Jan. 19th, 2010

manifesta: (Dangerous)
It seems Bloomsbury publishing has fucked up yet again. They have whitewashed another cover.

Some of the comments make me wince--that this is shocking because they're "colorblind," that people simply don't notice covers, etc.--but the overall response, now that one has been galvanized, seems to be outrage. Even Jezebel has picked up on it.

There've been calls to boycott Bloomsbury, but boycotting buying the books doesn't just harm the publisher, it harms people who likely do not have much or any voice in the cover design process: the author, the agent, etc. One commenter summed it up well:

"See... this isn't so much a problem with Bloomsbury as it is most of the publishing world. What happens is that a cover artist will often get a little piece of the book, maybe a particular scene, and be asked to draw from that. It's often the same thing with someone writing the blurb for the back cover... they're given so little of the full product to work with that they'll get glaring obvious details wrong. Certainly Bloomsbury should have done a better job of getting the information to the right people, but they are by no means the only company to have this sort of problem."
This kind of racism--yes, you heard me--is not limited to a single publisher. It's a flaw of the industry because the industry perpetuates this short-cut bullshit, and our society 1. doesn't realize it and 2. effectively condones it through passive or active silence. One blogger made the statement that bloggers don't typically review books before they're published, but the author hosted a major web-based viral contest plus other contests where she gave away ARCs. This isn't an instance of "oops, teehee!" but a failure of the publisher to ensure that their covers accurately reflect the race of the character(s) in the book(s) and a failure of the people who have had a chance to read the book to call them out on it. I don't say this to point fingers, but to illustrate how white privilege operates. When publishers don't take the extra time to confirm and/or blatantly disregard the fact that the character being portrayed is NOT White, that's privilege. Being able to take a short-cut and assume the character is White, that's privilege. When reviewers either don't notice or don't make the connection between the character's race and the cover's inaccurate representation of that character's race, that's privilege.*

The author's response to the controversy is pending.

ETA: Here it is. Hmm.

*Which isn't to say that I haven't done the very same thing.**
**Which isn't to say that my having done so makes it any more justifiable or better.