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by Elana Levin

At Thursday’s  LGBTQ X-Men panel a Romani fan asked the panel about the representation of Romani people in comics and how they are often characterized as thieves or unstable.

Peter David responded in an elevated voice that when he was in Romania he saw a child being dragged by its parent. The child was unable to stand because their legs were bent upwards.

David asked his guide what was going on. The guide told him that the family was Roma and that Roma parents broke their children’s legs so that they’d be more effective at begging.

David said that because of his experiences he does not want to hear about the representation of Romani people in comics. He refused to discuss the issue further and told the questioner to go away.

No other panelists responded. The moderator said something about wanting to keep the focus on positive things and the panel then resumed.

Later in the panel, David acknowledged his outburst apologetically to the room but did not alter the contents of his remarks.

Other Romani fans approached him after the panel, while the room switched over. They told him that what he had seen was not reflective of the Romani people. One gave the example that just because the US has school shootings doesn’t mean everyone in the US is violent.

David maintained that the story he shared was indicative of the Roma culture. David has written Roma characters, most notably Pietro Maximoff in X-Factor.

Romani attendees have been asking other panelists about representation at other Q&As ay NYCC.

I approached David after the panel to say  literally “I love you man but people used to claim that we [Jews] put the blood of Christian children in our matzo. That doesn’t make it true.”

He responded that he saw families like that one all over Romania.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. This came up in another discussion about that same outburst ( http://tinyurl.com/hr26efa ):

    “There is a persistent racist myth in Romania that Roma parents mutilate their own children so that when the children are sent out begging, they will inspire more pity and bring back more money.

    Like, it sounds to me like his Romanian guide (assuming his guide was Romanian, which I think is most likely) might’ve passed on this racist urban legend on to him.

    If he did see a disabled Roma child trailing after their parents, there is the more obvious (and more objectively real) explanation that Roma have very limited access to healthcare, and the Romanian medical community fosters a lot of intense racism towards the Roma, so feel free to put two and two together here.”

    So it’s possible that David was offered a dose of the local bigotry and didn’t bother questioning it.

  2. You’re not going to like this, but an artist is perfectly within his rights to write in a way that reflects what he’s seen and how he sees the world. If you don’t like it, you can write whatever the hell you want and try to make it entertaining enough that anybody will publish it and wants to read it.

  3. People like Peter David are what’s wrong with the world. It’s attitudes like that, and a blatant stubborn ignorance to even entertain the fact that an entire ethnic population is not weighed and measured by the single actions of an individual. Antiziganism is at a level that hasn’t been seen since WW2, and here we’ve got him, on a public platform, spreading out misinformation to the gadje and in the process helping to foster the same flames of hatred that saw thousands of us murdered during the Holocaust.

    It is not okay. and the lack of media coverage for that tirade is sickening. Does he honestly think it’s hard-wired into our DNA? That we must be crooks, criminals, thieves and liars? That we beat our children for financial gain? That we’re abusers, terrorisers, worthless wastes of space? His lack of adult discussion about the issue of representation says more about him than it does about us, but it does clarify quite acutely that he doesn’t deem us to be worthy of representation. Which is part of a growing trend.

    I would’ve loved to have had better representation growing up. To be something other than a footnote. It’s why I had so much faith in the Maximoffs (pre axis). They were heroes! They weren’t stuck under the same chokehold of misinformation and damnation as the rest of us and that was everything to me. But then the status quo changed, the movies kicked off (not a single Roma character in either the MCU or XMCU has been portrayed as anything other than white, and there’s a few of them in there! Pietro, Wanda, Peter, Marya, Magda, Doom.) and now the powers that be behind the comics are slipping down the dangerous slope of erasure.

    It’s terrifying and disheartening and when people are so eager to tar us with a very cruel and inaccurate stereotype, it makes me ashamed of my ethnicity too. It makes me wonder if it’s safe to admit who I am and my history, because if people like this still continue to think and publicly spout such damning vitriol – it makes me wonder if this is actually a world I even want to be a part of.

  4. Glad someone covered this story, since CBR, Newsarama and Bleeding Cool skipped it.

    Totally shameful on PAD’s part. So sad that he can be progressive about so much else and still be a bigot.

  5. “You’re not going to like this, but an artist is perfectly within his rights to write in a way that reflects what he’s seen and how he sees the world. If you don’t like it, you can write whatever the hell you want and try to make it entertaining enough that anybody will publish it and wants to read it.”

    yean and what? we aren’t talking about this here so STFU

  6. David’s trip to Romania was in the ’90s, as I recall. Maybe the ’80s. So, in addition to the whole “guide repeated an urban legend/modern-day blood libel” thing (which I think is corroborated by the But I Digress column he wrote about the trip, but I can’t confirm that until I get home), it’s not like this is exactly the most up-to-date information on the topic. Man really should have known better.

  7. Romani children in Eastern Europe die or suffer horribly turned away from hospitals when they’re ill, so I guess the reigning bigots have to make up someone else to blame. Good thing it’s so damn believable huh /s

  8. My family are Hungarian Romani. I cannot express how much this man’s response hurts.

    Not that I have to qualify, but no one in my family are beggars. We are university educated, we live in houses, we volunteer, we vote.

    He went to Romania once, and now he thinks he knows us.

  9. UGH. I really look forward to the day when people don’t automatically assume their one experience w/ XYZ culture means that’s how all of that culture is every time, forever.

    Let me go visit somewhere so I can judge them. *eyerolling*

    Someone tried to steal my wallet when I went to Mexico (Tijuana specifically) so that means that all Mexicans are thieves, right? I’m a white person who’s been somewhere different! Therefore, that represents their whole culture.

    If we weren’t sitting through an election cycle in which a racist stood a good chance of getting elected, I’d likely not pay too much mind to this incident. I’d think to myself, well, he’s just one guy. But since the racist seems to represent an angry & fearful part of the population, it’s doubly disappointing to see a writer who’s known for diversity in other areas fall flat. Peter David won a GLAAD award! How d’ya see that one kind of knee-jerk stereotyping isn’t OK, but then go ahead & do it to a different group..?

  10. I can say with first hand experience Peter David is a D&*k. In my first hand experience with the d&*k it slowly dawned on me he had no interest in anyone’s opinion that did not reflect his own. He wasnt even open to it. I subsequently dropped all support of his books.

  11. “When I went to Chicago, my cab driver told me that the Black women there have as many babies as they can so they’ll get bigger welfare checks. And I saw Black women with several babies, so it must be true!”

    This is what Peter David sounds like here. Kinda pathetic.

  12. Let’s not overlook the fact that no other panelists responded. You’re in a diversity forum, and you have nothing to say about this?! “Let’s keep it positive”?? Come the f@(k on!! If someone said something similar about any other group, would that have been their response? Calling Peter David a pig would be an insult to pigs, but let’s be clear that there were a lot of other people in the room with who shouldn’t be let off the hook. There should have been generalized outrage in the room.

  13. Just imagine the complete blow out if he was talking about PoC since just replace him going to Europe to going to Detroit specially the bad areas.

  14. Maybe reality hurts for some people.

    A lot of people want to hear only things that are the same as their thoughts instead of reality, it’s pure self-indulgence and self-deception. Many romanians are good people, but many others are in countries of europe stealing copper, living by begging, begging for money in the cities of european countries, even robbing tourists, living on social benefits, etc. Is true that one can not generalize but neither can deny reality. One thing is how you like to talk about your people, and another reality as it is. If they do these things every day, what do you want, that people use imagination for one alternative or parallel reality?.

    What should think that people who criticize reality is to do something to improve it, change the traditions that are marginal and integrate into society, study, work, effort, and not commit crimes, not ghettoes. When I see compatriots from my country doing illegal things I do not give support or protect them, because they are from my country. If someone does bad things I do not consider part of my culture, only rejection, so all this matters are cultural factors (education) and lack of social adaptation. There are currently many cultures in many countries, such as chinese and nobody says those things about them, everyone sees values ​​as serious people, great workers, honesty, etc. Learn a bit more about them and change your bandit traditions, will be better in the world with other cultures and countries. All gypsies have the same conflicts in all countries of the world, for the same reasons and issues, I ask you then: This is normal or coincidence?

  15. Rachel, Romanians =/= Roma.

    And for starters the word ‘gypsy’ is an ethnic slur. It sort of comes with the territory of having ‘z’ for zigeuner (the german word for it) tattooed on people in concentration camps. The Pavee might like to call themselves it, but very few Roma (or Sinte for that matter) take kindly to a word that has been used to do nothing but demonise and dehumanise us.

    We are not bandits. We are not criminals. And the fact that rumour persists (and helps to foster the idea that we are) is just proof again of the underlying pack mentality of lemmings to fail to think for themselves. Is it a coincidence? No. Is it racism? Hell yes.

    There are good and bad in every society, you’re right there, but the point is, if the society and media in which you live, likes to only tout the bad to the world, it doesn’t leave much hope for the good amongst us. It’s 2016, not 1938. Antiziganism is rampant. Just look at the treatment of Roma the world over. Denied education, denied healthcare, forced from their homes, beaten in the streets, denied basic human rights with UN backing (yeah, I’m looking at you Bosnia), forcibly sterilised and generally treated like shit.

    Having a Roma character that is painted in a heroic light means the world. It’s aspirational. It shows that even in the face of adversity there is something to aim for. That the world doesn’t always see us as as the enemy. And if you’re more accepted, instead of simply begrudgingly tolerated, it works to help foster more integration, to encourage Roma kids to stick it out and try their hardest. It gives them a positive future, because there’s a role model that they can identify with.

    Marvel as a whole is sorely lacking when it comes to diversity. Every time it moves forward, it takes two steps back and the running trend of racism (and ableism if we’re honest) running through the books these days is saddening. It’s not a lot to ask for, to be able to see positive representation. It’s asking even less for the writers to engage in a mature and reasoned discussion about it.

  16. YOU GOT BLOWN OUT BY BC BY PETER DAVE HIMSELF

    “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.”

    This is everything wrong with the activist mindset that reeks in America – You’d quake in your boots, foam at your keyboards if he described how this happens in the Middle East but hey, not all of them are like that

    Not all of them claim women as sub species to own as a man’s right

    Not all of them stoned and kill someone for being gay.

    You always think you’re taking two steps forward but you’re just stumbling back to defend bullshit.

  17. @Kermit – are you allowed to form opinions about people who know nothing about your people judging your people? “Cause the person asking the question is Roma. He didn’t have to be “told by people who live there’ — he got to learn it all in his own skin, growing up among his own people.

    Peter David prefers to believe a racist than the victim of racism.

  18. My friend, who is full-blooded Iberian Kale, Spanish-born and all was the one who asked the question.
    As a full-blooded Hungarian-born Rom (singular male Romani for Roma) who nearly died under Hungarian care (though the people directly running the orphanage were amazing; I was adopted by White Americans at the age of 15-months) I was beyond appalled by David’s statements. I have been arguing with him about in online for hours now and he still retains a highly racist and xenophobic rhetoric, which is super contradictory to his dense of other groups. As a Rom who nearly died as child, and who grew up American, I am pleased to see a presumably White (or at least White-identifying) Jewish American Woman defend my people. Thank you. Don’t let others forget that we too suffered devastating losses in the Holocaust. We all deserve better.

  19. With regards to some of the comments here: please, don’t feel the trolls. It does not come across as satire, but as more inappropriate, negative stereotyping of Romani people, those living in extreme poverty, and immigrants.

  20. While I agree that it’s unfortunate that no one else on the panel spoke up to challenge PAD, I think it’s an understandable failure. They were there to talk about something else, and were caught off-guard by a topic they – like most people – probably didn’t know anything about. Discrimination against the Romani people and the ethnic slanders against them simply aren’t that well known. (The only reason I became aware of it is because I’m not just a member of another class persecuted by the Nazis, but I also spend way too much time following links on Wikipedia.) And standing up to lecture people about things you don’t know anything about is generally a bad idea.

    For what it’s worth, PAD has posted a statement on his blog in which he says he’s ashamed of himself for his conduct. There’s still some justification in it, but it’s an apology. http://www.peterdavid.net/2016/10/10/final-thoughts-on-the-romani/#more-11187

  21. Thank you for this! Your analogy is apt. The Romani man, Vicente, who posed the (softball) question to Peter at the LGBTQ panel is a remarkable Romani academic and activist I’ve worked with in education for several years. He is a lecturer at the University and leads study abroad programs that connect with Romani communities across Europe.
    Vicente has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever encountered. He has dedicated his life to changing the stubborn and deadly narrative of Romani people/culture. (Their life expectancy is 20 years below the European average!) He’s also a huge fan, So this is pretty devastating.

  22. I certainly understand how Peter David feels.

    Out of all the places I’ve been in the world, the only people I’ve ever seen, who force their own children to beg for a living are Gipsys.

    Go to Europe yourself, especially Eastern Europe, but increasingly Western Europe, and you’ll see for yourself how Gypsies treat their children.

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