Ever since I first read Tolkien at the age of 13, I was worried about the orcs. They were totally and irrevocably bad. It was a flat given. No possibility of redemption for an orc, no chance of getting a job somewhere involving fluffy animals or flowers.
This is no reflection on Tolkien. We are all prisoners in the aspic of our time. But now, I think, people have learned not to think that any race or culture is naturally or irredeemably bad. We have seen the world from space and it isn't flat.
I have waited decades to write about Nutt; I can remember the excesses of football hooliganism that began in the 1960s and have only recently been cleaned up. It was a world of scaffolding-pole clubs and Stanley knives slashing railway seats and faces. The orcs, with a scarf or two, would have fitted right in in those days. More recently, an inflatable banana is the worst thing that's brandished; it would appear that the leopard can change his shorts.
China Miéville on orcs and racism:
In the broader sense, I absolutely do think that the implicit politics of our narratives, whether we are consciously "meaning" them or not, matter, and that therefore we should be as thoughtful about them as possible. That doesn't mean we'll always succeed in political perspicacity—which doesn't mean the same thing as tiptoeing —but we should try. So for example: If you have a world in which Orcs are evil, and you depict them as evil, I don't know how that maps onto the question of "political correctness." However, the point is not that you're misrepresenting Orcs (if you invented this world, that's how Orcs are), but that you have replicated the logic of racism, which is that large groups of people are "defined" by an abstract supposedly essential element called "race," whatever else you were doing or intended. And that's not an innocent thing to do. Maybe you have a race of female vampires who destroy men's strength. They really do operate like that in your world. But I think you're kidding yourself if you think that that idea just appeared ex nihilo in your head and has nothing to do with the incredibly strong, and incredibly patriarchal, anxiety about the destructive power of women's sexuality in our very real world. These things are not reducible to our "intent"—we all inherit all kinds of bits and pieces of cultural bumf, plenty of them racist and sexist and homophobic, because that's how our world works, so how could you avoid it?
And Ros-who-is-amazing on football and racism. Slightly more harmful than an inflatable banana.
When this first started, the season before last, I had a racist moment myself. I looked at the banners and thought oh wow, well. One day Mario Balotelli is going to score the winning goal in a World Cup final, and it will shut everyone up and we will all look back to the abuse he was subjected to as a teenager in sad stupefaction. It was a stupid kneejerk fantasy that made me happy for about a minute. It was obviously rubbish. Mario's future success, and the future improvement of his character, and the thought that maybe somehow someday he is going to morph into the best, nicest, handsomest, most successful footballer ever created, will not stop racism against him. It will not retroactively correct tifosi's failures because he triumphed in spite of them. It will not be the final proof of his Italianness to those who sing that black people cannot be real Italians.
Because Mario's character is really not the point at all.