less pertinent. Sometimes you can recognize a problem but simply not have a good solution thought out.

Yeah, but the internet has really ruined Joker memes though. I don't need those associations.

Yeah, that's fair.
 

TheSword

Legend
I mean, you're premise is wrong because they weren't "White Europeans", they were Albanians, which are not generally considered "white" by European standards and often play into Muslim panics.
I’m not going to get dragged into a murky debate about whether sourthern or Eastern Europeans are white enough. It’s a peculiar distraction that doesn’t really have any bearing on the point. We don’t distinguish how white a person is depending on how far they are from Greenwich.

So for simplicity I will amend my statement to say…

“Sold to him by Europeans.

I hope you see the irony that you’re saying that the sheikh is a stereotypical Arab because he’s involved in slavery… something he’s being sold by Europeans. With their history of 400 years of the slave trade.”

Which doesn’t really change the point I’m making at all.
 

I’m not going to get dragged into a murky debate about whether sourthern or Eastern Europeans are white enough. It’s a peculiar distraction that doesn’t really have any bearing on the point. We don’t distinguish how white a person is depending on how far they are from Greenwich.

So for simplicity I will amend my statement to say…

“Sold to him by Europeans.

I hope you see the irony that you’re saying that the sheikh is a stereotypical Arab because he’s involved in slavery… something he’s being sold by Europeans. With their history of 400 years of the slave trade.”

Which doesn’t really change the point I’m making at all.

I mean, I hate to tell you this, but it's a real distinction that gets made and given the film's racism got called out by critics at the time, it seems relevant. Like, it was bad enough that Liam Neeson did ads for Albania.
 



Look, I'm not asking for anything in-depth, but it's one of the simplest examples of something being racist without the intent. I mean, I could go more fantastically if you like.

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Again i don’t think we should be getting into it. But like I said sometimes it’s super obvious (unless key context or irony is missing from that shot as I don’t know what show that is), and intent matters but sometimes despite your intentions the outcome is bad. The whole point of my post was it is far more complicated than ‘intention doesn’t matter’. But in a case like this intent still might matter if it’s ironic commentary on something. Also just reviewing those slides again: the intent appears to be a commentary on racism of low expectations.
 

TheSword

Legend
There is the Harem and its association of Arabs and slave girls.

There is the Arab Slave Trade which was a big part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

There are the Mamluk slave soldiers.

Some will see a trope linking Arabs and slavery, some will not.
No one suggested that Arabs weren’t involved in slavery.

Just that it isn’t a source of racism against Arabs. And therefore the claim that JusticeandRule is making that Efreet are a racist portrayal of Arabs because they engage in slavery, is fallacious.
 

No one suggested that Arabs weren’t involved in slavery.

Just that it isn’t a source of racism against Arabs. And therefore the claim that JusticeandRule is making that Efreet are a racist portrayal of Arabs because they engaging in slavery, is fallacious.

I mean, it's not. It's a group of Muslim Albanians taking abducting white women to an Arab Sheikh for the purpose of sexual slavery. Like, this got called out by critics. The second one did as well.
 

TheSword

Legend
I mean, it's not. It's a group of Muslim Albanians taking abducting white women to an Arab Sheikh for the purpose of sexual slavery. Like, this got called out by critics. The second one did as well.
I think you’ve picked the wrong quote there. I don’t believe a persons religion is relevant to the comment I made. They’re Europeans.
 


Voadam

Legend
No one suggested that Arabs weren’t involved in slavery.

Just that it isn’t a source of racism against Arabs.
I think if you did a search on terms such as "White Slavery and Islam" you could find examples.

I don't think the association is going to be in everyone's experience but I think it is for some.

The evil terrorist trope is definitely higher up on general prominence though.
And therefore the claim that JusticeandRule is making that Efreet are a racist portrayal of Arabs because they engage in slavery, is fallacious.
 

The trope of the Arab slaver is centuries-old. It was ubiquitous in 19th century European culture, used as an indication of their "barbarism," and as a justification for European intervention and colonialism. It was a way for British, French, and other empires to claim the moral high ground and present themselves as more "civilized" than the places they were colonizing (the irony was lost on them). As I mentioned above, the harem held particular fascination for Europeans. These tropes find their way into pulp literature and fantasy and continue to do so. For example, think of the slavers bay in game of thrones.

It's very possible to use tropes without fully meaning to or being able to totally account for their presence. I don't just mean racist tropes, but any number of different kinds of stock figures and genre conventions. Someone who's never read/watched LotR or played dnd will still, somehow, have an idea of what an "elf" or "dwarf" is like that is strikingly similar to modern fantasy conventions, for example. Dnd has certainly become like that--it incorporates and changes all of these creatures and stories from a grab bag of world mythology until their actual origins are forgotten or obscured. That's fine actually, but analysis can delve into their origins without making any claims about what various authors of the MM intended or not.
 

Look, I'm not asking for anything in-depth, but it's one of the simplest examples of something being racist without the intent. I mean, I could go more fantastically if you like.

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Also just to weigh in further, as I was viewing this in my car at the parking lot and now I am home and can better absorb the post. The intent of this statement made by the white character does seem to be racist. The character in question is expressing racist ideas that it seems he believes. Now if he didn't believe that black people are lesser, and if didn't mean to express an idea that conveys that meaning, then his intent would matter in that situation. For example if it were a bad attempt at a joke (the other character still might take exception but I think it changes the egregiousness of it). But just looking at the statement, it seems like he is someone who has very low expectations of black people and he is telling the other character that he is exceptional for his race. That is a pretty racist idea, and it appears to be something he is intending to convey. But I think in real life, you are still generally wanting to know the intention. I've been in situations where someone dropped something bigoted my way, directed at my background, and my response was to figure out what the person intended because I wanted to know if there were beliefs undergirding the statement.
 

I think you’ve picked the wrong quote there. I don’t believe a persons religion is relevant to the comment I made. They’re Europeans.

That's great that you feel that way, but there's a sufficient othering that you are ignoring that is there. They aren't looked at as "Europeans", just as a lot of Algerians aren't looked as being "French", despite possibly being born there.

Also just to weigh in further, as I was viewing this in my car at the parking lot and now I am home and can better absorb the post. The intent of this statement made by the white character does seem to be racist. The character in question is expressing racist ideas that it seems he believes. Now if he didn't believe that black people are lesser, and if didn't mean to express an idea that conveys that meaning, then his intent would matter in that situation. For example if it were a bad attempt at a joke (the other character still might take exception but I think it changes the egregiousness of it). But just looking at the statement, it seems like he is someone who has very low expectations of black people and he is telling the other character that he is exceptional for his race. That is a pretty racist idea, and it appears to be something he is intending to convey. But I think in real life, you are still generally wanting to know the intention. I've been in situations where someone dropped something bigoted my way, directed at my background, and my response was to figure out what the person intended because I wanted to know if there were beliefs undergirding the statement.

I feel like it's obvious that the intent is not racist, but the intent doesn't matter because the idea expressed is. In the same way calling a black man "articulate" can be seen as a compliment, it belies certain assumptions about how a black man is meant to speak and is perceived.
 

I feel like it's obvious that the intent is not racist, but the intent doesn't matter because the idea expressed is. In the same way calling a black man "articulate" can be seen as a compliment, it belies certain assumptions about how a black man is meant to speak and is perceived.

The intent may not be to insult, he is framing it as a compliment, but he is intentional saying something that is racist, and reveals racist thinking. It is different from the articulate example because in the latter, it could reveal thinking that black people are less articulate, but it also could reveal the person just thinks the individual is genuinely very articulate. But in the first example, there is no getting around the racial component because it is there in the phrasing itself. What you are pointing to is someone who might be tacitly suggesting the though "(for a black person)", but where that tacit expression is present seems like it would matter in terms of assessing whether the person holds racist beliefs. And sometimes people just want to describe a person as articulate because they express themselves better than others. One issue I have with the taboo emerging around that word, is if we go that direction, then you end up in a situation where black students never get called articulate (at least by teachers who aren't also black), and I think that could be just as damaging. Just think back to your own education. If you were exceptionally articulate (and I am sure many here were as D&D attracts articulate people), it benefited you to be told that you were so. Again though, like I said, we are getting way into the weeds on this one and I don't think we can go much further given the mod notice on this thread. So kindly let's drop this tangent and move to something else.
 

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