Now a friend pointed out to me that I shouldn’t feel this way. That things are changing and we need to hold you accountable for what you produce. That if we hang out and hang on long enough you will get your act together. I don’t happen to agree.
On the Death of James Rhodes — War Machine
Thaddeus Howze

No. It hasn’t changed yet. You need to feel this way. It needs to be felt and said for people like me: I see there’s a problem, but I have had such limited exposure to it that it’s difficult for me to grasp it.

I wish this thing — this whole thing — wasn’t a thing. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever known are People of Color. My friend whose family came from Lebanon taught me to dress. I learned half of what I know about comics from an Hispanic friend. My godfather’s from Kenya. One of my oldest friends was born in Hong Kong. One of the most skilled writers I’ve had the honor of editing is Indonesian. Some of the best conversations I had when I was a tutor were with these interesting Ethiopian women getting business degrees, and one of the other most interesting people I knew from that time of my life came from Israel.

True things. I’ve had all these friendships.

And I’m still completely confused in the face of racial equality issues. I know I had a fairly sheltered and homogenized upbringing — fairly sheltered, fairly homogenized. I know that upbringing has engendered in me an ignorance that’s made it difficult to know how to think about racial equality issues.

All I know with any certainty is that a lot of people have a lot of good reason to be really angry about a lot of things, and that a genetic trait has forced me onto one side of a conflict that I have trouble understanding. I’m living in a world where I’d come across as racist, or at least insensitive, if I compliment the Ethiopian skin tone or assume that my Israeli friend can tell me where to get good stuffed grape leaves. I wish the world were other, because if it were then I’d know a lot more about Indonesia, Ethiopia, Russia, Kenya, Nigeria, Cuba, Mexico, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Switzerland, India, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Romania, and Lebanon than I do. It might just be that I don’t know the right way about it, but I almost never ask people of color about their culture because I don’t seem to know how to do it. I stop myself because I always think, “I’m a white, male, American. I’m part of this team I never joined. How can I ask about that without coming across as…a white…male…American…” So then I don’t say anything, and just talk about neutral subjects.

The only neutral subject I know is the Norman influence on English. I’m the only person I know who seems to find that a subject controversial, so it’s been neutral territory with everyone else I’ve met.

For my part, Thaddeus, I’m glad you write about these issues the way that you do. Helps me understand them, anyway. Maybe if enough people like me really get it — fairly intelligent, articulate, non-aggressive types, with a genuine desire for change, and no great favoritism for our “team” above any other team — then we’ll be able to affect the right changes in the coming generation.

’Cause, like…if I had a million dollars right now, one of the things I’d do is start a comic book publishing house, and I’d hire several people I know. I have a team in mind right now that includes some of the best and brightest creatives I’ve encountered, and that’s the first thing I think about them. Since we’re on this subject, though, it also happens to be a team comprised of two Asians, two Black men — one a graphic artist, one a digital designer — two Hispanic gentlemen with too much wit for their own good, and two White dudes, and one of them is gay. If I got them, these particular brilliant people, I’ve got a secondary list I’d start hounding to employ them too. They’re a racially diverse bundle too, but, again, that’s not what I like about them. I like that they’re good at what they do. The racial diversity’s a mos’ exquisite advantage, though. I believe that to propose success with any large-scale creative endeavor, odds of success increase with breadth of perspective.

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