Prior to a recent game, our group had a great discussion on culture/race and it's relation to RPG races. While it is fairly established that Tolkien based some of the iconic aspects of his fantasy races on stereotypes of various cultures from his era, has there been any indication (interview, designer notes, etc) that a similar style of thinking has been purposefully interjected into fantasy RPG races (ala D&D, Earthdawn, etc)? And as a follow-up, is there any discussion (within the related rules) on how to handle this overlap respectfully and without coming across as "corny"?
There are a few where it's been explicit that certain aliens or demihumans have been modeled after particular cultures.
The MekPurr, from Space Opera, are Scots in Felinoid bodies, for example.
Certain Human-aliens in Traveller are specifically based upon certain cultures (Sword Worlders and vikings, Jonkerer on desert nomads), and some of the Alien aliens originate in clear stereotypes (Aslan as Samurai Cats).
The Orks of Orkworld are clearly Bretons (A pre-roman Celtic culture in what is now England). The humans are Romans... but Gurtha isn't Earth by the maps.
The Warhammer world is explicitly a parallel earth... the Empire is essentially the Holy Roman Empire; Tilea is italy; Bretonia, France and England; Kislev is Kyiv. The Orcs are east of Germany and Kislev, where the Rus and Slavs lived on earth. The Slann, in older editions, were the Aztec and Inca. The Undead Hordes are in lands that were under Islam on earth... And in early editions, the North were chaos hordes... but aside from Bretonia, the Empire, Kislev, and Tilea, which are all human, the non-humans are not identified with the earth cultures of their spots. Those human cultures are parodies as much as anything.
None of these, however, talk about the sources as anything other than sources. Once you establish your race, it's different, if only because of player ignorance.
I've never seen it called out explicitly in a game text, but you can see signs of it in globetrotting or cosmopolitan settings like Eberron and Al-Qadim, or anthropomorph settings like Ironclaw. My homebrew setting (for who doesn't have one?) does it quite a bit; my advice is to make sure that the research is done, and make sure that the fantasy folk are compelling and interesting even if someone comes in unaware of the historical/cultural shorthand of being "like the Ancient Egyptians" or "like Borgia's Venice."
IMO the proper approach is for fantasy cultures to be influenced by, but not analogous to, real ones. No caricatures, no implied values structures, but not completely alien to our world.
So "These Halflings are known to worship the Sun, to which they bow five times daily." entirely good, we can got a tidbit of learning about these Halflings. "These elves are cave-dwellers, and are suspicious of outsiders" makes me more curious about them.
But "These Halflings speak in gruff accents, drink mead, and wear horned helmets" is already groan-worthy, because there's nothing mysterious about it, and I'm already assuming, right or not, that they are coastal raiders who arm wrestle each other every night.
So if you need to describe their accent or buildings or art or weaponry, think it through well, make it mysterious and not label-able as "They are like the people who live in (real place)"
Most of the classic D&D races (elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs) are derived from a mix of sources, not necessarily directly with real world races or cultures. I dont think Tolkien drew his races that much from real world races or cultures either. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo Saxon literature. All of these races have qualities that can come across as "recognizable", possibly to stereotyped personalities or appearances that you may know - that makes a lot of sense because they embody tropes within a northern European / Western cultural framework in European/ Western literature.
In the games that have these overlap, it typically explains the perception of the game world of these real-world inspired cultures. Like when a setting has an exotic asian locale, or the like.
Perhaps I'm not following the question entirely, but, in general, I don't believe that most games put race->real-race/culture relations in the game rules. Any such nonsense is usually a holdover or a player trying to bring discussions that don't belong at the game table to the forefront.