GG: How do you feel about this incident having sparked a nationwide conversation?
CC: It sparked a nationwide conversation in large part because of what happened in Minnesota only a few hours later. But the two events in conjunction informed each other and by comparison, my event is minor. I'm still alive to talk about it.
What happened to George Floyd, what happened a little bit before that, with Ahmaud Arbery—those are the incidents that matter. But the reason what happened to me is getting attention at all in light of those much more serious incidents is because they all come from the same wellspring of racial bias. That was an attempt to use, to manipulate racial bias. The fact that that's where her mind went at that moment in the conflict, that's how she thought to gain an edge in the conflict, [by] going to that dark place of racial bias—that's the racial bias that made that cop think it was okay to lean on that man for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he was dead. That racial bias is what led those white suburbanites to jump into their vans and chase down a black man going for a jog and shoot him dead and say it was self-defense.
So if I can steer that conversation in positive ways and get people to maybe examine things they normally wouldn't examine and think about things they normally wouldn’t think about, then I'll keep talking.
GG: How would you like your experience in Central Park to be looked back on if it's used as an example for dialogue and situational work, say in an anti-racism curriculum?
CC: It showed a couple of things. It showed how people can weaponize race. She knew—consciously or unconsciously, I can't say which—that by saying an African American man was threatening her life, she had an expectation that that would bring special urgency in response.
And similarly, the fact that in society, it’s not surprising that the police would respond with special vehemence to a black man in particular being accused of something. In fact, people who would profess surprise, who’d say, “Oh, I’m surprised that this is happening in New York City”—because I've heard that a couple of times—they’ll say it’s so liberal here. And I'm like, “Have you not been paying attention? Were you not around when Amadou Diallo was killed in a hail of 41 bullets for sitting on his own doorstep by the cops? Were you not around when Eric Garner was placed in a chokehold [by cops] on Staten Island, allegedly for selling loose cigarettes, and he choked until he was dead? So why are you surprised? This is not new!”
GG: I want to touch upon your work at Marvel. What were you hoping to accomplish and communicate through comics?
CC: Great stories that had something to say!
One of my favorites, especially right now, is a story I wrote for Midnight Sons Unlimited #2. It was written as a direct response to the Rodney King verdict, when they acquitted those cops of beating that man senseless. I was seething with fury, just like the rest of black America. And so I put it into a story called “Skin,” and I'm proud of that story to this day.
But stories aren't always born out of rage. Sometimes you have something to say about the other parts of the human condition. Whenever I was writing Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, I mean, we had such great material to work with!
GG: Yes! You and I were both writing Star Trek comics for Marvel at around the same time.
CC: Star Trek has this whole ethos about a better humanity—who doesn't want to tell stories in that regard?
CC: There’s a whole bunch of things you can say in a story in ways you can’t say any better in any other way. Storytelling is the best!
GG: And how did you get into birdwatching?
CC: I built a bird feeder in woodworking class and put it up in the backyard. And I got really interested in the “crows with red on the wings” that kept coming to the bird feeder. I thought I discovered a new species of crow! And then I learned they were red-winged blackbirds.