In my fantasy stories, I have many different races all living and working together. They are ruled by the Elf Queen, who in keeping with tradition is Celtic, and therefore, “white”. Her honor guard are centaurs, who I have made “black”, their culture being based on the Zulu and Masai tribes of Africa. They are NOT slaves, they are in the employ of the queen and consider it the highest honor to serve her, but I’m afraid that people will see them, being half animal and “serving” a white person as racist, which is the furthest thing from my mind. I created them to give African American children, boys especially, good and honorable role models in fantasy, something that I know is lacking.
Is this an issue, or am I paranoid?
First, you are not being paranoid. We live in an era in which nearly anything is being called racist by detractors even when the issue has nothing to do with race at all. Because of this way-overused attack, it’s no wonder people are wary of anything that might be interpreted as racist.
In your story, you do have a race-oriented issue, so you are wise to wonder if such an attack might be directed at you, especially since the race that is in a service position has a skin color similar to a race that had too many of its members enslaved in our country until about 150 years ago. The concern is worth examining.
If you leave your system intact, someone is likely to call you and/or your story racist, no matter if it is deserved or not. Some people love to slap with that word, but the frequency has risen to such ridiculous levels, most people, I think, are beginning to ignore it.
With regard to rational readers, I think you can alleviate that concern by showing the honor guard members as being confident, ready to assert their opinions, and even commanding authority. Let the queen show them great honor and always ask for their help instead of demanding it. If you do this, any rational reader will be able to see that your story is in no way racist.