Yep. Nothing racist about casting all black actors as this barbaric race, is there?
I don't think that's fair, because we've seen dozens of alien races in Trek that were just as "barbaric" and were played by all-white actors. The Capellans in "Friday's Child" spring to mind just off the top of my head. And sticking just to the first season of TNG, we have the Bandi in "Encounter at Farpoint" (a technologically backward people enslaving and torturing an innocent alien), the murderous and warlike Anticans and Selay of "Lonely Among Us" (played under their makeup by white actors like Marc Alaimo and John Durbin), the oppressive matriarchy of Angel One, the wartorn Mordanians of "Too Short a Season," the child-abducting Aldeans of "When the Bough Breaks," the ruthless Minosian arms dealer in "The Arsenal of Freedom," the drug-dealer Brekkians of "Symbiosis," and the Romulans of "The Neutral Zone" -- all guilty of "barbaric" behavior, all played by white actors.
It's just the nature of an episodic space-adventure series that the majority of aliens the cast encounters are going to be antagonistic in one way or another. So if you refused to cast nonwhite actors as villains, you'd give them fewer opportunities to play a part in the series at all. Like I said, in 1987 it was rare for aliens to be played by black people at all
. Lando Calrissian was about it. However problematic it may appear now, at the time it was actually a small step forward, even if it did turn out to be a misstep. This is the nature of progress. What seems progressive at an early stage (like the miniskirts of the TOS women's uniforms) comes to be seen as backward later on when society has progressed well beyond it.
And Trek did improve on it later on, of course. In addition to having Michael Dorn as the featured Klingon (even if he did fall into the "angry black man" stereotype to an unfortunate degree, at least until DS9 started writing him better), we got increasingly multiethnic casting for major alien races like Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Vulcans, and Bajorans.
Sorry Christopher, but none of the above mentioned 'barbaric' races were patterned noticeably after a distinct human culture like the Africanized black Ligonians were. I think the decision to go '1940s tribal Africa' in Tracey Torme's words was due in largely part to the color they chose the make the Ligonians in that episode.
Further for all the 'barbaric' white races that have been featured in Trek, you can point to the 'superior' or at least 'advanced' white races that also have been featured in Trek. Can you say the same for black races, or races largely peopled by other non-whites?
I agree with you that it was a misstep (as does some Trek actors), but I disagree that it was a small step forward. For one, while Michael Dorn is black, Klingons are not 'black' or have a culture 'based' on an African culture. We also didn't see many other black human-looking alien cultures to counter the Ligonians-though we did see black skinned aliens sprinkled throughout episodes, though rarely that got much development. Heck, it can be argued that even Geordi-one of the main cast members-suffered from poor character development. So it doesn't seem much of a stretch that we didn't see a lot of black skinned alien races throughout TNG's run, or really throughout all of Trek. Outside the Ligonians, I can recall the Halanans and Haliians, but of course it's speculation that they are majority black, since we pretty much just saw one representative of their species each. So, I don't think we ever saw another group of human-looking aliens played by a majority of black actors.
Benjamin Sisko was the best developed character of color in all of Trek. But after him, you saw a regression that eventually bottomed out with Travis Mayweather. So, the 'progress' you spoke of, didn't last long. It remains to be seen what will happen with Abrams Trek Uhura and Sulu, though my money is on Spock and Kirk continuing to dominate that series, along with McCoy, similar to TOS show and movies.
At the end of the day, the Trek franchise despite it's progressive views or intentions still is largely the preserve of white American males and is subject to whatever ethnocentrism, racial filters or hangups they might see the world through. As some fans debated during ENT's run about the Andorians' labeling humans 'pink skins' as if white (pink) skin was the default, and like Shran was ignoring Hoshi and Travis who were often on the bridge right along with Archer. To me, that idea of whites as default, or universal, human beings is a prevalent one in a lot of American entertainment and Trek has not been immune to it.