Yesterday, we reported on comments made by superstar writer Peter David at the LGBT X-Men panel at New York Comic Con about Romani people, claiming that the Romani people break their children's legs to make them better beggars.
We later learned that David told the story of his trip to Romania way back in 1993, and that the account of a child with broken legs was reprinted on his blog in 2010.
Naturally, David's comments didn't go over very well, and the writer came under fire on social media for them. So did David reevaluate his twenty-three year old views, look deep inside himself, and apologize? Well, you're reading this article, so you already know the answer to that question. In a post aptly titled "Me and my big mouth," David wrote on his blog:
I should have kept my big mouth shut.
And that was pretty much the last reasonable thing he wrote in the entire post. David kicked things off by complaining about the fan who asked the panel about the depiction of Romani people in comics in the first place, and positioning himself as the victim of an unfair, "dubious" interaction:
The second person to speak then proceeded to do one of the things that I always tell people not to do: rather than ask a question, he began a rambling speech about the Romamni and the way they are portrayed in comics, and eventually got around to saying that he hoped we would strive to give the Romani a fair shake in our books.
Now if I had half a brain, what I would have said was:
"Well, as I recall, Quicksilver is Romani. And everyone hated him until X-Factor #87, and after that issue came out, everyone loved him. So I'm certainly doing my part." And everyone would have applauded and we could have moved on to the next question.
Now trying to turn a discussion of LGBTQ concerns into a discussion of Romani concerns seemed dubious at best considering that the Romani law despises homosexuality. But that is a debate for another time.
David then reprinted his story from 1993, about encountering a child with broken legs while visiting Romania to film a movie and being told by his guide that the Romani people, or "gypsies" as he put it then, break their children's legs so that they can be more effective beggars. To punctuate this, David shared a photo of a child with broken legs, presumably a photo taken by Peter David from his original article, as if that would settle things:
David then wrote:
All of that went through my brain and cold anger ripped through my head. I growled, "You really want to do this?" and suddenly the crowd got very quiet.
I related what I had seen twenty-plus years ago. As I spoke I became more and more furious, remembering it so vividly.
The guy tried to talk back, and I didn't want to hear it. I said we were done talking about it. He kept trying to pursue it. And I blew my stack. Twenty years of remembering what I had seen bubbled over and I shouted at him that we were moving on to the next question.
People were visibly stunned. I had never gone off on a fan in thirty years of being a professional, and believe me, plenty had tried to provoke me. The panel then moved on and at the end I apologized to the audience for losing my temper.
It wasn't enough, of course. The internet erupted. "Peter David goes off on racist rant!" Everyone expressed disapproval, scowled because I'd been upset.
I guess my question is:
Why are people angry that I got upset about the crippling of children?
David pointed out that he apologized for losing his cool at the panel, and said that "of course" he didn't believe the person asking the question supported the practice of breaking children's legs, and that he "obviously" didn't think Romani people should be "persecuted." But he didn't back down from the content of his comments at all, instead blaming modern PC culture for his problems:
But this is the 21st century, and in the 21st century, you're not allowed to form an opinion based upon things you've been told by people who live there, and things you've seen with your own eyes, and photographs you've taken. Apparently the only thing that matters is the sensitivities of activists, and if you take issue with actions that the people they represent have taken, then clearly there is something wrong with you.
It's at this point when I have to wonder: is Peter David a Trump supporter? A quick glance at his blog post on last week's Vice Presidential debates seems to answer that question in the negative, with David particularly disagreeing with Trump's views on immigrants. It's ironic, because David's assertions about the Romani people are exactly the same as Trump's views on Mexican immigrants, condemning the entire group as rapists and criminals because of individual anecdotes. It's ironic because David's deflection that "Romani law despises homosexuality" is eerily similar to Trump's deflection about his anti-Muslim racism.
Peter David is engaging in classic, textbook racism that Peter David would be very strongly against if it were anyone other than Peter David doing it. Peter, Donald Trump doesn't believe he's being racist either.
It's understandable that David would have such a visceral reaction to the heartbreaking thing he saw in Romania twenty-three years ago. It's even understandable that this would influence his opinions twenty-three years later and cause him to thoughtlessly say some pretty bogus things about an ethnic group that consists of up to 20 million people worldwide. Peter David, despite being a smart man and a very good writer, is only human, after all.
What is not cool is that, when confronted with the inherent wrongness of his opinion, a wrongness that he is demonstrably capable of recognizing and pointing out in others like Donald Trump, Peter David choose not to turn inward, take responsibility for his actions, confront his inner demons, and evolve his decades-old views. Instead, he doubled down and blamed others for being too sensitive.
In his blog post, David concludes:
Screw it. If people want to declare that I hate the Romani, fine. I'll log that right in with Peter David hates Catholics (even though my wife and youngest daughter are Catholic, the latter about to celebrate her confirmation) and Peter David is anti-Semitic (even though I'm Jewish) and Peter David hates gays (that one's my favorite because it broke during the exact same month that I got a GLAAD Media Award.)
And maybe in this case it might have some positive effect. Maybe it will prompt people to actually do some research and get into Bucharest and save these children from abusive parents who see them solely as a means of begging. Maybe something positive will come from it.
You tell me.
I have another proposal. Peter David, it's not late to recognize the hypocrisy and Trump-like demagoguery of your views on Romani people - from the 1 million living in the United States, to the 2.5 million living in Romania, to the millions all over the rest of the world, the overwhelming majority of whom you can't possibly believe all break their children's legs to make them better beggars, who yet suffer discrimination and persecution because of views like these - and recognize that they are the very definition of prejudice. And then do something about it.
Maybe then, something positive will come from all of this.
You tell me.