Well, that was fast. The lovely clueless folks at Barnes & Noble/PRH have cancelled their ill-conceived blackface publishing project citing that fact that “D’oh, we fucked up.” (Note: I may have made that quoted part up–they in fact have not apologized, but have simply addressed “expressed concerns” from the community.) Ah, whew. Thanks for doing due diligence. I mean, AFTER the damage was done, but still.
Suggestion: whoever was the “Debbie Downer”/naysayer at the boardroom table that day who shook their head–the one on which your hotshot white-guy-led creative contractors brought in the suggestion and most of those assembled nodded their pale, flaxen locked heads–gets a promotion, while those who did the nodding have to wear around the office for a week a sandwich board that reads “I cost the company $XXX,XXX”.
Listen, as a former marketing guy, I know you have to throw stuff at the hoop sometimes and hope it goes in for three; but you need to throw a basketball to get the points, not a clown on riding lawnmower.
In a statement to the Guardian, Barnes and Noble said: “We acknowledge the voices who have expressed concerns about the Diverse Editions project at our Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue store and have decided to suspend the initiative. The covers are not a substitute for black voices or writers of color, whose work and voices deserve to be heard. The booksellers who championed this initiative did so convinced it would help drive engagement with these classic titles.”
The good thing about mistakes that the work done to repair them can lead to positive outcomes.
In response to the outrage, Penguin Random House announced it will donate $10,000 to the Hurston Wright Foundation, which works with up-and-coming black authors. They are also launching a Twitter donation campaign, giving a dollar to Hurston Wright each time someone tweets the hashtag #BlackStoriesHavePower.
For the record $10,000 is probably the 5% reserve fund they kept aside from paying the contractors to develop the project. I’d love to see this number inflated by a factor of 10. Come on, B&N!