Black History Month 2010

November 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

…is three months away. I know.

I’ve had a revelation over the past few months. I don’t really have any interest at all in doing another 28 day marathon talking about black people and comic book characters/superheroes. I just don’t care, for a variety of reasons too deep to go into today but which will undoubtedly leak out over the next few months.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to represent. I just want to do it differently than I have before. Comics, and real life, shouldn’t be about the characters. It should be about the creators.

So, a request. Help me out. Drop a comment here or email me with the names of black writers, artists, colorists, editors, whatever. Superheroes, webcomics, mopey comics, indie comics, coloring books, whatever. I want to know. Also, specify if they are actively working or if they’re a classic creator and where I can see them in action.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing next year, but I have a vague idea. So, help me help you by helping me gather information. I don’t/can’t read everything, so no suggestion is too dumb or too obvious.

Except I guess Priest or Hudlin or McDuffie. Don’t recommend those guys to me. I already know about them.

Let’s get it.

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BHM09 Coda

March 9th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

42 drafts, 36 images, 28 posts, 28 days, and I’m still number one.

Black History Month has been over for a week. Coincidentally, this post is about a week late. I’d intended to do it after Wondercon ’09, but I ended up pretty sick without even realizing it. I figure I caught the nerd flu from the con or something, because I am positively miserable.

Anyway, BHM09 was an interesting experience. I started out with a solid third (give or take) of the posts written or in detailed notes form. That was enough of a head start to carry me through the month with no problems. But, I quickly went off script. I’ve got a folder full of half-finished drafts that’ll never see the light of day, either because I couldn’t make them work or because I made them work and then realized I hated them. Best laid plans, meet open window.

I had some very interesting conversations, many of which helped realign or clarify my own views on race and comics. I only ran into two outright trolls, neither of which had any heart, so I guess I didn’t make anyone important angry. Hopefully, and I think this is true, people read and learned or understood or got something they didn’t before. I realized partway through the month that I was repeating and reiterating what I’d already said, but race in comics isn’t exactly rocket science.

This is basically a table of contents for BHM09. It will explain what each post is about, in as few words as possible, and also the title. That’s probably the only real secret- each post’s title is a music reference. “Hip-hop and comic books was my genesis,” right?

Before I get into that, I’d like to thank the people who linked me when I first started out: Cheryl Lynn, Johanna Draper Carlson, Jog, Tom Spurgeon, Heidi MacDonald and especially JK Parkin, who so kindly offered to syndicate a post a week on Robot6, which is in turn hosted on one of the two biggest comics news sites around. Extra thanks to Pedro Tejeda of Funnybook Babylon and Cheryl Lynn (again) for a couple of really good suggestions for posts. Thanks also to everyone who emailed me over the course of the month who is still waiting on a reply. To all of you, I can only say, “I suck.”

If you don’t want to read this entire list, I asked around and apparently posts 22, 12, and 20 are pretty good. I also want to give special notice to this post on the official Atomic Robo blog, which is really very thoughtful and I’m kind of honored to have at least partly inspired it.

I’m pretty burned out on black stuff right now, so it may be a while before I do anything like this again. I am, however, planning on doing something big at least every other month this year. It may not be daily blogging (it will not be daily blogging), but it’ll be something.

Thanks for reading.
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Black History Month ’09 #28: You Can’t Stop Us Now

February 28th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

On Illmatic, Nas breaks off the intro to N.Y. State of Mind to say, “I don’t know how to start this.” There’s a pause, and with a “yo,” he goes on to kick five minutes of sublime lyrics. It’s not a studio gimmick or a punch-in. It’s real life. This little snippet of time, maybe three seconds at most, is Illmatic in miniature. It’s the biography of the young black male: simultaneously brilliant and unsure, arrogant and nervous, full of potential and lacking at the same time.

It’s a line that brings to mind Loop Hughes of 100 Bullets. Before the events of the series, he was the son of a single mother, running with faceless nobodies, and drifting through life. He had a life, but it was half of one. He was going nowhere.

Eventually, he meets his father, thanks to a nudge from Agent Graves, and that puts him on some kind of a road. He absorbs knowledge and experience from his father like a sponge. After his father dies, he learns that his father was respected a great deal by hard men, and he learns another lesson.

Over the course of the series, Loop pays attention to things and keeps learning. He’s trained in prison by a man with no conscience, and when they get out, he’s connected to more men who knew his father. As time goes on, he learns about life and killing. He’s a sponge.

Finally, toward the end of the series, he’s in a situation that is the ultimate mexican standoff. Two of the men involved have no interest in solving it any way but one. Loop sees another solution and takes it, trusting that things will align as they should. And they do. It’s another Illmatic line. “Whose world is this? The world is yours, the world is yours.”

There’s a lot that I like about Loop, and a lot that I can relate to. I know about having a single mother. I know about being aimless. I know about needing a push to reach greatness. I can identify with Loop’s rise over the course of 100 Bullets, because it resembles my own.

Illmatic’s message is, at least in part, about potential. You are sitting at the top of a hill and full of potential energy. You can either waste that energy and fall, or you can spend it and soar. The thing that I, and a lot of people like me, understand is that the potential within me is limitless. The older I get, the more I realize I can do. Everything I’ve ever decided to do, I’ve done and done well. When someone asks me “Whose world is this?” the only appropriate response is “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.”

At the same time, that arrogance only goes so far. Sometimes you have to sit back and whisper, “I don’t know how to start this.” You start out on the back foot, so you’ve got to worry about how you look to others and make sure that you’re on point. The moment you screw up, you become a statistic, a stereotype, typical, and generally just another reason for people to go “Ugh, I knew it.” There’s that little voice in the back of your head that says that you aren’t good enough, and never will be.

Once you get past that, the world is yours.

Loop’s been on my mind a lot lately, for both the reasons I mention above and the fact that 100 Bullets is about two weeks away from ending as I type. When I went to New York Comic-con, I had a chance to get a sketch from Eduardo Risso, artist of 100 Bullets. I thought about it for a moment and realized that I needed a sketch of Loop. So I got it.

Loop Hughes, by Eduardo Risso

I currently have two things on my wall. One is a page of original art from Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, featuring John Henry waking up from being lynched and walking off into the darkness to do what needs to be done. The other is the classic Muhammad Ali poster “First Minute, First Round,” with a triumphant Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston. The other is going to be this piece by Risso of Loop.

I’m very picky about what I put up on my walls. It’s got to have some special meaning to me or represent something, rather than just being a hot piece of art. Ali is the arrogance that is necessary, John Henry is about purpose and drive, and Loop is about potential.

It’s 2009. I’m 25 years old, and the world is mine.

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Black History Month ’09 #27: Life Is Illmatic

February 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Today is a short one. It’s from Icon #30, by Dwayne McDuffie and MD Bright. They say my overall point much better than I could, so I’m going to keep my talking to a minimum.

Really, though- I hope DC does right by Milestone. The company, its legacy, and its characters deserve to be done properly.

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Black History Month ’09 #26: The Message

February 26th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Even though I have problems with some of the treatment of black characters in comics, I think that things are looking better than they ever have. There are more black headliners, more black characters, and better stories featuring those characters than there were years ago. Vertigo, once the stronghold of stories aimed at goths, published Sentences and the Papa Midnite book, in addition to expanding to the point where they’ve got an entire line based around crime fiction. Marvel seems committed to treating Black Panther as a major player in terms of both stories and real world stature.

I don’t think that things are perfect, not by any means, but things are getting better. I still want to hear more black voices, see black characters that aren’t introduced and shuffled off to the sidelines or the background, and stories that do more than paying lip service to the idea of black culture.

It’s a cliche to say that “black history is American history,” but it’s true. America would not be the country it is today without the input of black people, be it forced or voluntary. Slavery led to economic prosperity, but contributions from black people didn’t end there. There’s the Harlem Renaissance, slavery-era literature, 20th century music, novels, movies, and dozens of others. You don’t have to dig very deep at all to find something of value.

I’d like to be able to say the same about comics. Milestone is back in what could be the perfect time for its resurgence. A company that blazed trails in portrayal of non-white characters, transgender characters, and coloring can go from a well-regarded footnote to actually having the stature and respect it deserves. Gay characters in comics don’t begin with Perry Moore and end with Northstar. Islam in comics didn’t start with GW Bridge or The 99. There’s a lot out there that has gone forgotten simply because the material isn’t easily accessible.

There are a bunch of extremely talented black artists out there who will one day be up there with the greats. There’s fascinating panel designs, fusions of influences from Kirby to Otomo to Moebius to Tezuka and back again, and new and exciting ways to approach comics. I’m sure that there are plenty of writers waiting in the wings, too, with fresh ideas and perspectives to bring to things.

What do I want out of blacks in comics? I’ve got a list of things. I’d like to see black characters on an even keel with white ones, more research, more variety, and more respect.

Really though, two words: good stories.

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Black History Month ’09 #25: Re-Definition

February 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Bishop had the strange position of being one of exactly two black X-Men when I was big into the comics. He was on the cover of the first issue of Uncanny X-Men I paid for with my own money (I remember this because it was behind the counter on a display as the first appearance of Bishop.) and he seemed pretty cool. Whilce Portacio made him look pretty mean and scary, and his power was, and is, dope.

But, he doesn’t work all the way for me. It isn’t that he’s inauthentic or not “black” enough or whatever– he’s from the future. It’s also not necessarily his origin or his underlying story. The X-Traitor stuff was fascinating, his ties to Gambit were interesting (the Boysenberry pie scene from X-Men is still one of my all-time favorites), and the hero worship he originally had for the X-Men was really very cool.

He just hasn’t clicked yet. He’s been through a few different variations. His original version is probably the most interesting to me, though the costume and hair left much to be desired. The idea of the X-Men living on into the future and inspiring people even then is, well, inspired. It’s a nice twist on the idea of a superheroic legacy, and Bishop being awestruck the first time he meets Storm or Cyclops was fun. There’s an unspoken undertone of authoritarianism to the whole works that adds a bit of sauce, too. After a while, he just turned into a generic X-Hero, but it was interesting while it lasted.

Bishop went through Age of Apocalypse and ended up with his mind turned inside out. He tripped from that into Onslaught and a series of increasingly uninteresting adventures that went from New York to the future to outer space and back again. When he landed, Claremont reinvented him as a bald detective guy, which could have been an interesting idea. Instead, it turned Bishop into a generic guy who makes deductions and sometimes fast-talks cops. District X was a series which threw Bishop into the midst of Mutant Town, New York, but it was similarly bland.

Messiah Complex added a new wrinkle to Bishop’s past. It explained that the dystopia he hails from was caused by a certain mutant baby. Messiah Complex was essentially a crossover that is at least in part about Bishop trying to kill a baby. This situation escalated in Cable’s solo series, where Bishop is chasing Cable and that baby through time.

While it’s actually kind of a gross-sounding hook on paper, I think it would have been way more interesting if Bishop were presented as at all sympathetic. If the baby actually did cause the death of millions, then Bishop is genuinely trying to do the right thing and you have a real dilemma. Instead, Bishop is eliminating entire eras in his attempt to pop the baby. It makes him pretty unlikeable, I think, on top of the whole “I need to kill this baby” thing.

Bishop’s a character that I want to like, but, like Nightwing, he’s never had a Frank Miller come along and turn him on his head and make him interesting. He’s run through a gauntlet of characterizations at this point, and none of them really seem to click. He’s always missing something. He needs a good hook and a good arc to make him worthwhile.

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Black History Month ’09 #24: Ready for Whatever

February 24th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’ve always liked Robbie Robertson. He’s both reminiscent of my grandfather and basically the prototype for a successful black supporting character, for good or for ill.

Robbie is, at his heart, a surrogate father figure. He was the only kind man who worked at the Bugle for ages, and served as both a confidante and a source of advice for Peter Parker. In essence, he was the conscience of the Daily Bugle and, to a certain extent, the Spider-Man comics themselves.

The thing about Spider-Man is that he’s extraordinarily self-absorbed, even by superhero standards. That’s the thing that made One More Day work as an idea (not as a story) for me. Peter takes everything personally, and what he can’t take personally he takes on his shoulders. Robbie is there to be that voice of reason that Peter so desperately needs. He provides perspective to a guy who clearly has no sense of it.

Robbie’s got a kind of soft-spoken intelligence that isn’t all that common in comics. Reading between the lines makes it clear that he knows that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one and the same, but he never brings it up or calls in a favor. He just understands that Peter is fundamentally a good kid at heart and wouldn’t do it without a good reason.

At the same time, he provides a valuable check against J Jonah Jameson’s worst excesses. He’s there to tell him when he goes to far, and he’s there when Jonah has a rare moment of vulnerability. He’s a mentor to most of the Daily Bugle’s staff, as he’s a veteran news man who knows his way around both the business and ethics.

Deep down, though, there is steel. His hard line on ethics is due to a failure early in life, when he squashed a story after a beating by Lonnie “Tombstone” Lincoln. He’s encountered him a few times since, and stood up straight. He used to race cars as a child, too, showing him to be a bit more street smart than you’d expect. He seems like a gentle professor or a grandfather, but everyone was a kid once, and kids get into trouble.

I know a lot of people think of J Jonah Jameson as being the best supporting Spider-Man character, but really, Robbie is where it’s at. Jonah’s got one note and very little range. Robbie has range. For my money, Robbie is the best supporting character, with Mary Jane close behind him. Robbie’s a rock for anyone who needs it.

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Black History Month ’09 #23: We Gonna Make It

February 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

One thing that is vital in expecting blacks in comics to get better is having black voices in comics. Off the top of my head, we have three black writers regularly getting work at the big two right now: Kevin Grievoux, Dwayne McDuffie, and Reggie Hudlin. Christopher Priest is retired. There are a good number of artists out there, but artists generally don’t get to decide the stories of the books.

Something Spike Lee makes it a point to do is to employ up and coming and already famous black actors. If you’re going to pull from the community, you might as well give some back, right? So, his movies over the years are a who’s who of black actors and, to a lesser extent, Spike’s friends. In an industry which has made a habit of ignoring black voices, Spike has been an island who pushes the other side as hard as he can.

In doing so, he’s put forth the idea that the black voice is just as valid and interesting as the default Hollywood voice. Though he was robbed for the Best Picture for Malcolm X, he’s kept at it and kept making sure that someone out there is keeping that voice going.

I’m not sure why black writers in comics are so rare, but there’s a similar situation with women. Louise Simonson, G Willow Wilson, Gail Simone, and Kathryn Immonen are the first names that come to mind when I think of “women writers at the big two.” Interestingly (or perhaps not), I can’t think of a single black female.

Anyway, a side-effect of the lack of these voices is a lack of representation in the books themselves. You end up having a black experience as told by outsiders. The “black story,” such as it is, ends up filtered and probably even unrealistic. At one point, I had a list of Marvel superheroes who were either born in, operated out of, or had serious ties to Harlem. I don’t have the list any more, but off the top of my head, there’s Black Panther, Falcon, Storm, Robbie Robertson, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Tombstone, and Randy Robertson. That’s basically all of Marvel’s biggest black names right there, so I’m not exactly making things up here.

And I mean, no knock on Harlem at all, but I’m pretty sure black people are from other parts of New York City, or even the rest of the country. I do believe that Rocket Racer is from Brooklyn, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only fan of RR alive. What about the black folks from the south? Brother Voodoo has Haiti and NOLA on lock, but what about Atlanta? Texas? Where are they at?

An infusion of black writers wouldn’t have more of a negative effect on comics than hiring a bunch of new white guys would. You’d be more likely to see authentic or different stories about black people, which I think is only a good thing. Even better, hiring good black writers can only lead to good things.

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Black History Month ’09 #22: Shake This

February 22nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I really like Adam Warren’s Empowered. I’ve been a fan of his since Gen13, and Empowered, though pretty pervy, is one of the best superhero comics out. I can’t get enough of it. Though the art would make you think that it’s a T&A-focused title, and that isn’t necessarily untrue, the book has the kind of character work and evolution you don’t usually see in mainstream books. There’s no chance of a character suddenly reverting to a personality from decades ago because it’s Warren’s own work. You end up with well-rounded characters who can go through surprising changes.

One of the more interesting characters in the book is Sistah Spooky. She’s a black member of the Superhomeys, which is basically the premier super-team of the Empowered universe. Empowered is her rival, for lack of a better word. Here’s a few pages that basically explain their relationship. Scans mildly NSFW.


This thing that’s afflicting Spooky is something that I think affects all black people on a certain level. For years, though things have changed to an extent now, white was the default race in pop culture. Cartoons starred almost exclusively white people, and what black people existed were either sidekicks or garbage (Black Vulcan). TV and movies showed white people as the main characters, even if they lived in the middle of New York City. You never see anyone like you in a position of positivity.

This sets up a series of domino effects. If all you see are white heroes, white women presented as beautiful, white people as upstanding members of society, and very few black people of substance, it associates the idea of “white is right” in your head. This ties into the trend of black guys getting rich and going for white girls, black girls who hate their hair and their skin, and bias against people lighter or darker than you are. I’m always surprised when non-blacks tell me they didn’t know about intra-race racism. The darker you are, the further from white you are, the less good you are.

I find this video fascinating, and it helps illustrate my point very well:

If you want to see the full video (yes, you do, even if you think you don’t want to) you need to click this link and spend 7:15 on Youtube 4:50 is heartbreaking.

And I mean, that’s the long and short of it. It isn’t anything malicious. There aren’t evil marketers out there wearing Klan robes and planning on turning a little black girl into a roiling ball of self-hatred and no self-esteem. It’s how things have shaken out. It’s the saddest thing in the world. It’s that first couple verses of Saul Williams’s Black Stacey.

I remember being a kid (and this is something that I’m ashamed of and disappointed in myself for now) and being very uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d go to sleep daydreaming about having hair like Zach Morris or the other white guys on TV or in comics. When they’d jump or flip their hair would bounce. My hair didn’t even do that after I got dreads. It was too nappy, too thick, and too black. Even trying to dye my hair is an ordeal.

Ever heard of somebody who “got that good hair?”

Nowadays, I hate that I felt that way. It’s so stupid and ignorant and juvenile, but I didn’t know any better. I just knew what was cool and handsome and wanted to be like that. I realize now that I’d bought into something I shouldn’t have. It was self-hate, and it’s disgusting, but I was a child. Children learn quickly and absorb knowledge like sponges. I didn’t know why I had those feelings, but I knew that I had them. It burned.

If I had to pin a name on it, it’s an implanted inferiority complex. These implications are never stated outright, but they build up inside your brain like cholesterol. This kind of thing can ruin a person without them even realizing it. Even recognizing it can, rather than opening your eyes, smother you in bitterness. It’s really an amazing trap. Not recognizing it can destroy what you could have been, and recognizing it can do the exact same thing.

It’s what Sistah Spooky fell prey to above.

Cheryl Lynn of Digital Femme is a big fan of Empowered. When I mentioned that I was writing about Spooky, she hit me with a few comments that I wanted to address here.

But what’s so sad about [Sistah Spooky] is that she never had to make a deal with the devil. She would have been hot anyway. When she loses her powers and reverts in the last Empowered volume, none of the bystanders make any mention of ugliness, they only mention how young she is. She would have likely grown up to be that same beauty, she just couldn’t see her own potential, which is a running theme in the book, actually.

Cheryl says it better than I can. Sistah Spooky, and everyone else who has fallen prey to this kind of self-hatred, had no idea of her own potential. But, because she’d lived a lifetime of seeing bottle blondes held up as the only standard of beauty, that idea had set inside her mind. She was blind.

And that’s what makes this self-hatred thing so terrible. It makes you blind to your own worth and potential. How are you supposed to even suspect that you’re beautiful when every standard of beauty around you says the opposite? You don’t even get a chance.

Again from Cheryl:

What’s really interesting is that SS could have easily made herself white and blonde. She could have taken the Lil’ Kim route and didn’t. Why not?

I have an idea, though it’s half-conjecture and half-wish fulfillment. I figure that going the full Lil’ Kim route is giving up completely. It’s taking what Spooky was and could have been and throwing it into the trash. By keeping herself black, Spooky was making a statement. If the world were fair and everyone was on an even keel, she could be just as pretty as the rest. While taking the deal, she’s giving in, but she isn’t giving up, if that makes any sense at all. She made a concession, but she drew a line in the sand and said “no further.”

I’d like to think that it was her subconscious telling her that to go further than she did would be committing a great sin against herself. Like I said… conjecture.

This sort of implanted self-hate is one of the reasons why I care so much about seeing black faces in comics. How are you supposed to shake this off you if you never know about an alternative?

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Black History Month ’09 #21: Ether

February 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m trying to figure out how to approach this one. I almost didn’t want to talk about it because it seems like such a “No duh” situation to me, but I have clearly missed something.

Noted comics writer Bill Willingham recently wrote an essay in which he responded to Attorney General Eric Holder’s position that we’re a nation of cowards in terms of discussion and treatment of race. Holder’s speech (transcript here) says, boiled down, “use black history month to genuinely discuss race and learn from each other, instead of self-segregating.”

From Willingham’s own mouth:

According to the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, speaking today at the Justice Department, we’re a nation of cowards because we don’t talk about race enough. I have several responses to that grotesque statement, most of which aren’t printable. But I will say this much: If the past discussions about race in which I’d participated (voluntarily and otherwise) didn’t always – not often, not most of the time, but always – devolve into name calling, where I was denounced as a racist (usually as a starting point for said conversation), then I might today be more willing to continue to have discussions on the subject. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

In my experience, anyone who doesn’t immediately and enthusiastically subscribe to the idea that all American whites are active oppressors against other races is an irredeemable racist. Of course if you do agree you’re still a racist, just one of the self confessed variety.

In the interests of full and fair disclosure, I’m apparently also a misogynist, a homophobe, and a Nazi, this according to folks (some of whom were friends and colleagues) upon finding out that I have problems with feminism, gay marriage, and gun control. There were other accusations I could list, given time, but the truth is such incidents are too common and never important enough to be worth devoting too much of my time and memory.

Willingham is running into a lot of things here, among them extremism, either/or politics, and (wait for it) cowardice. He also makes a lot of statements (“Name-calling is the proprietary weapon of the left. There’s no equality of blame, no comparison. We on the right aren’t “just as bad.”“) that are just completely stupid to anyone with half a brain and indefensible to those with a full one. I’m going to stick to the first three, however.

Extremists exist on both “sides” of the political spectrum. The people who scream about how Bush is Hitler is no different from the people who suggest that single mothers are the downfall of society. I find DailyKos just as aggravating as Ann Coulter. These are the people who are going to shout at you for thinking differently and they exist on both sides of the aisle. News flash: jerks are jerks, and will be jerks according to their opinions.

Just to give Willingham the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume that he’s talking about outrage-based discussion. When something bad or offensive happens, people blog/talk/write about it and either discuss their outrage that it happened or suggest ways to fix it or ensure that it never happens again. I can see how that would be daunting to join that discussion, as it involves a lot of raised emotions, anger, and pure helplessness.

If every discussion you’ve ever had about race has ended in name-calling, you’re either a racist or arguing with fools. You aren’t going to get in touch with extremists of any stripe. The people who matter, and the people who actually think about things, are the people in-between. I’ve had some fascinating conversations with people who were racist in thought and deed, and I’d like to think that we both came away better for it. When Holder said that we need to do better in discussing race, this is what he was talking about. A frank exchange of ideas.

Building on that point, I think it’s important to say that I disagree with either/or politics in general. I think that reducing someone’s political views to Repub/Dem or Liberal/Conservative is a loser’s game at best, as no one is actually that simple. I’m conservative or liberal on some things, but not others. My grandparents run conservative, but they voted Obama. Politics isn’t as easy as black and white, and approaching it on that level, and only that level, just means that you lost before you even started. It isn’t just liberals who want to discuss race. There are plenty of conservatives who care about equality and becoming truly integrated. Caring about race, or even just talking about it occasionally, doesn’t make you liberal.

The main thrust of Willingham’s post, however, is that since people were mean to him when discussing race (or other “liberal” issues), he is going to take his ball and go home. He isn’t going to discuss it with liberals because they have no interest in reasoned discourse and are only interested in name-calling. He’s only going to discuss it with those who are interested in actually speaking. While I can understand the spirit of the sentiment (you can’t get through to some people), the way he’s applied it is extraordinarily myopic. Anyone can tell that both sides descend to name-calling on a near-daily basis, but for some reason, only liberals count? But, okay, let’s treat it as if it were a reasonable choice.

The problem with making that choice is that it makes you a coward. Someone hurt your feelings by calling you a name, so you are going to tighten up and kick the dirt and flip over the chess table and kick the ball over the fence and go home, because screw them. Making that choice, and making a point to explain your position in opposition to Holder’s speech, makes you a coward.

Holder’s position is that people are still too tight-lipped about race. Not even racism: just race. This isn’t an indictment of conservatives or liberals. It’s an indictment of both. There is too much shouting and not enough listening going on. When your idea of a reasonable response is to go “I’m not listening, because screw them,” you lost. That’s a child’s reaction.

At the same time, if you’re that scared to talk about race, maybe you should pump your brakes and just sit in the corner while grown folks talk at the grown up’s table. Race isn’t something you can boil down to right and wrong, so it is something that is difficult to talk about. It’s easy to screw up on either side of the argument, and race is sensitive enough that screw-ups can be intensely frustrating.

Okay. That’s fine. That’s why Holder says, “[A]n unstudied, not discussed and ultimately misunderstood diversity can become a divisive force.” You should discuss race because it is something that impacts all of our lives, and until we push through it, we can neither get past it nor understand it. Holder wants the races to talk to each other and share. I think that’s an admirable goal, and it’s one I’ve discussed over and over this month. Conversation is key. We’re not that different from each other, but we are different.

Bill Willingham lost. He fell right into Holder’s trap. Holder says that people don’t honestly talk about race enough, and put up so many barriers that race has remained a touchy subject for far too long. Willingham’s response? “Nuh-uh, don’t even talk to me.”

I’ve had people tell me that they don’t talk about race because they know that they’ll just screw it up or because they don’t have anything to bring to the table. And you know what? That’s a fair and intelligent response. Being able to recognize your own shortcomings is just taking responsibility. Some people don’t know how to dig in and get their hands dirty, and recognizing that fact is something to be respected.

But, being that guy that’s like “I’m not a racist, but people keep calling me one, so screw liberals and forget any idea of talking about racism?” That makes you a coward.

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