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neil gaiman's racist fail [Apr. 18th, 2010|11:24 am]
from a 2008 interview:

"The great thing about having an English cemetery is I could go back a very, very, very long way. And in America, you go back 250 years (in a cemetery), and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians, and then you don’t have anybody at all, unless you decide to set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings.”

via Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature.

update to note: the "(in a cemetary)" part was added by the journalist; gaiman would have said the sentence without that exculpatory parenthetical, because that's how reporting works.

and no, he's not just talking about rows of nicely carved stone gravemarkers, because vikings didn't do that any more than "dead Indians" did.

wtf, gaiman?

update 2: Gaiman responds on his twitter:

neilhimself: Linkfail on 'racism' : http://bit.ly/cx9rDU (Perhaps the person thinks that Indian Burial Grounds were European-style Graveyards.)

"Indian Burial Grounds," neil? really?

and no, to address your strawman, i'm pretty sure that the wide variety of burial customs among native americans didn't include European-style graveyards.


let's look at what you said.

you said these American cemeteries go back 250 years "and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians" -- which indians are you talking about there? the ones in "Indian Burial Grounds" or something?

you also talk about how you can "set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings" also -- are you really saying that Viking burial customs are that much like British burials? and not at all like native american burials? (and if so, where did those "a few dead Indians" come from?)

to everyone else: yeah, i know, i've already started getting harassed and insulted by strangers in my LJ because of this. don't worry, i'll be okay. i've had worse happen.

Gaiman's endless hordes (see what i did there?) are also going after debbie reese's blog, including people telling her that she should be "more analytical and less emotional about what you read and how you interpreted it", she is "looking for reasons to be offended", she should instead be "offended because gay marriage is still illegal in most states," she should "do something a touch more productive", etc.

so typical.

update 3: while composing the last update, it turns out that Gaiman called me names and hid the evidence of what he'd written, too:

neilhimself: I should point out that the actual site the #twit LJ linked to - http://bit.ly/c5Rzv2 - is perfectly sane. And my reply wasn't sarcastic.

neilhimself: @KurtBusiek Throwing a term like racist around like that cheapens it in a way I find offensive. It's a real, bad thing & that's just cheap.

once more we see the typical tricks of privilege -- that being accused of racist behavior is supposedly worse than either saying something that sounds racist, or using your million-plus twitter readers to call someone a "twit."


ps: hey, anyone want to buy my sandman comics? i'm seriously not gonna keep these things.

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[User Picture]From: ithiliana
2010-04-18 06:52 pm (UTC)
Neil Gaiman, Patricia Wrede, showing how extensively American Indians have been erased.

A "FEW dead Indians" *headdesk*

Debbie Reese does a brilliant job debunking his fail.
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[User Picture]From: oldmotherchaos
2010-04-19 01:19 am (UTC)
Heh. I was wandering in a graveyard yesterday that had burials from the 1300s.

If you think Neil is being racist... well. You lose.
Simple as that.
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[User Picture]From: marieoroumania
2010-04-18 07:03 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that Gaiman was talking exclusively about what you would find in graveyards. British people are extremely proud of their cemeteries and the history contained therein and because I have so many Brit relatives and lived in Britain myself, I've heard a lot of complaints about how we Americans have no sense of our own history. So I think it was more a dig at the post-Native American culture than thoughtlessly tossing out a remark about them, in this case.
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[User Picture]From: kynn
2010-04-18 07:07 pm (UTC)
is it? cuz gaiman acknowledges 250 years of American graveyards, so how exactly is he talking about the ...

uh, wait, what exactly is your phrasing "post-Native American" about?
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[User Picture]From: ndgmtlcd
2010-04-18 07:33 pm (UTC)
I think he's a gravestone fetishist!
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[User Picture]From: rayvenge
2010-04-19 01:48 am (UTC)
Well yes, but anyone who's read The Graveyard Book should know that.
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[User Picture]From: silntbob
2010-04-19 01:18 am (UTC)
This is completely out of context and such a comprehension fail on your part that it boggles the mind. That or you're an idiot, I cant decide...
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[User Picture]From: eal
2010-04-19 01:39 am (UTC)
But realistically, he didn't need the "exculpatory parenthetical" because the context does it for him. He's talking about the Graveyard Book. He's talking about European graveyards and European-style graveyards.

And when he mentions the few Indians or the Vikings, he's making the point that you could "sneak" them in because it "might" make sense to the reader (remember the target age bracket we're discussing for the book is around 10) even if it isn't precisely historically accurate. Or, at least, that's how I read his comment in the larger article.

The key point being the entire article is about graveyards because the book is about graveyards and it is the setting of the book that he is discussing. Specifically, why he chose to set the book in an English graveyard rather than an American graveyard.
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From: original_spikey
2010-04-19 01:40 am (UTC)

what bloody racism?

How much of a moron do you have to be to read this as racism? There is none implied, there is none there at all. Its simply a factual statement about history.

Do Americans no longer even know the history of their country? Have the basic facts been done away with on when the country was settled by Europeans? Or is the poster just some weirdo with an alternative view on history?
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[User Picture]From: testickles
2010-04-19 01:51 am (UTC)
I've thought about it and I agree with marieoroumania. Out of context the quote looks horrible, but he's talking about the specifically available ghosts withing a commonly-recognised graveyard setting. He wasn't trying to erase any culture here.
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[User Picture]From: marieoroumania
2010-04-19 05:19 am (UTC)
Thank you, this is exactly what I was trying to say.
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[User Picture]From: rayvenge
2010-04-19 02:11 am (UTC)
Oh, one last thing, before I go back to minding my own business for the night: I may be interested in your comics, if you really don't want them, and aren't simply acting like a spoilt child who is upset that no one agrees with her.

Of course, it all depends on which issues you have and how much you want for them.
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[User Picture]From: theelusiven
2010-04-19 04:26 am (UTC)
Read the thread; there are plenty of people who agree with her.
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[User Picture]From: glossing
2010-04-19 02:28 am (UTC)
God, what a fucking asshole he is proving himself to be. Can't take being called out on his bullshit, resorts to complaining on Twitter for backup, *and* throws around ableist shit like "(in)sane", etc.

Thank god he stands up for cheapening racism. maybe next he'll ironically donate to the klan or something.

I'm sorry, Kynn. I really am.
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[User Picture]From: marieoroumania
2010-04-19 02:36 am (UTC)
Jesus, I had no idea it would turn into this kind of shitstorm. I'm sorry, Kynn. I was just throwing stuff out there as dialogue between friends, so I hope it wasn't interpreted as any type of attack.
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[User Picture]From: calenfenwen
2010-04-19 02:56 am (UTC)
Sorry so much shit came by your way because of all of this. I felt really embarrassed for you! Not too sure if I want to follow Neil anymore after this shitstorm and overall fail....

Edited at 2010-04-19 02:56 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: rayvenge
2010-04-19 03:16 am (UTC)
Because he got distraught at being misconstrued, and foolishly mentioned the event via Twitter, upon which his fans took up arms? Not really fair to the poor man, is it?

Especially when everyone is taking the quote out of context. Seriously, go look at the interview it came from.
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[User Picture]From: derselbe
2010-04-19 03:47 am (UTC)
I follow Neil Gaiman on twitter and am a fan of his work. I might not agree with your post, but I'm appalled by his comments and the way his fans jumped on you; it's absolutely not the way that grown ups should behave. Just wanted to let you know that not all of us are as rude as that. I'm so sorry that people have been treating you like this in your own space.
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[User Picture]From: kynn
2010-04-19 03:58 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: coppelius
2010-04-19 03:52 am (UTC)
Hi, followed the link from Debbie Reese's article for here, and I have nothing constructive to add but for my support and my thanks for spreading the word. I'm sorry there's been such an unfortunate outburst over here as well. It's always so frustrating to read defense of "unintentional" -isms, and it must be rough to have it suddenly cropping up all over your personal journal.

So just know I'm sitting over in my corner of the internet waving a flag with your name on it. Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: annaham
2010-04-19 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry that NG's fans--and, it seems, the man himself-- are starting to come after you and Debbie Reese for just POINTING OUT an instance of fail.

The privilege train is always on time, I suppose.
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[User Picture]From: kynn
2010-04-19 04:11 am (UTC)
Neil backed away from the attacks and sent me an apology letter.

He's classier than his fans.
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[User Picture]From: ladyofshallnot
2010-04-19 04:13 am (UTC)
coppelius also just passed this on to me, and I thought I'd throw my hat in on your side. Know that it's a good thing you're spreading awareness of this! Lately, Gaiman has been flaunting his privilege like a...convoluted mixed metaphor I can't be clever enough to think of right now. But it's public and embarrassing.

Cheap, really? Ew, just. Ew.
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[User Picture]From: the-willow.insanejournal.com
2010-04-19 04:42 am (UTC)
Well, now I know why he's so in love with Amanda Palmer and cannot see or say anything about her fail. Yes, I went there.
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[User Picture]From: claws_n_stripes
2010-04-19 08:30 pm (UTC)
Between Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, I'm done with Neil Gaiman.
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[User Picture]From: notemily
2010-04-19 04:42 am (UTC)
I am so sick of both of them.
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From: delux_vivens
2010-04-19 05:36 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: effervescent
2010-04-19 05:43 am (UTC)
I'm sorry that the fans jumped all over you. I can see that he reached out to you on Twitter, I hope the two of you were able to resolve that portion of it.
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[User Picture]From: abydosangel
2010-04-19 07:09 am (UTC)
Damn, Kynn. Sorry you had to put up with all of this nonsense for telling the truth

Seems as though NG and his Fail-bot O'Love, Miz Palmer are drinking from the same poisoned well of privilege, so I guess that explains a lot.

BTW, the hordes swarming in to chap their lips on his hairy ass need to get a fucking life other than defending a grown ass motherfucker from his own bullshit ignorance.
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[User Picture]From: thedivinegoat
2010-04-19 09:10 am (UTC)
Just another person wanting to add their voice to counter the mindless Gaiman fans rushing in to abuse the latest person who dared malign their idol.

I'm sorry he's been so faily yet again, and that you're the person catching the flack for it. I mentally broke up with Gaiman a few years back when he couldn't plain see how sexist Harlan Ellison was*. He has huge fucking privilege blinders on, and what ever the issue - racism, sexism, ableism, trans etc he can't take them off.

It still hurts though seeing him fail like this, as I was such a fan of his.

* http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/04/few-final-copyright-thoughts-before-we.html (Bottom question & answer).

Edited at 2010-04-19 09:11 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2010-04-19 04:45 pm (UTC)
Oh my dear fucking rockabye sweet baby James. Thanks for that, Neil. Thanks a bunch.
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[User Picture]From: silk_noir
2010-04-19 09:14 am (UTC)
Now I sure don't feel bad for failing to see what all the fuss was about American Gods.
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[User Picture]From: recumbentgoat
2010-04-19 11:04 am (UTC)
White Womens Writers Syndrome. I used to want to read his comics, but now I'll never bother to- especially with that kind of aversive racist bullshit attitude. Feel free to re-post this story to blackhistory as I'd like to start documenting some of the honkeyshines of privileged media creators. Someone from my flist commented that white folk need to control the narrative for poc, and i'm starting to see that it's not just in history books, classrooms, film, news, museums (esp museums) but hugely widespread in comics and picturebooks.

I think Gaiman (and his followers) need to subscribe to Oyate (and give a donation to support their good works!) and educate themselves on the hows and whys of racial stereotypes that people of color all over the world are trying to dismantle. It's easy for Gaiman to flounce when he doesn't have to deal with the everyday racist messages in media that bombard poc and children, but harder to look in the mirror and admit a problem. smh
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