Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Harlan Ellison: Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

His entire career and the body of his work have been about taking responsibility and the gold-standard of human decency and the quest for personal justice and the pursuit of bald truth, regardless of how it feels when you find it. And those of us fortunate enough to know him have experienced these things along with the colossus of his charisma, for better or worse. But some folks who don't know him, who are ignorant of his important life's work and his genuine character, can't fathom these multitudes, so they join the hanging party in an attempt to still a great voice. How silly they look when the lights are turned on.


Anonymous said...

This parody is funnier: http://haddayr.livejournal.com/556901.html

Amazing--Harlan Ellison is the one who really went half-cocked and called a black woman a "nigger," and you're defending him?



I think Harlan's apology speaks for itself. And I haven't seen anywhere where he called anyone a nigger. I *have* seen Harlan's work on behalf of equal rights and civil rights, however, and it's impressive.

And that parody you refer to is fairly lame.

Anonymous said...

He called K. Tempest Bradford an "NWA." What do you think that stands for? Northwest Airlines? She also says that he admitted using it was wrong in a phone conversation with a friend, but neglected to do so in his official apology.



Scott--As a policy, I don't publish anonymous comments. That's stated on my blog (right-hand column). I'm letting this pass because you're signing it "Scott" and because I don't want to be accused (though someone will anyway) of blocking negative comments. But going forward, make the effort to sign in--as I do when I post somewhere.

As for Harlan's comment, I suspect he was, in his rage, responding to a perception that was furthered by K. Tempest's own profile, where she calls herself ANGRY BLACK WOMAN.

He's apologized for what he said. I am simply telling you--and anyone who cares to listen--that the man is not a racist. Not the least little bit. His actions--more than a half-century's worth--speak much louder than words. His, yours or mine.

Scott said...

Sorry, I didn't see the Name/URL option. I also appreciate your responding to my comments.

I don't think Ellison is racist, either. But racism isn't a binary condition; like everything, it exists in shades of gray. I just find it so perplexing that a man who has seen first-hand the damage racist epithets can cause can find them so easy to use it himself. As for the use of "NWA," well, maybe he was responding to the ABW tag, but couldn't he have stopped and said, "Maybe referring, even in an oblique way, to some woman of color I don't even know as a 'nigger' is not a road I want to go down"?

As for his apology, I don't see anything about his use of "NWA" in it. Which makes it half-assed, in most folks' eyes.


If racism exists in shades of gray, then none of us are truly white. Or black.

I can’t speak to why Harlan said what he said or how well he apologized. I am, admittedly, biased on the subject of Harlan Ellison because I love him very much. But what drew me to him in the first place—and what kept me there—were the opposite of the way he’s being characterized by people who don’t know him, don’t know his history, don’t recognize the value of his work and his life. He is not an ordinary man. He is an extraordinary man. And he has used his position to do extraordinary things for little people and disenfranchised peoples. And he never sees color or race or any of those distinctions: He sees people. I am not extracting that from a long evaluation of his work; I am proclaiming that as one who has witnessed it first hand for decades.

Mark Twain said, “A friend is someone who will stand by you when you’re wrong. Anyone will stand by you when you’re right.” And that’s pretty much it right there. HE made a mistake. But it doesn’t negate the mountains of good he’s done or does or will do. And if someone or something wants to hurt him, I will remain at his side.

Mike P said...

I'm amazed, saddened and amused that "adults" tell their kids to say "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," but go crazy (or should I say "bugf*ck"?) over being called certain names.

No one ever died by being called a name, no matter how bad. No one.

PLENTY of people have died, however, from being beaten to death because of their race.

Big difference. Grow up and get over it.

I've been called a lot worse than "nigger" and I survived just fine. You're a victim by choice. Words are just words, and they're powerless from people you don't know, care or respect.

Mike Pascale

Ray Cornwall said...

On the one hand, white people should realize that there are consequences to using the "n word" when referring to a black person.

On the other hand, it's Harlan Ellison.

Tie goes to the runner?

Brian Phillips said...

To Mike P:

When Emmett Till said, "Bye, baby" to a White woman, that started the chain of events that ended his life, so you might say that "baby" didn't harm her, but Till paid for it.

Tom Black said...

Interesting that Bradford is held to the "sticks and stones" rule but Ellison is not. Did it never occur to him to just laugh off the "Senile Meanders" comment, in good humor? Why does he have to get so offended at any perceived slight, and then send his followers after the person? He is infamous for being very easily offended, and for heaping abuse on those who offend him. Since he fired the first shot in terms of being pissy over a few easily ignored words, then Mike P's words of admonition just as easily apply to him as to Bradford, no?

Tom Black


To those of you posting anonymously: You're wasting your time. I immediately delete those posts without reading them.


Frankly, I thought this was rather clever:

Mike P said...

That was hilarious. Has anyone told Harlan that "Jabba The Hut" doesn't like him? :-)

Sticks and stones are for everyone's bones.

And on the other hand, there are five more fingers!


Tom Black said...

So basically, no response to my point that Ellison got pissy and started the war of words first? No, Mike P, no one ever died from being called a nigger, but no one ever died from being called a sexist either, which is what Ellison freaked out about. He freaks out often about being called things he objects to. Maybe you should go over to his message board and tell him not to go bugf*ck every time someone says something he doesn't like. You could save him a lot of embarrassment from future incidents of this nature. IOW, get a sense of humor. Laugh it off. No need to get your panties in a twist over some words on the internet. Words to live by. Am I right?


Tom Black--

I'm afraid I've neither the time nor the inclination to respond to every comment left here. Moreover, it appeared that your rhetorical questions were aimed at Mike P.

With the execption of people who have nothing better to do, this matter is now about a week old. Harlan has moved on and is working on paying projects, as am I, as is Mike P. (I hope, for his wife's sake).



Blogspot is unforgiving! You can neither delete nor edit a comment once posted...so forgive typos above. I am all thumbs this evening.