H.P. Lovecraft was a racist.
It’s not an argument we are going to have here. He was a racist, and it’s clear as it can be from his writing that he was racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic.
I often hear apologists say “He wasn’t any worse than anyone else at the time.” That’s a terrible argument. Other people being racists at the same time doesn’t excuse Lovecraft– it just shows that an appalling number of people were racist.
I’ve actually seen someone compare him to Abraham Lincoln (I’m totally willing to say that Lincoln was not an angel, and he certainly held racist beliefs. But that’s one of the most bizarre comparisons I’ve ever come across). Lincoln’s racism isn’t an excuse for anyone else’s racist beliefs, either.
Also, can we please get past the idea that people who object to Lovecraft’s racism are destroying literature? Or that any literature belongs to any one person? Lovecraftian fiction is more popular than it’s ever been, and his racism isn’t stopping a lot of people from reading and enjoying it, or even writing it. And authors and publishers who address the problematic nature of Lovecraft’s work are producing some amazing work. Victor Lavalle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, a response to The Horror at Red Hook, received rave reviews. Silvia Moreno-Garcia at Innsmouth Free Press, published and co-edited She Walks in Shadows, an award-winning anthology of Lovecraftian fiction.
I’m not a fan of Lovecraft at all, but I don’t think Lovecraft’s work should be banned, or shoved under the table. Just because he wrote about shadowy creatures doesn’t mean he and his work should be hidden. He existed, and regardless of what you, or I, or anyone else, think of him, he made tremendous contributions to horror literature, and his mythos, at least, has solidly embedded itself in mainstream culture. As individuals, we can each decide whether his problematic attitudes toward race, women, and Jews are enough to keep us from reading his work or even loving it. But they shouldn’t be forced on anyone.
But this back-and-forth on “is Lovecraft a racist” is taking the focus away from some really brilliant writers who have already recognized that he is problematic, and are facing that head-on. Let’s see how far-reaching the diversity and creativity of today’s writers of Lovecraftian fiction can take us as we acknowledge his racist past.