For those not in the know, RaHoWa is a shortening of ‘Racial Holy War’ and as well as being a repugnant political/spiritual (EG: bullshit) stance held by some far-right, religious goons it was also a rather poorly conceived RPG that was apparently intended to be a recruitment tool, rather than an object of ridicule.
That didn’t quite work out for them.
That said, is the concept of a race war as a setting something that is completely irredeemable? Not particularly I don’t think. Many games are predicated upon this sort of idea. The rampaging Orc hordes are one race invading the territory of humans is a race war. Fantasy and science fiction games and media are rife with this sort of thing, albeit one step removed from how we view race in the real world, perhaps that’s what makes it comfortable enough to approach.
Clearly there are people on either side who believe there will be (or should be) a conflict and about all they can agree on is that none of them like Jews. Not that they don’t have their own problematic groups.
Concerns about race war are – at least to this old lefty – a deflection from the true nature of such conflict, namely class war. While ideology, religion and propaganda muddle it, turning natural allies (the poor) against each other (via racism) the divide is really between have and have not and it’s much harder to get out of an underclass than people think. The strife of racial minorities in the US is, in my opinion, far more to do with that than anything else. They’re just a more visible segment of the underclass.
A ‘race war’ in the sense that the racists propose doesn’t seem especially likely to me. The various peoples, at least in America which is where they play out their masturbatory fantasies, are too intertwined, co-mingled and dependent upon each other for such to occur.
The idea of a racial war is a powerful, visceral one and many good stories could be told via the concept, but it’s going to take some serious thought and some alternate history wrangling to turn it into something worthwhile.
OK, so how do we plausibly make this happen? We need to increase the racial divide in a meaningful way and hit a flashpoint to bring it to the point of war.
While the American Civil War was about more than slavery it makes a clear starting point to look at, the divide between the American north and south and the plight of slaves. Having read ‘Flashman & the Angel of the Lord‘ recently (odd inspiration I know) it strikes me that John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry is one of this fulcrum points of history where a bit of a push could change things a great deal.
Suppose John Brown’s insurrection succeeded? Suppose his raid on the federal armoury went off correctly, he managed to arm a large number of slaves and it properly took hold?
A slave uprising spreads like wildfire across the southern states and more armouries fall. A guerilla war starts up but sympathies in the North amongst the great and the good are with the slave rebellion. The civil war starts up a year or two earlier as the North goes to war with the South.
The war, perhaps, even goes a little better for the North, having a well-armed and motivated set of guerilla fighters, large numbers of freed slaves causing havoc across the Southern states. They’re roundly defeated, but even more resentful with a situation similar to post-WWI Germany, considering the slave rebels to be traitors. Racism digs its heels in and becomes incredibly strong.
The slave rebellion carves out their own small nation, free of both North and South, ‘Zion’, centred around West Virginia and the southern chunk of the Appalachians.
Wind time on a hundred years or so and you hit the centenary of The War of Northern Aggression slap bang in the middle of the rise of the Civil Rights movement. Zion is now a strong and independent country, an American ‘Israel’ if you like, open to black immigrants from the US and the world. Anyone fleeing from slavery and control.
Despite the presence of Zion there’s still a hell of a lot of black people in the USA and as The Civil Rights Movement gets into gear the reaction against it in the South is even worse than it was in real history. Lots of protesters are killed, lynched, hung, tortured, imprisoned.
Responding to this Zion sends troops into the Southern States to safeguard ‘their people’ and a Second Civil War is sparked off.
How Would it Play?
Deliverance meets Vietnam. The US would be deeply divided and there would be a lot of tension within the Northern/Coastal militaries, probably fracturing along racial lines. The South might have internment camps. Technically the North would be allied with Zion but that would be a tense relationship.
Add in the Soviet Union to complicate matters. Who would they support? North? South? Zion? Both sides? Would they take the opportunity of the division to strike in Europe? South America? Would Europe ally with the North to end the fight more quickly and bring the US back into the Cold War?
I would see this as a military campaign and I could see it recycling a lot of MASH, Tour of Duty and other ‘war is hell’ storylines. Just transferred to 60s America.
Difficult material, certainly, but it would make a damn interesting game world or alt history novel.