48

Throughout the original trilogy of Star Wars, we exclusively see human Empire officers, while the rebels’ staff seems to be composed from a large range of species. While a non-human rebel officer is only shown in the Battle of Endor (speifically Admiral Ackbar), I don't remember any non-human Empire officer.

There is the notable exception of Grand Amiral Thrawn, but if I remember from the books (I read those about 15 years ago), it was stated that this was something unusual. There is also Darth Maul, who was not human, but it was before the Emperor's rise to power.

Although "racist" is probably not the correct word, as it's the human versus non-humans species, was the Empire, and so the Emperor, racist?

  • All the protagonists and antagonists of Star Wars are human, is the film crew Xenophobic? – apoorv020 Sep 19 '11 at 17:00
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    No, they are just cheaper. – DavRob60 Sep 19 '11 at 17:03
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    @apoorv020, define protagonist - does Chewbacca not count? What about C3P0 and R2D2? – Ian Pugsley Sep 19 '11 at 17:04
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    @Keen If Chewie undergo hair growth, it would probably count as a challenge. – DavRob60 Sep 19 '11 at 19:17
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    @PaulD.Waite Jedis were not a race, but a religion. Jedis stemmed from many species and races. – jwenting Apr 11 '14 at 12:48
51

After some research, it look like the Empire was racist / xenophobic. This policy even has a name : "Human High Culture"

Human High Culture was the Galactic Empire's codified policy of Humanocentric speciesism. It centered around the belief (long, if privately, held by a minority of Humans in the Human-dominated Core) that Humans were inherently superior to other species.

...

As such, through the repealing of such laws as the Rights of Sentience and the creation of new acts, all nonhumans were made second-class citizens (if citizens at all). Non-Human slavery was re-legalized. Only 'pure' (i.e., those made exclusively by Humans and with no help from nonhumans) works of art (such as operas, holovids, books, etc) were allowed to be produced, viewed, and spread, since only Human culture was worthy enough to be allowed to prosper in the New Order. Non-Humans were 'actively discouraged' to participate in government or join the Imperial military, and Human governors and moffs were placed in command of nonhuman worlds and sectors.

As for the Emperor himself, it's not that clear :

[...] It is debatable to what degree, if at all, Palpatine was a speciesist. Palpatine freely consorted with nonhumans such as Mas Amedda and Sly Moore, as well as taking Darth Maul as an apprentice, of which all were Humanoid, therefore it might be suggested that as a Sith, Palpatine's Humanocentrism was more liberal than that of the standard Imperial sort, possibly due to the fact that Sith throughout history were predominantly either Human or Humanoid. From this viewpoint, it is conceivable that Palpatine's (Sidious) Speciesism was more broadened in that to include certain Humanoid species and he used anti-alien sentiments as a way to divide the beings of the galaxy and help consolidate his rule. After all, one of the worst atrocities Palpatine committed was the destruction [of] the Human-dominated world of Alderaan. He also ordered the creation of an exclusively Human-killing pathogen.

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    specieism isn't racism... – jwenting Apr 11 '14 at 12:55
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    The Empire must be laughably EVIL if it's easily assumed that a Sith will be more tolerant and accepting than them. – Jeff Jul 14 '14 at 13:23
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    "I'm not racist, I've got non-human friends!" -Palpatine. – Rogue Jedi Sep 17 '15 at 13:39
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    @RogueJedi - ;) I would suspect, though, that Palpatine was speciest in the discriminatory sense, not the prejudicial sense. That is, marginalizing non-humans was an excellent way to build an Empire of the dark side (because humans were the majority). It’s always good to have a scapegoat for any unpopular policies (instead of, say, the Empire itself). So he did it. If marginalizing humans had been the easier route, he would have done that. Real-life prejudice has often thus been systematized and weaponized by less-prejudiced or non-prejudiced leaders who simply want power. – Adamant May 22 '17 at 3:56
8

Speaking out-of-universe, whenever you want to create a side that needs to be seen immediately and forcefully as the enemy, the classic model is the Nazis. Nazis are very easy for audiences to hate, and so anything that evokes that imagery is common fodder for large organized enemy factions. Racism was one of the Nazis' hallmarks, and therefore, whether implied or explicit, it is generally found in most sci-fi and fantasy concerning people you are supposed to hate.

Additionally, the original movie had a limited budget, and all three movies were originally produced before the digital effects revolution. Also, Lucas was specifically trying to avoid the Roddenberry universe, where every week you saw a new race that was basically human with certain tweaks. So, prosthetic makeup was rarely used; I can think of only two significant characters in the original movie that used it, the guy who gets in Luke's face at the bar and Chewie. Pretty much every other character in the original trilogy is a puppet, a guy in a rubber mask, fur coat or tin can, or human. Only the last category had the ability to really act on-set, with facial expressions and sustained speech, so most of the characters in the original trilogy, even on the rebel side, are human(oid). The exceptions are notable; Yoda (puppet), Jabba (puppet with human inside), Ackbar (animatronic mask), Bib Fortuna (Jabba's majordomo, human with prosthetics), and yes they are all non-Empire, but when you really think of it, even the rebels are disproportionately human. It wasn't until the Special Editions, and then Episodes 1-3, that you started seeing CG and highly altered-humanoid character races begin to appear with significant screen time (Jar-Jar, the CG Yoda and droids, the Trade Federation, fantastical animals, etc etc).

In-universe, the near-human exclusivity would probably have stemmed from the fact that Palpatine would have chosen people he trusted (or at least could manipulate) as his high command, who would have chosen their cronies from their personal circles, and so on. From a psychology standpoint those people would have been picked because they were "similar to me" from the perspective of those doing the choosing. In addition, as the Empire tightened its grip, those closest to the Empire's base of power in Coruscant (and thus likely colonized by similar-looking races) would have been more likely to align with the Empire, while those lying further out in the galaxy would have been more likely to break away (even the Old Republic didn't control the entire known galaxy; Tattoine was effectively independent).

7

Disney Canon:

Yes, and intentionally so.

In the awful Star Wars: Aftermath canon novel series by Chuck Wendig, Sinjir Rath Velus is a former Imperial Loyalty Officer who has defected to the New Republic side. Here is his analysis:

The prime operator within all Imperial ranks was the human being. “Aliens” were by and large unwelcome within its labyrinthine order because aliens were seen as different. They were serfs and slaves or, at best, obstacles. They needed to be tamed, removed, or ignored...

Sinjir felt the tug of that prejudice himself from time to time, for it was so programmed into them that even near-humans were to receive a measure of distrust. Palpatine and his propaganda machine worked to drive that nail of bigotry deeper by demonstrating how the old Jedi thugs and the scumfroth rebels consisted of many more nonhumans than humans. You could trust a human, the Empire said; aliens would always betray you.

Of course, over time Sinjir learned the foolishness of that, because as it turned out human beings were fairly horrible. Full of treachery! Just brimming with the stuff. He came to believe that the Empire’s corruption was precisely because it was xenophobic. It afforded no one any other voice, and so man and machine ruled the Empire together while the rest of the galaxy— despite being predominantly nonhuman in origin— suffered, powerless while under the twisting heel of the Imperial boot.
- Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

One of Sinjir's new allies, Norra Wexley (one of the pilots who flew alongside the Millennium Falcon during the assault on the second Death Star), shares Sinjir's opinion:

Kashyyyk is a prison planet. A worldwide labor camp. The Empire, in its xenophobic monstrousness, saw fit to imprison and enslave the Wookiees there not because they offered a meaningful threat to the Emperor’s ascendancy— but because they were different, and because their massive, robust physiology would allow them to work long and hard in extreme conditions. Probably took rather epic effort to work a Wookiee to death. Not that the Empire wouldn’t try, she wagers.
- ibid

5

Yes it was. There were three sources/components to it -

  1. General philosophy of Humanocentrism (bias towards humand and near human species). This was subscribed to by many humans in Old Republic, and part of its fabric.

  2. Specific xenophobia on the part of many of powerful people in the Empire.

    Specifically, we can point to Janus Greejatus, rabidly anti-alien member of Palpatine's inner circle and founder of Imperial Department of Redesign, which was instrumental in Empire's antialien policies.

  3. Internal politics of the Empire.

    • As we see in "Tarkin" novel (as well as partly in Clone Wars), non-Humans made a vast bulk of Separatists, and as such were useful "other"/"enemy"/scapegoat for the Empire and the Emperor in the years after the Clone Wars.

    • And we all know that having an "other" is a great tool for a dictatorial government to distract the populus from their poor living conditions and lack of power.

    • Having anti-alien bias allowed economic exploitation of non-human species (e.g. enslaving the Wookies).

    • And, as noted in #2, many powerful humans in the Empire were anti-alien and these policies allowed the Emperor to keep them happy (when it wasn't to his own goals' detriment - which is why he was quite happy to trust and elevate Thrawn when it suited him).

3

Xenophobic is a good way of describing the Empire and Thrawn is a good example. Even though he was a really good strategist and leader, he was sent out to the Outer Rim. Why? He wasn't human. I think it may come from the extremely hierarchical and top-down leadership system they employ. Systems like this often don't value initiative and change and input from anyone but management or Vader and the Emperor in this case. If you ask me, this may be one of the main reasons why they ultimately failed.

  • 3
    Actually, if you follow the full canon, the "sent to Outer Rim" as a punishment was a ruse between Emperor, Thrawn and possibly Vader, to get Thrawn into position to build a defensive bulwark against threats (possibly Vong) from that direction. It was - long term - probably the most important military assignment in the Empire. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 30 '12 at 15:23
2

Yes; If we go by the Pre-Disney EU, there are only a few nonhuman commanders in the Empire [excluding the Force-sensitives under Palpatine and Vader] - Thrawn being the most prominent example, with others including the Kaleesh General Bentilais san Sk'ar [who was discovered by Thrawn himself and once fought under the future General Grievous] and Grand Moff Bertroff Hissa [who was a near-human hybrid]. Excluding these, it is true that the vast majority of the Galactic Empire was a product of humanocentrism - with few exceptions given to the best and the most loyal nonhumans. In the Disney Canon, I am really not sure, but would assume so.

Links: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Bertroff_Hissa http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Bentilais_san_Sk%27ar

-3

Perhaps humans are less likely to be force sensitive, therefore, filling the ranks with humans would limit the possibility of effective sedition from within.

Or perhaps humans are merely more imperialistic than most other races, making them better suited to running an empire. Of course all we ever really see in the movies are Imperial army and navy personnel. Maybe local and regional governors are more diverse.

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    "[N]early every force user we see is human" - Episodes 2 and 3 would like to have a word with you. Also The Clone Wars TV series has a few things to say about this. – user1027 Sep 19 '11 at 18:41
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    ... and just about every book that touches Star Wars. – draeath Sep 19 '11 at 19:02
  • I am not terribly familiar with the non-movie material. I'll amend the answer. – Xantec Sep 19 '11 at 19:45

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