I’ve grown up on anime, and with unrelated Japanese family. I very much admire their culture and just want to know if it would be culturally offensive if I used a Japanese pen-name (Kumo Espinosa) just because I like it. I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing as an aspiring manga-ka. I don’t want to end up like C.B. Cebulski, although my reasons for wanting to do so are nothing like his. Just asking for advice. Btw I’m not trying to pose as the opposite gender or create an alter-ego. I’m Mexican/black btw.
if it would be culturally offensive if I used a Japanese pen-name (Kumo Espinosa) just because I like it.
If their attitude about Westerners wearing kimono (see this interview with natives) is anything to go by, I'd say absolutely not. I've asked some natives, and they said the same thing, "don't worry".
Besides, since you said you're an aspiring mangaka, bear in mind that your target audience is extremely hostile to political correctness. I'm sure you know how many times Western fans got mad at localization teams for changing/censoring products released on the Western market. They will be the last people to complain, and the last people to care about reviews that chastise you for "cultural appropriation".
In fact, if you were to generate controversy, you'd only get your target audience interested in the product (see the popularity of Goblin Slayer and Rising Of The Shield Hero).
Of course, purists will always exist in any culture. Westerners have people who enforce political correctness, and I'm sure Japan has its share of people who think that Japanese culture is not to be watered down by those damn gaijin. But those people are the vocal minority, and the only power they have, is the power other people give them.
The only case in which it could be problematic is if you use a pen name that sounds like a genuine Japanese name, like "Fujiko Fujio". But that's more for legal reasons such as accidental impersonation, than political correctness.
Since I've never heard "Kumo" (as in "cloud" or "spider"?) being used as a given name, you should definitely be fine if you use it as a pen name. Some Japanese authors use English pen names too: Kazuhiko Katō (the creator of Lupin III) uses an English pen name, Monkey Punch.
There was a story a while back on the internet. Some little girl had a Japanese themed sleepover. Everyone wore kimonos and other things like that. The internet went all crazy. People called it cultural appropriation.
Then actual Japanese people weighted in on the topic. Everyone said that in Japan there is no concept of cultural appropriation. it brings honor to their culture to have other cultures imitate it or enjoy aspects of it.
The problem is what is the moral of this story. To me it seems like doing what you want would not offend actual Japanese people, but that does not mean you are not going to draw negative attention from social justice warriors.
Since so many people are falling over themselves to reassure you, I thought it was worth taking the time to examine the real costs of this move --not necessarily to advise you against it, but to make sure you understand it. I'm not necessarily someone who gets in a panic about cultural appropriation, but there are some definite downsides, ones which it might be easier to dramatize than to just explain. You describe your cultural background as black/Mexican (mine is black/Japanese). Picture this scenario:
You go to a bookstore, and find a new book, in your favorite genre, by an author with a very characteristically Mexican name. You're very excited to see it, and to experience this author's take on your chosen genre. When you read the book, it's initially gratifying to finally find a lead character in this genre you can actually identify with. But as you continue through the book, something strikes you as very off. The characters don't act the way your Mexican family members do. A lot of their behaviors seem really stereotypical. Their homelife seems shallow. There are negative aspects to them that would bother you --if the author wasn't himself Mexican. Yet you keep slogging though, even as you start to question your own understanding of Mexican culture. But then you get to the end. You find out the author is actually Danish. He describes himself as a lifelong lover of Mexican culture, but he's never been to Mexico. After a little research, you find all the people who are praising the book and its "authenticity" are also Danish...
I get the desire for a cool pen name, and if your intent isn't to fool people --and "Kumo Espinosa" doesn't sound like name intended to deceive-- that's pretty harmless. But keep in mind we're in a climate right now where authenticity is prized and #OwnVoices is what agents and publishers are looking for. The whole thing about cultural appropriation is that --most of the time! --people from outside the culture just plain get it wrong and often in really bad and harmful ways. Not that it isn't possible to do it right and respectfully and well, but that the percentages aren't that good.
Not to put you in any kind of box you don't want to be in, but have you considered a cool pen name that celebrates your actual heritage? Think how successful Aaron McGruder was, just by bringing his love of anime to bear on his own cultural viewpoint. He didn't have to rebrand himself as Akira McGruder in order to succeed.
It will be offensive to some people, and it will be completely fine for others.
From my understanding, Asian Americans tend to look down on this kind of stuff more than the ones living in Asia. In Japan, spoofing or appropriating Western culture is very common and not seen as controversial. I am pretty sure that only a minority of Japanese people in Japan would find it controversial that you use a Japanese pseudonym. (They might ridicule you for the name you chose and for any mistakes you make, however - for example, I'm not sure if it is right for you to call yourself Kumo-san. Isn't that a title that you have to earn? But I'm no expert on this.)
That said, you are probably living in America and might want to publish your stories there. So the opinion of young Asian Americans might be more relevant to your case. And if that opinion is that it is an inappropriate pseudonym, you might run into troubles especially if people start a shitstorm against you for cultural appropriation. This could potentially end badly.
C.B. Cebulski is an odd choice of comparison - as far as I can tell, he seems to be doing fine, and posing as an Asian author might have helped his career immensely. I would be more worried that in this day and age, something like that simply would not fly anymore. Publishers, who have to be mindful of the public opinion, might tell you that they won't touch your work if they fear a public backlash.
While the other answers posted here are fairly informative, I'd like to chime in with some actual cultural missteps you might be making unknowingly from a linguistics point of view in the actual industry.
Firstly, it's good that you realized you should omit the 'san' from your pen-name from your edit to the original question. It's a fairly common mistake made by students, since you should seldom refer to yourself with a suffix unless you want to sound presumptious (俺様 or whatnot).
Which brings me to the next point: you might also want to consider the usage of mangaka as a title. I know you're saying you're aspiring to be one, but just as a word of caution.
So to sum up, according to people who speak and understand Japanese and are familiar with how Japanese manga artists refer to themselves, “mangaka” is a honorary/exalted title, reserved for people who are recognized, professional masters of the craft, and a title that manga artists, even the most respected and celebrated pro manga artists have a hard time referring to themselves as such.
This is why it sounds odd to people who understand the term “mangaka” in the context of how it's used in Japan to see people who are not professional artists, much less any comics creator of any level or without a list of published works to their name refer to themselves as “mangaka.”
Otherwise, why not? It might be a little odd I guess, but you're free to use a pseudonym you like. There are even artists that use their foreign name in publishing in Japan with no problem, too. (They might even stand out because they don't have a Japanese-sounding name)
As others have already mentioned, you probably want to evaluate the risks in doing so and consider where you want to publish your works, though.
I am Japanese by blood. I am not a native of Japan and it does not offend me. I think you should be good, but also you have to discuss these things with a lawyer. They will help you find the best way to do what you want to do. Like others say, it will offend some, and some are gonna be fine with it (like me). And I do not, or would not antagonize those who disagree with you. They have own opinions and beliefs. At end of the day, you respect them and I'm sure they respect you and all will be good. Agree to disagree!
As a general rule, the Japanese like seeing foreigners partake in cultural elements of Japanese Culture (they welcome Cultural Appropriation) and are very polite to a western who commits a faus pax while engaging in Japanese culture norms (i.e. When in Tokyo, I frequently would not eat every grain of rice served (considered very rude) to me because my chopstick skills were not that great (but quite good for a westerner as I had an early introduction from Chinese family by marriage who owned an upscale Chines Restaurant). However, they did not treat me as if I had been rude because every time I was offered, I refused Western utensils. Westerners who attempt and fail are generally still appreciated for at least trying.
That said, the Japanese do not extend this grace to people of Asian descent regardless of background as they assume they are Japanese and should know better. Even if the person was born and raised in the U.S. It's not helped that the Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese have some deep seated animosity towards each other (WWII is popularly blamed but some of the gripes predate Imperial Japan's war crimes).
So while using a psuedoname in writing magna might not be offensive, it would make the uninformed reader assume you are Japanese and any cultural misstep might not be forgiven as if you used a western name, where the assumption is you are an American who doesn't know, but at least is trying to show some respect (Even if you're not an American, Japan assumes most people of European and African descent are Americans. Americans are the largest group of foreign nationals residing in Japan by a large margin, and the nation's population is about 80-90% ethnic Japanese.