Was HPL really a racist?

J Riff

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#81
I'd like to raise a different point regarding racism. HPL ranted about not mixing cultures. Stay in your own country, this sort of thing.
Wellll.... where I am, which is the backwater of the world, admitedly, this stuff is still a daily issue. We DO have a huge chunk of a foreign culture shoved in here. I'm not so keen on it...am I a racist?
E.G. - I just came back from the local public library, not a large one, maybe a few hundred thousand books. I looked for anything Poe - fat chance. I looked at biographies. The only bio of an English writer was one of Robt. Burns. Then I turn around and I'm looking at 50,000 Chinese books. Maybe...40-50% of the entire stock is chinese/asian books.
Am I prejudiced? Heck, no. But I sure hate the people who have sold this place to foreigners and allowed them to move in lock stock, and barrel - ignoring language and customs as if they don't exist.
Perhaps this is similar to what HPL cursed about, decades ago in America. Well, it's happening here, now, and it's enough to make me yearn for the Southern States where such issues have, largely, been dealt with.
I hate to say it - but it's the rich white trash at it again... exploiting race and racism. There's seething hatred here, heavily restrained by pet police, but never assume 'racism' is a dead issue - it will continue until there's no further profit in it.
 

J-WO

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#82
You could argue, J Riff, that if your area has a dense population of Chinese people who pay their tax like you, they have a right to Mandarin/ Cantonese books in the local library.

Just sayin'.


(JDW's first name is Jerry? Huh, you learn something every day!)
 
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#83
Yes, it is; though I very seldom use it. I'm not overly fond of it, for various reasons; hence my preference for J.D. (Not a problem about your using it, Dale; though if you don't mind going with my preference.....;))

nigourath: Dale's post notwithstanding, I will address what you bring up there, but it probably won't be for a day or two, as the end of the work week tends to be sheer hell....

J-Riff: It may not have anything to do with racism per se; but rather either simply the natural human resistance to change (this is true even when change is for the better, as change is nonetheless uncomfortable -- it moves us out of what we're used to); or because you resent seeing your own culture being overtaken by another. The first is simply a part of life, and accommodation ust be made to some extent. The second is, frankly, inevitable over time; though those of us who highly value the culture from which we emerge can fight to maintain as much of it as possible... which does not necessarily mean fighting against another culture which is also emerging in that area, but learning to compromise and have mutual respect... to speak up for our own culture without disrespecting or devaluing the other.

On the other hand, most of us do tend to pick up bits and pieces of racism in our growing up, as it is still very much a part of human culture. Hence most people either have some streaks of what is termed racism, or have a violent reaction in the other direction, embracing a different culture or ethnicity beyond reasonable bounds. (This, for instance, would include someone I know who, being caucasian, insists she's black. Her love of black culture is fine and dandy, but she ain't black. She grew up as a white in a predominantly white culture, and has very little real idea of what it means to be black in the South or Southwest... certainly not firsthand experience. Thus such a reaction is both irrational and foolish.)

The challenge comes with what one does with those inherited bits; whether one acknowledges them and learns to modify or resist them when they are irrational responses, or simply goes with a knee-jerk emotional reaction often learned when we were pre-verbal.
 

J Riff

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#84
Ah, but it goes much deeper.... my pal was just here, he looks online for work, restaurant work. 7 out of 10 ads ! - specify one asian language or another. You are not allowed to post ads that specify caucasian!
He sends off bans steadily, informing them they canNOT specify racial preference in an ad. They do anyway.
Huge parts of the city have NO signs in English, let alone the mandatory French/English. It's ignored, they have money.
The welfare roles are 90% white people. The prisons are closer to 99%.
(Asians have their own system somehow, they never go to jail! No-one is sure how they do this but we suspect - Money.)
'White' here includes native Indians of course...talk about violent prejudice, it's still rampant esp. on the prairies. All the stores, gas stations, coffee shops etc. Lock the doors at 8-9 PM. Otherwise there may be trouble with the Indians, they drink and cause trouble, yknow? THIS is the prejudice here, far worse than blacks in America, seemingly no different than the fifties.
So they have sold this city in particular, to corporate Chinese and they have moved on in. Everyone is talking about the Chinese police state that we already live in.
It's the most violent passive/aggressive place I've ever been. I feel much safer in poor neighborhoods of LA.
 

Extollager

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#85
JDW, J Riff, J-WO, Nigourath --

Would it be appropriate to start a new thread to discuss current issues relating to race, culture, etc., and leave this thread space for discussion of H. P. Lovecraft and racism? That topic is an important one for this author and some pertinent comments on it have been made here, which perhaps it would be a pity to see obscured by a lengthening accumulation of discussion points only tangentially relevant to HPL.

Comments on the historical-social context of Lovecraft's places and times should stay here. But America is a really different place in many ways since HPL died in 1937. When Lovecraft was born, the 1861-65 war had been over for a mere 25 years. When he died that war had been over for about 72 years. It is now 73 years since Lovecraft died. The US has changed very much in that time. So I doubt that a thread on Lovecraft and racism is the best place for a discussion of current social problems.

Just my 2c of course.
 

J Riff

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#86
Current social problems differing very little from HPLs time in basic ways?
If it was so much worse in his time...then why did he stand out as a racist.... considering the outright abuse of minorities that must have been going on all around him, none of which he was involved in apparently. He just talked, while others did the actual lynchings.
It's fishy - something doesn't add up - how could HPL read Poe and others, who reflect not unfairly on racial stereotypes, and be such a bigot himself. It's like he deliberately pushed it. He must have known what people would think of such talk.
Different? I talked to a skinhead guy a while back who will change the channel if he sees a black person on the screen.
 
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#87
I agree with Dale, though, that addressing contemporary issues, save where they directly relate to HPL in some fashion, are best left for another venue.

As far as things being worse in his time as opposed to ours... if you look at the record, Dale is right about that. While we've still one heck of a long way to go (on all sides of this issue, incidentally, not just one group), we have made considerable progress, in part due to, as de Camp more or less phrased it, the shenanigans of Hitler & Co., which made it quite clear just how such rhetoric lays the ground for acts of violence, even genocide.

As for HPL's views... He often used "we" and "us" when what he was dealing with were his own views, biases, and prejudices, which did not necessarily reflect the mean of those around him. Sometimes, in doing so, he spoke as if people in general were a good deal more informed and intelligent than was actually the case (or still is, for the matter of that); other times his statements of this nature would lead one who did not know better to think that America was nearly a war-zone when it came to ethnic tensions... which was hardly the case.

But -- save when called on these things by those he respected or to whom he was attached in one way or another -- he frankly didn't give much of a damn how popular or unpopular his views on this issue were; and he certainly never thought his correspondence would be preserved and reach public print. He just didn't think himself that important. There is also, when it comes to the phrasing (at least) of some of his commentson this topic in his essays, the fact that he did relish controversy and debate. He didn't necessarily alter his honest views to engender such, but he would sometimes choose the most loaded vocabulariy in describing those views, in order to elicit strong responses from others.

In general, though, he was quite unabashed in his proclamation of such views, even when friends or colleagues would challenge him on them. One can see this a great deal in his correspondence with Kleiner, and even scattered throughout his letters as a whole. But yes, even in HPL's own day, these views were beginning to fall out of favor, albeit slowly, and the first place they tended to be challenged were among the intelligentsia and the creative writers and artists of the period (though there were, of course exceptions, such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and the like, who promoted such views on the one hand, and certain politicians, ministers, social workers, etc., who combated them on the other).
 
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#89
We don't have Kleiner's part of the correspondence, unfortunately, but the indications from Lovecraft's responses are: Yes, he challenged him on these views early on. HPL's letter of 6 December, 1915 begins: "I hardly wonder that my racial ideas seem bigoted to one born & raised in the vicinity of cosmopolitan New York[...]"

From what I've gathered of Kleiner, I would say he would be among the last to support such views, though he obviously had an enormous respect and affection for HPL himself. Certainly, these views of Lovecraft's became part of some heated discussions with the get-togethers of the Kalem Klub when he was in New York; and, as I said, HPL's own very conservative Aunt Lilian apparently expressed perturbation at some of the things he said in his letters to her, judging from his responses....

However, save for a couple of instances, I'm not so sure that his "stronges" such comments are in his letters to Kleiner. (His references to Braithwaite being an exception.) His comments in that letter to Long, about his first visit to New York, and a trip to the East Side... that has some extremely pungent passages, and he makes it clear that he viewed the inhabitants of that region as sub-human or worse....
 
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#90
Having (finally!) a day off which isn't overloaded with "catch-up" work, the promised reply:

nigourath: Once again, you are restricting the term "racism" beyond all legitimate reason. What you are describing is a very limited use of the term; essentially a technical, clinical usage. This is comparable to saying that, because someone has not been diagnosed as clnically depressed, they don't suffer from depression. While I do not doubt that the sort of definition (and study of the condition) you speak of is quite proper, it by no means constitutes the entirety of what the term "racism" signifies, or the actions, ideas, or statements which constitute "racism". It is only one, very limited, aspect, not the whole; and by any less limited definition, Lovecraft was a racist.

Once again, the definition given is generally: "The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others" -- this is taken from the American Heritage Dictionary; and suits HPL to a "t", including the final part; with a secondary definition of: "Discrimination or prejudice based on race" (same source), again fitting HPL's ideas and behaviors.

He distinctly believed in the biological inferiority of various races (he flatly stated that both blacks and Australian aborigines were biologically inferior -- these were his very words) and argued this point with his correspondents. He was a full supporter of the "Jim Crow" principle in the South, and felt it would be much better were it adopted across the nation, and in fact in any place where blacks and other "races" existed together. He consistently used offensive racial epithets in describing members of other ethnic groups (non-Aryans, as he often referred to them), terms which did not have to do with their culture or societal differences, but their biological and physical differences, which in themselves made them, in his eyes, inferior.

One of his most famous (or infamous) passages of this nature can be found in volume 1 of the Selected Letters:

Your slum travelogue interested me vastly, and I hope you will take me to this hideous cesspool some day soon. Whether I have ever beheld any place of equal putrefaction remains to be seen -- at present I find it hard to conceive of anything more utterly and ultimately loathsome than certain streets of the lower East Side where Kleiner took Loveman and me in April 1922. [Note: this was two years before HPL took up residence in New York, so long before he was competing with these "aliens" for jobs, as you had claimed earlier.] The organic things -- Italo-Semitico-Mongoloid -- inhabiting that awful cesspool could not by any stretch of the imagination be call'd human. They were monstrous and nebulous adumbrations fo the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of earth's corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of windows and doorways in a fashion sugestive of nothing but infesting worms and deep-sea unnamabilities. They -- or the degenerate gelatinous fermentation of which they were composed -- seem'd to ooze, seep and trickle thro' the gaping cracks in the horrible houses ... and I thought of some avenue of Cyclopean and unwholesome vats, crammed to the vomiting-point with gangrenous vileness, and about to burst and inundate the world in one leprou cataclysm of semi-fluid rottenness. From that nightmare of perverse infection I could not carry away the memory of any living face. The individually grotesque was lost in the collectively devastating; which left on the eye only the broad, phantasmal lineaments of the morbid soul of disintegration and decay ... a yellow leering mask with sour sticky, acid ichors oozing at eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and abnormally bubbling from monstrous and unbelievable sores at every point.
-- SLI.333-334​

He goes on to remark that he insisted that they walk in the middle of the street to avoid coming into contact with the contamination.

This is only one such instance in his correspondence, and just about every critical reader has seen in this a close relationship with descriptions in his tales of various sites, from the xenophobic visions of "He" and "The Horror at Red Hook", to the more subtilized but no less xenophobic descriptions of "Innsmouth" (especially given some of the descriptives above). There are many other passages which either come close, equal, or even excel the pungently racist tone of that just quoted. Again, the easiest way to begin to get an idea of how pervasive this is is by looking at Barry L. Bender's article, though even it only scratches the surface. And, of course, this sort of thing has been dealt with in just about every general critical piece on Lovecraft, at some point.

Which brings me to the final point. You say in your post:

You say ,that being a racist doesn"t or souldn"t actually detract, anything from a great author ,as it has happened with many great authors ,that have shown certain idiosynracies- like sexual specificities or violent behaviour or habitational self-destructive urges .J.d,most of the great writers had some of those and of course these, more, contribute to their legend as writers ,than detract.I am fully agreed ,that these
shouldn't influence the general acclaim upon a writers work,but you must understand, that the same cannot be said about Racism.
I mentioned the writers I did because I was talking about their racism, not their sexual proclivities, drug-abuse, or any other foible they may have had. This is a well-known aspect of the writings and pronouncements of Eliot, Pound, and Mencken (not to mention Buchan, Cutliffe Hyne, etc., etc., etc.) Nor has this harmed their reputation or acceptance into the canon one whit. It is taken in stride in looking at their views, their attitudes, their strengths and weaknesses as artists and human beings, and viewed through the lens of historical perspective as well as how they trasmuted even the ugliest of human ideas and behaviors into great art. While on a popular level, Lovecraft has taken a black eye now and again from this, his acceptance in critical terms has hardly been affected by it, as such perspectives are used in critical reading; and even in the popular front, it at worst delayed his acceptance for a relatively brief time. Now it seems to be taken into consideration and accepted, even by the general readership, as one of many factors to be considered; regrettable from the standpoint of Howard Phillips Lovecraft the man, but most acknowledge that without it, and the way he used these views to inform his work, it would lack some of the power it has. That is very often what great art does, and this has long been an acknowledged fact.

So once again, I repeat: An honest, critical view of Lovecraft's writing will recognize that there is indeed a great deal of racism in what he writes; that Lovecraft himself was, by any accepted definition of the term beyond that of the very limited one you describe -- certainly by any definition commonly used even by the most intelligent, erudite, and conscientious commentators on such matters -- a racist. It is high time we stopped arguing about whether or not he was, as the evidence is all in support of a resounding affirmative, and moved into accepting this as one of the factors in considering his art, and how he used his Weltanschauung (whether on the cosmic or the human level) to inform that art. As I said, in the main, this has long been the practice when it comes to critical readings of his work (e.g., The Roots of Horror in the Fiction H. P. Lovecraft, by Prof. Barton L. St. Armand; Lovecraft: A Study in the Fantastic, by Maurice Levy; The Monster in the Mirror: Looking for H. P. Lovecraft, by Prof. Robert Waugh; The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft, by Prof. Timo Airaksinen; various pieces by S. T. Joshi, including a fair amount in his biography, etc.); and as such, it has proved considerably more fruitful of discussion and insight than any continued denial of the facts can ever be.

And yes, STJ has done a piece on racism in America: Documents of American Prejudice (1999). I have not had a chance to read this one, either, though at some point I'd like to, as I find Joshi's books on just about any topic well worth the time....
 

nigourath

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#91
According to the esteemed Journal of the American National Medical Association:
"'Racism is the practice of racial discrimination,segregation,persecution,and domination based on a feeling of racial differerences or antagonisms.Especially ,with reference to supposed racial superiority,inferiority,or purity.""
When i talked about racism ,i never said ,that it could be linked to a psycopathological process in some way.What i said was ,that Racism can not exist, without being A psycopathological process.Even this definition here-let aside the theories , included in the American national medical journal....not enough room for that here...-state clearly,and rightly so in my opinion,that Racism is not a belief,it is above all a Practice , a certain summarization of behaviours and activities,that define the racist.This is not at all limiting the term Racism ,but opening the horizons of all the sciences ,that are seriously delving into the matter.
A restriction ,would be if we discarded all aside parameters ,that condone this practices :
Psycological,political, educational.financial,sociological and not just ideological -or ideoleptical to others...-as it is suggested by many posts in this thread......This is the only limitation ,that the term racism suffers today-the notion,that it is has above all ideological roots or parameters...A very superficial,shallow approach ,that pretty much condemns any spark of seriousness on the matter.....i will return on the thread ,on more specifically HPL"S views ,but it must be understood ,that conversations like these need first a more general,holistic manner of approach,before delving deeper...if that weren"t possible,we would be equivalent to a bunch of kids ,discussing about our favorite players or teams ,right afterschool............
 
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#92
I think we may be getting a little closer to something resembling a compromise here, at least as far as definitions are concerned. However, I take strong issue with the concept -- or at least what I read your statements as indicating to be the concept -- that it is not also an ideological issue, perhaps primarily so. After all, the actions come out of the beliefs of the actors; the beliefs must exist first in order for a person to take such actions at all. That is, indeed, one of the foundations of cognitive therapy: that in order to alter someone's behavior, you must first attack the root of their thinking on the issue. Once a person is enabled to see the fallacies in their thinking, they can begin to work effectively toward altering whatever the harmful behavior is; without doing so, you are dealing with surface, not substance.

And, when it comes to this issue, Lovecraft had very deeply held beliefs in the inferiority of a rather large number of ethnic groups; the closer to the Anglo-Saxon such were, the more likely they were to be closer to the biological superior, the "Teuton" or "Aryan" he so idolized. The further they were from this ideal, the more he saw them as on lower rungs on the evolutionary ladder (a false concept in itself as there is no such "ladder", but one which he held to the end of his life -- and, in fact, one which informs a great deal of his fiction, from "The Facts in the Case of Arthur Jermyn" to "The Rats in the Walls" to, in a somewhat metaphorical form, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth").

However, in either event, Lovecraft did take action, as well as supporting action which suppressed, discriminated against, persecuted, and segregated ethnics, quite often justifying this on the basis not of cultural frictions, but "biological inferiority" and "blood". He also frankly stated that the white (specifically Anglo-Saxon, but more broadly Aryan or Teutonic) race, being the superior, must maintain a dominant position over the other races of humanity. He made such statements both privately and publicly, in various publications. He also noted (with some pride) that he was known, in his high school, as an anti-Semite before being there more than a few days. Obviously he took some form of action to gain such a reputation... and he never exhibited the slightest indication that he ever regretted having done so.

Yes, I would say that Lovecraft's views on race -- especially as regards certain minorities, such as blacks -- amounted to a serious psychological disturbance; i.e., a psychopathology; at least during the majority of his life. (In his last years, this gradually modified to some degree, though not as much as some, such as de Camp, have claimed.)

In any event, the definition you give above is a valid one, but it is still not the only, or even the predominant, definition. It is perfectly suited to one field of study, but (as formulated above) it does limit the view of what constitutes racism to that field (albeit some of its terminology can have implications for others as well, just as it is itself related to other fields).

I am curious, though, about what you mean by the following:

A restriction ,would be if we discarded all aside parameters ,that condone this practices :
Psycological,political, educational.financial,sociological and not just ideological -or ideoleptical to others...-as it is suggested by many posts in this thread......
I'm rather confused by this... or, rather, by what you are saying here. Are you indicating that you see a condoning of such practices, or the parameters that condone them? Or are you saying that you feel the parameters indicated in earlier posts are too limited? Or...? Please clarify....
 

Hober Mallow

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#93
I haven't read any Lovecraft's books, yet...but I have a collection of his works on my Kindle. Anyway, based on what I've read about him in Wikipedia, he may not have been a racist back in his day but due to the moral zeitgeist of the present, his ideas now are definitely considered racist and unconscionable.
 
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#94
Well, that really doesn't work, does it? As I am sure pointed before definition of racist has not changed much throughout time, If u consider one race superior to another than u are one (of course simply thinking this and burning people alive is not the same offence). Even though society was much more tolerant (not sure if it is a right word) to racism, it doesn't meant that he was not one. + Don't know what all the fuss is about, is Lovecraft some kind of a personal hero to people here? Don't want to be C.O here but the talent of person doesn't amount of his niceness, I quite like some of Hitlers paintings but... :D
 
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#95
Don't know what all the fuss is about, is Lovecraft some kind of a personal hero to people here?
I think, to some degree, the answer here is: yes. Certainly, he is to me, in many ways. I admire the man as an artist, but also, generally speaking, as a person. He was a fascinating individual, quite complex, and makes an absorbing study. However, this does not mean he didn't have his share of flaws, some of which we would find particularly egregious....

Don't want to be C.O here but the talent of person doesn't amount of his niceness, I quite like some of Hitlers paintings but... :D
And that's (in one sense) the other part of it. From all accounts, Dostoyevsky was a real stinker; Wagner had more character flaws than one could shake an entire forest at; Maupassant was often less than savory in his behavior; and Villon was hanged (rightly, if one accepts the death penalty at all) for his activities. Yet each of these produced some of the greatest art in history, and in the process crystallized an understanding of various aspects of what it means to be human with a beauty, poignancy, and pathos which will likely last as long as we remain human....
 
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