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By Elana Levin

Peter David has written a blog post defending the anti-Romani statements he made at the New York Comic Con LGBTQ X-Men panel. You can read my own report of the panel here. David has apologized for the tone of voice he took but he is doubling down on the truth of the anti-Romani statements that he made.

The moment was posted to YouTube:

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Here is some essential cultural context to know when considering the allegations that he made.

The Wikipedia article about Antiziganism, the term for anti-Romani hatred,has a special portion about Antiziganism in Romania as it’s pervasive and lethal there.

The G word is used in the Wikipedia post even though it is regarded as a slur by Romani people and shouldn’t be used:

“Several anti-Romani riots occurred in recent decades, notable of which being the Hădăreni riots of 1993, in which a mob of Romanians and Hungarians, in response to the killing of a Romanian by a Gypsy, burnt down 13 houses belonging to the Gypsies, lynched three Gypsies and forced 130 people to flee the village.[78]

In Baia Mare, Mayor Cătălin Cherecheș announced the building of a 3 metre high, 100 metre long concrete wall to divide the buildings in which the Gypsy community lives from the rest of the city and bring “order and discipline” into the area.[79]”

This is the context in which Peter David’s Romanian tour guide told him that Romani people maim their children.

There are thousands of years of oppression and genocide against Romani people that we must consider when repeating other people’s’ stories about them. I’ve heard from a number of Romani activists and academics since the panel and they tell me that the story David shared is an often repeated urban myth in Romania.

Romani activists on Twitter have argued that if David saw a lot of Roma children who were crippled it was likely to have been related to their lack of access to safe healthcare. Until the 2000s Romani people were forcibly sterilized in hospitals in some European nations so many Romani people rightfully do not trust the medical establishment.

I grew up loving David’s comics, especially his portrayal of Quicksilver. As a young teen I related to his depiction of Pietro Maximoff, a man frustrated by a world that moved more slowly than he did.

I considered David’s portrayal of him compassionate and compelling. But I am not Romani.

So, I sat down with the man Peter David screamed at. He is Vicente Rodriguez, the founder of Roma Pop a new organization that’s been visible all over this year’s New York Comic Con, attending panels to ask about Romani representation. Roma Pop is the brainchild of Romani educators and academics including Rodriguez. He is a Roma Fellow for George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and was named among Forbes’ 30 under 30 for Public Policy this past year.

Like myself, Rodriguez had been a fan of Peter David’s comics since childhood.  Rodriguez is also is a fan of Quicksilver but spoke of his frustration that all of Marvel’s Romani characters have what he describes as negative Romani tropes in their origin stories.

The Roma Pop mission statement says that Marvel’s Romani characters are “dictators like Doctor Doom, Nazi collaborators,sociopaths and violent people like Quicksilver, lost souls without connection to their own past like Scarlet Witch, and an endless exoctic human mass living on the outskirts of European societies.

“But Romani people are not fictional characters, mystical ephemeral beings solely existing to fill a narrative gap in a 24-page American comic book.”

Rodriguez and Roma Pop, his new organization formed to address the portrayals of Romani people in popular culture, are completely legitimate in raising the question of how his people are represented. Especially at a panel with storied creators.

I believe that what David saw in Romania was horrifying and the explanation for it his guide gave him even more so. I believe David was in an understandably emotionally heightened state when he spoke on Thursday. But he has doubled down on his antiziganist claims despite outreach from Romani activists who have tried to educate him.

Rodriguez spoke with David at his booth in Artists’ Alley on Friday. Rodriguez tells me that David told him “that he will never apologize, that it’s absolutely impossible to start a conversation with Marvel and that the only thing he may offer is to make Doctor Strange 2099 Rromani. However, he also made very clear that he doesn’t want to “waste his time” with these questions and that he “had enough of the topic for a life”, he also confesses, by the way, that he had no idea on Rromani people.”

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Rodriguez spoke with David at his booth in Artists’ Alley on Friday. Rodriguez tells me that David told him “that he will never apologize, that it’s absolutely impossible to start a conversation with Marvel and that the only thing he may offer is to make Doctor Strange 2099 Rromani. However, he also made very clear that he doesn’t want to “waste his time” with these questions and that he “had enough of the topic for a life”, he also confesses, by the way, that he had no idea on Rromani people.”

Rodriguez explained to David that he’s not trying to get Marvel to make new Romani characters. He wants Marvel to bring in Romani experts– and it does not need to Roma Pop– to educate his staff about the Romani people. He wants there to be company guidelines on how the Romani are portrayed so as not to perpetuate more stereotypes. Rodriguez’s request was not about ending a conversation, it was about beginning one.

David’s statements and other recent statements from members of Marvel’s staff and talent show that it is high past time for Marvel, and all the publishers to send their employees to mandatory anti-oppression training and media training. This has been recommended to them before.

In my non-comics life I work for a local nonprofit organization. We don’t have Disney level money. Yet we ensure our staff all receive anti-oppression training and media training. If Marvel wants to have a positive relationship with fans, and a healthy environment for its talent it must do the same.

Additionally, to those who think it’s wrong for Romani activists to ask questions about how they are represented I’d point out that there were no panels about Romani representation at NYCC. And, it’s never the wrong time to listen to oppressed people.

I am thankful for Vicente Rodriguez’s questions. My eyes are open.

Elana Levin is writes about comics, activism and nerd culture for Graphic Policy and The Comics Beat. She co-hosts the Graphic Policy Radio Podcast and can be found on twitter at @Elana_Brooklyn.

 

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21 COMMENTS

  1. On RomaPop’s call to exclude Peter David from the remainder of the con and future convention appearances: Go to hell!

    Even if the explanation given to Mr. David during his visit to Romania was an urban myth (and I am not convince that it was), he was still acting on the best information he had–including the evidence of his own eyes. He was not speaking from bigotry, but from the condemnation of the maiming of children, something that everyone should oppose.

    The fact is that the world can be a brutal place and people have done the same or worse than crippling themselves or their children for profit. Peter David might be mistaken but he is not lying about what he witnessed or was told.

  2. Peter David royally screwed this one up.

    Does he also believe people from China are opium fiends? That all Germans are nazis? That gay people are promiscuous and hedonistic and “well, AIDS is what happens when you f*ck around without a care in the world”? How about Mexicans, are they all rapists? And Muslims are terrorists?
    All those things should be decried as hugely racist, and so his regurgitating of “they’re gypsies. That’s what they do”.

    Ok, he had a bad experience, believed a local guide who was Romania’s version of a Trump supporter. But there’s a guy standing in front of him, who made a somewhat long but therefore detailed plea, and then Peter David starts shouting at him? That guy, that fan, in Peter David’s eye is nothing more than a child maimer?

    Shame on him!

    Sensitivity/inclusiveness training is well in order, not to mention other sanctions. Peter David does well to start with reading the above article!

  3. @Andrew
    When I was a kid in the 1980s, I grew up believing (because I had been told) that my city was the #3 target for Soviet nukes. “New York, DC, then us”. Because, you see, we were so close to an important research lab.

    As I got older, I did a bit of travel, and learned that basically _every_ midsized American city believed they were number 3 on the Soviet nuke list. We couldn’t all be correct!

    So I thought about it, and I came to understand that the statement was probably always meant earnestly, but was more a way of spreading civic values. A way of saying “we’re more important than you think!”.

    I have no doubt that Peter David saw what he saw and was told what he was told. As an adult, he needs to question how plausible it is that the Rroma people do this. And needs to question that they do this often. And- if the Rroma people do actually do this more often than most people- what kind of hideous country makes it so that Rroma children have a better chance at a decent life if they are crippled than if they are not.

    He may not have realized he was speaking from bigotry, but by not examining what he saw and what he had been told, he participates in it

  4. I doubt that anything Peter David said on any subject could cause a “backlash of hate speech”. Thought-policing, witch-hunting, compulsory oppression-training and all round psuedo-moralising, on the other hand…

  5. Except, Remco, Peter David did not say what you claim he said. He did not say that all Romas were guilty of the atrocities that he saw. He never even implied that it was a majority. What he was told might not be entirely accurate (though I suspect at least a germ of truth), but that is a different matter than what he say for himself–though it certainly colored his perception.

    So far, everything I’ve see about this boils down to “he said, they said” where ‘he’ had actually been in Romania in person and I don’t know if ‘they’ have ever even been to Europe. I’ll allow that Mr. David may have been misinformed and that he should have kept his temper. But ignorant bigotry? No.

    Hell, as vile as Trump is. I’ll even admit that he never said that all illegal Mexican immigrants are murders and rapists. What he did say was bad enough.

  6. @Andrew
    “Gypsies do this. They break the knees of their babies and children.” is what Peter David’s host told him. And that is what he then presents to the audience. ‘So pleae do not tell me I’m prejudiced against Romani, after what they did to those children.”

    That’s writing off a whole group on basis of one anecdote, one incident. It’s there int he words, without nuance. And when the guy who asked the question wants to address this: “But maybe we’re not…” he gets shouted at. Peter David doesn’t care. He knows what he knows. He’s seen what he’s seen: R0mani break the legs of their children.

  7. Oh. My. God. Do writers always have to qualify whether they mean ‘all’ or ‘some’ in every sentence they write so as to not be misunderstood? Maybe so. [sigh]

  8. I don’t know how anyone can watch that video and defend Peter David. Bigots always have a story to tell you, whether it’s about blacks or Mexicans or homosexuals, etc. Misogynists have stories to tell you about women. And plenty of those stories will have a kernel of truth somewhere in them, but they then use those stories to justify hating and denigrating the entire group of such people and they are totally unwilling to accept any challenge to their belief.

    Peter David acted like a bigot. Not because he believed some story about Romani that may or may not be true, but because he thought that story about something that may or mat not have happened with Romani in Romania gave him the right to be an ass to a Romani person in New York City.

    Mike

  9. And his “apology” is, if anything, even worse.

    1. The incident happened 20 years ago.
    2. It consisted of a grand total of TWO crippled Romani children and one Romani father handling his child roughly.
    3. PAD claims this deeply disturbed him but at no point in the 20 years since did he apparently try to either educate himself on this subject or do anything about it. Where was that story, column or public speech where PAD even mentioned what he clearly implies is systemic child abuse?

    Yet he still strongly believes all that entitles an old white guy to intolerantly lecture an actual Romani person, he just thinks he should have done it with a more civil tone.

    Mike

  10. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander:

    The attempted gaslighting of Peter David’s obvious and deeply personal first-hand experiences during his time in Romania is problematic. Peter David was at a panel on LGBTQ diversity in comics which should be a safe-space for him to openly discuss his own feelings on the topic; the offending party was someone trolling with an off-topic issue: romani inclusion. Further, the abuser trolled the panel likely with the intent to harass Peter David personally and professionally, given the fact that Peter David’s experiences have been public record for some 15 years now.

    The situation in 2016 SJW speak: Peter David was in a safe space and should have the expectation of not being triggered by an abusive harasser. The subsequent harassment of all those attempting to gaslight Peter David’s trauma from the originating trigger as well as the trauma relived by the Comic Con abuse, and/or dogpile him via social media is utterly shameful. Every one of these harassers and abusive people should be banned from Twitter and attendance at future Comic Cons.

    See, isn’t this a fun world to play in.

  11. Why should anyone apologise for anything when an apology is never the end of the matter? Even in the rare event that it’s not rejected for being insufficiently self-abasing, the person’s crime will be raked up forevermore.

  12. And today (October 10) in Peter David’s blog, he mans up and acknowledges that he had made several assumptions, based on what he had personally seen and been told by his Romanian guide, that he has now concluded were incorrect. Mr. David had already admitted that he was wrong to lose his temper with the questioner who did not have knowledge of his previous visit to Romania. Now he takes responsibility for his mistaken beliefs and has apologized for them.

    Will that satisfy everyone who has spoken/written against Mr. David? Probably not, but I’m not sure what else he can be expected to do. Perhaps make a donation to an organization striving to improve the lot of the Romanian Roma.

  13. Dear Romapop:

    Why is it Marvels responsibility to rebuild the image of the romani people? Why does someone else need to do it for you? What do they OWE you that they have to do so? Isn’t that the responsibility of the romani people to work on their own image instead of demanding others do it for them?

    Demanding others to do your work for you is part of the stereotype, and you’re not exactly breaking that here, but rather reinforcing it. Please enlighten me on why someone else owes you this work.

  14. Hah!

    Forgot to add; The attempts to sealion Peter David by trying to Romasplain to Peter David, Peter David’s own experiences through the use of “#WellActually, #NotAllRomamen…” are entirely shameful.

    The entitled bullies are relying on the systemic oppression of social media like Twitter and blog comment forums to continue to harass David further.

  15. That Romapop statement is blatantly trying to make capital out of the matter, with its arm-twisting “demands”.

  16. What are the Roma faith’s views on homosexuality? I’m trying to figure out how this got interjected into a panel on gay representation.

  17. Peter David comes off like an absolute crazy person here and an unhinged bully. It should not be difficult to hear a polite question from someone who has concerns about ethnic representation in comics qnd give a thoughtful, respectful answer. If Peter is still so traumatized by what he saw 20 years ago, he may want to consider seeing a therapist to work through whatever emotions he needs to process. He should not be yelling into a microphone like a maniac at fans who are gathered at a panel to discuss inclusiveness in comics (an industry which desperately needs to seriously address the visibility of LGBT characters, Romani characters, Muslim characters, and countless other groups).

  18. It very may well be that the industry needs to have serious discussions on diversity of representation for Muslims in comics, or serious discussion of diversity of cast of Black Panther movie or Cage series, or overall diversity of people of color in Marvel shows and comics, or whether a woman as the Ancient One is sufficiently diverse or the character should have rigidly adhered to its racist roots, or whether Iron Fist should have deviated from Its Danny Rand root.

    But none of that, including the representation of the Romany in comics, belongs in a LGBT diversity panel.

    Silly But True

  19. Matt Brady banned me from newsarama.com for stating this ten years ago, as Peter David kept harassing my newsarama comments I posted this:

    Peter David is an arse-jack

Comments are closed.