The 2 kinds of diversity advocates in publishing

You might have noticed that a 9,000-member literary organization has been in the news  since it wrongfully censured author Courtney Milan on December 23, 2019. That organization is the Romance Writers of America, and you can find the most thorough chronology of events in Claire Ryan’s The Implosion of RWA. I’m a member and a white woman, and I am still watching as other members who are also white women, over and over again, refuse to believe women of color.

Since the moment news of the wrongful censure dropped, women of color have been showing membership what ethical behavior looks like, with Black women in particular initiating actions and carrying them out. They effected the reversal of the censure, resigned en masse from leadership positions, wrote petitions with 1,000+ signatories that resulted in the resignations of those in breach of fiduciary duties, and together with the LGBTQ+ romance community, are still giving a Twitter masterclass on concepts under the systemic oppression umbrella.

We’re a little more than 3 weeks into this, and many of the aforementioned white women continue to hide their bigotry in member-only forum posts that argue everything but the facts of the case. Still more of these white women continue to hide their bigotry behind a veneer of wanting to remain “neutral.” I want to talk a little about one of the lessons these “neutral” white women have reinforced for me, these white women who up until recently, were patting themselves on the back for their diversity advocacy. And that is that there are 2 kinds of diversity advocates in publishing. For the purposes of this post, the definitions below apply more to people who are few to zero departures from the unremarkable state of being white allosexual cisgender hetero neurotypical and non-disabled.

1. Full-Equity Diversity Advocates: those publishing stakeholders, whether they be authors, critics, literary agents, editors, etc., who advocate for equity no matter how much space and power they have to give up in the process.
2. Fair-Weather Diversity Advocates: these are publishing stakeholders who say, “Yes, come in, but stop when we reach our quota” or, “Do come in, but that’s far enough,” or, “Welcome, so long as you’re the kinds of diversity we like.”

Sometimes, the people most actively advocating for diversity in times of calm, in times of storm will reveal their true oppressive nature. Ergo, Fair-Weather Diversity Advocates.

A person who puts limits on how much space and power marginalized voices should have or includes some “kinds of” diversity but excludes others (e.g. anyone refusing to include the letters that come after LGB) can shore-up institutional oppression while simultaneously trying to claim a diversity advocate label. Can be selectively racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, xenophobic, etc. while simultaneously trying to claim a diversity advocate label.

Relationships, friendships, allyships continue to break down all over the place in RWA, because those believed to be allies, have turned out to be fair-weather ones and therefore not allies at all.

The title of this post, The 2 kinds of diversity advocates in publishing, a post about the #RWAShitShow, is superimposed over some random booksYour Call to Action
Keep pushing for more marginalized voices and especially Black and Indigenous voices everywhere in publishing from authoring to cover designing to book selling, from entry-level to management to ownership, and the next time you encounter a white author running for a board position in a literary organization (or applying for any other paid or unpaid role in publishing), push them on their definition of diversity. Find out whether they’re genuinely ready to make space and give up power or if, like so many white ladies in RWA, they’re only pro-diversity in fair weather and to a point.

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition. Also go check out author Monique Desir’s post in which she explains another kind of harmful diversity advocate, what she calls Diversity Illusionists.

Please be thoughtful in the comments, because I will be moderating for misinformed  opinions such as, “But I thought Courtney started it,” and, “It feels like white people can’t write diversity without getting canceled, so I’m not even going to try,” or anything else that could further marginalize marginalized voices.

Thank you to Freepik for the image I used in this post.

40 thoughts on “The 2 kinds of diversity advocates in publishing

  1. Well, for the record, those two types of advocates exist in “regular daily” life too. Thank you for this post. As a woman of color it is always both jarring and comforting to hear someone fighting the good fight. That sounds wrong as I write it — so my apologies, but it’s jarring because I still can’t believe we’re STILL here on race relations, diversity and acceptance — and comforting because I’m reminded (and I need to be reminded) that some white folk actually do “get” it and are fighting to make right, what is so very wrong! I hope I’m as good and as helpful an advocate to other communities as well. Thank you for writing out such a great example and for being such an advocate — it really does ultimately benefit us all. I don’t get why people don’t see that…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Re: these 2 types existing everywhere, a really good point. And an excellent point about how jarring this post is, and maybe I need to think about if I approached the topic in the best way I could have. You’re right, again, because, yes, EVERYTHING about this situation is jarring.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this post Raimey. The RWA thing has been nuts to watch unfold. After the crap on the PAN loop again after the Rita announcements last year, then dealing with microaggressions at the conference in NY I had decided to not renew. It’s great to see voices of others speaking out about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing about this important issue. I just recently heard what’s been going on in the RWA. I can’t believe how it all started with the sanctioning of an author just speaking her mind. Glad so many writers came forward to support her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a complex story with many morals. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around. Interestingly, though, Courtney didn’t even join the online debate and speak her mind until a week in a half into it.


  4. Before I left Twitter I was directed to this mess, and decided to not read any further. I don’t understand why humans can’t simply co-exist with other humans no matter their skin color, their sexual preferences, or any of the other issues. It makes me sick that this is even a fight still today in our society. (Moderator removed a sentence here just to avoid confusion.) I’m so sad that this is even an issue to begin with. Thank you for bringing it back to my attention as it’s important to be informed, especially in this business where almost anyone can publish these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
    This is an incredibly informative post that succinctly summarized a terribly troublesome issue inside (deliberate alliteration usage on crack) the not always Happily Ever After literary world or Romancelandia. I’m wondering if there is a third kind of diversity advocate (however it may be a watered version of both — a hybrid mayhaps?) and I look forward to writing a blog post about that. Thank you, Raimey! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been watching this RWA thing from the sidelines ever since seeing NK Jemisin tweet her support for Courtney. Then I read about how much of the problem preceded Courtney’s involvement. It’s crazy. People in the literary arts truly need to be leaders in respecting humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I heard something about this but I had other things going on and missed a lot of it. I just caught up on it. What a mess. Come one RWA, I thought you were better than this. Instead of listening you reacted. Was it the F-Bomb that threw you off? You get what you deserve. I truly believe we are living in better times but every now and then someone pulls a stupid.

    Good stuff Raimey.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Every time I hear about attacks on diversity I’m shocked and saddened. We’re all people, and society should have been inclusive a long time ago.

    Important post Raimey, thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been catching bits and pieces of this on and off since New Year and while I don’t know that I have all the details, I still found your post honest and insightful. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is an informative and necessary post, Raimey. Thank you so much for sharing this with your followers. Yes, I hope things improve as well. Thanks for all you do to help your fellow writers. All best to you in 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with Louise and Victoria. I’m not even shocked: these are themes I use in my writing regularly. Great post 🙂


  12. Thanks for this thoughtful article, Raimey! The best way to advocate for diversity in writing is to read authors of different diversity and if it’s worthy — if it challenged you, if it changed your perspective, or if it made you feel compassion — then encourage others to read it too regardless of who they are. It’s natural to gravitate to writers who we relate to because it’s easy and comfortable. We cannot change the minds of a group, but we can control what we choose to consume. It’s through these little actions that we can promote diversity and prove that those works are as important.

    Liked by 1 person

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