It is Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai all over again. With respect to the interviews of Cameron that I have read, his naivete (ignorance) on this point is more than palpable. Once more, the white male is "the hero" who saves the noble savages. Even a more generous reading of the protagonist as a cipher, or as representative of humanity is problematic in that it is a reinforcement of "white male" normativity, or the universality of what is particular (white and maleness). The movie would have been much more radical if Cameron had chosen to cast a female and/or a person of color as the lead. He could have stirred the pot a little more, by playing with gender or sexuality/sexual orientation. The aliens could have been intersex, or something along the lines of LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness. That is when sci fi is at its best, IMO. As kind of a cultural critic, I also am really tired of the psychological manipulation and contrivances that the media use. Of course, they use them, because they work, they are evocative on an almost organic level with human beings (true love, the myth of the hero, nobility of nature, interconnectedness, good vs evil). More creative storyline would have been nice. What about a more ambiguous hero (say like in District 9). Some of the same issues are faced, but nobility or purity are not assumed. There is moral ambiguity, and no fairy tale ending.Considering how successful Cameron has been I find it somewhat difficult to imagine him as naive. Considering how much money was spent on Titanic and this film I think he knows how to bow to reality. He could risk alienating major audiences like the US and Europe and risk losing A LOT OF MONEY.
But is even though race can be regarded as a BIG DEAL in this movie, is it really? Is the issue of the last 500 years really race or is it technology and who had it? Aren't all of the cultures on the planet obsolete now? Aren't we stuck with having to cope with 7,000,000,000 people and running out of oil and the complex technology no matter what?
It is curious how they never explained how this unobtanium was found on Pandora or why it was so valuable. But humans could not have gotten there without star travel technology and they are saying Earth was a wreck.
But movies have foreground stories and background stories. The background story sets up the situation that the characters in the foreground must deal with. The background story in Casablanca was World War II. The background story for Avatar is corporate economics and technology. But that was the background in Aliens and Terminator II and it appeared in The Abyss also.
Although racism can be read into this story I don't think it is a serious concern of Cameron's. But it does add to the technological perspective of the last 500 years. I have noticed that the laws of physics don't give a damn about Greek or Latin.