[This article is written from the point of view of a Brony towards others in the fandom whom it may apply to. However, the concept may easily apply to other fandoms or situations.]
Lets talk about race! No… not that kind.
Making humanized versions of non-human characters from media has always been a popular form of fanart. However a problem I’ve often noticed is there always being THAT ONE GUY (or girl) in the comments of a piece on DeviantArt whining that the creature turned human did not match their headcanon- often white. Below are usual remarks one makes when complaining about a character’s race.
"Why is she black / dark skinned?"
Because thats how the artist interpreted it obviously. If the artist had drawn them as white would you have asked the same question? Probably not. So yes, simply asking why the artist drew them as dark skinned is going to be seen as racist.
"But their voice actor is X"
In the world of voice acting all that matters is voice. Dark skinned people can voice light skinned people, light skinned people can voice dark skinned people, and humans can voice Kryptonians or ponies.
"It doesn’t fit my headcanon!"
Unless you specifically commissioned a picture from an artist, its not supposed to! Every fanart in the world isn’t made to fit your head canon. Whether it actually happens to or not. If it matches, fantastic! If not, then you don’t have to save, fave, or comment on it. Its not like they’re all uncensored R34 showing up (and even if it was, race isn’t the issue). So if it is not a commission, you are not entitled to what it should look like.
"They don’t act like race-x"
You are stating that all peoples of a certain race must act a certain way. Even then, Applejack is the only of the Mane6 that seems to straight-up “act like” or be based off of a specific subset of white stereotype and even then its exaggerated upon on. With the other five, their personalities don’t have anything race specific. Anyone of any race can be an athletic, bookworm, animal caretaker, fashion lover, party-er, or workaholic farmer. Also, they’re cartoon horses from another planet.
"Well Celestia/Rarity/ShiningArmor etc. are actually white."
You’re right they are white. Not Caucasian, actual literal color white, which are two different things. That is not a valid reason for why you think they should only be drawn as “white(Caucasian) people.” So what of the characters with blue, purple, or pink coats?
Is it wrong to have a preference for fanart of a character of a certain skin color?
No. But there is a difference between having a preference for what you “right click, save as” and complaining to an artist about it not being the ethnicity you want it to be. That is not a constructive criticism of someones art. In general, even if not talking about race, “I don’t like it” and “it doesn’t match my headcanon” are not constructive are helpful to the artist in the least and only makes you look entitled (or in this case, racist).
"Freedom of Speech!"
Freedom of Speech is your right to speak, not for your statement to go unchallenged. If you said something racist, its not “unracist” because of “freedom of speech”. Likewise freedom of speech allows others to call you out for what you said.
One last thing worth mentioning in this case: Artists may inadvertently do something offensive too:
A particular example I’ve seen is that doing a humanization of Fluttershy with a hijab has become quite popular. However, I’ve have seen some complaints that it is reinforcing a stereotype that Muslim women who wear it are submissive or meek. However not all Muslim girls may find it offensive but it is something to take onto consideration if you are making some pony a certain race/nationality in your humanization of them. If however you made all the Mane6 have them, that would probably be less offensive as its portraying a range of different personalities. So if you’re an artist, stuff like that is something to take into consideration.
Now onto a more specific instance dealing with racism and outside of fanart. The recent “Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks” trailer had a few neighsayers in the comments.
By the “they are actually white” train of logic from earlier, they should be portrayed by mimes and Rainbow Dash should be portrayed by a member of the Blue Man Group. Next of all, the actors in the commercial are not supposed to be literal representations of the characters. The actresses in this one aren’t even the same ones from the last Equestria Girls commercial for the first movie, in case that wasn’t enough to give it away. They are supposed to represent the target audience. As such also representing minorities in the commercials matters. It says “Hey this is for everyone!”. Furthermore, you’ve complaining about a real person, not just a drawing this time around, which is even worse. Thankfully I’ve not seen this happen in regard to actual cosplayers/ real pepole in the fandom but complaining about this commercial is certainly coming close.
So to close it off, don’t be racist or if you “didn’t mean to”, think before you speak as its going to look very different to everyone else. The world does not revolve around your headcanon or interpretation- no matter what the reason. Don’t be THAT person who leaves these sort of comments.
And due to the nature of tumblr, I will probably be questioned on my ethnicity for writing an article on race. I am Eurasian, and not that “I’m 4% because of my great great grandad on my mothers side” stuff- but down the middle 50/50. Physically, I appear more Asian- as far as most people know I’m just Asian and it is something I was bullied a lot for growing up. Additionally, the YouTube screenshots above were provided by tumblr user: the-great-and-powerful-satsuki who is a person of color and also previewed the article (sans these last two paragraphs).