An Open Letter to AWP’s “The Writer’s Chronicles”
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
In response to your quarterly magazine which this month featured not one, but two racist articles, which featured an additional sexist article, which has never featured articles of a different racial focus: you are a racist, propaganda machine.
Whiteness, Ferguson, and the Teaching of Creative Writing was the biggest joke I have ever read in a literary magazine. In fact, this article alone takes value and credibility away from not only your publication but also your entire organization. It starts off by talking about Michael Brown and how he was unarmed, and yet, this ‘claim’ has been disproven multiple times which means the argument made in the essay is based on a lie, it’s highlighted with a lie, and it’s pushing false information to an audience who may not know better, because let’s face it, most liberal arts industries are a full-on circle-jerk of liberal ideas and who shun neigh Sayers. The article goes on to claim that people don’t believe the word of blacks because they are black, which is entirely false. It tries to create and enforce this idea that to disagree with a black person, in general, is racist, that one shouldn’t be allowed to question the testimony of a black person, because maybe it makes them feel bad.
This is the same garbage that third-wave feminists are pushing when they say,
I base my belief in a person’s word based on individual merit, based on research and the presentation of facts, not feelings. What this article does is say you should always place your trust in the feelings of the individual. The facts of the matter don’t actually matter, but what gives words strength is the identity politics behind them. What this article says is that one person’s word is more credible than another person’s because of their skin color and despite the way this article is written, it’s not saying the white man’s word is more legitimate than anyone else’s, it’s saying the word of a black person is and if you should question them, you are the worst, you deserve to be shunned, and you are a supremacist of some kind.
You know what makes strong writers? People who ask questions. People who seek the truth. You know what this article, this issue as a whole is doing? With the release of this issue and articles like the ones contained in it, you’re not creating understanding standing, you’re enhancing a divide between people, you’re creating a battle based on identity politics, victim complexions, and false narratives. I know we’re writers, we make stuff up, but a community based on truth and storytelling is one of the worst places for this garbage. I believe this is the place I’m told where everyone is allowed to be themselves, where different backgrounds are encouraged to share their ideas and histories, but as every writer SHOULD know, fiction and history are not the same thing and to pretend that a fictional account is true is one of the worst crimes a writer can commit.
Racist goes in every direction. Despite what the mainstream and colleges are currently teaching, it knows not one skin color. Everyone can commit it and everyone can be victim to it. I have seen racism against whites in the writing community that is never taken into account. No, this article isn’t meant to detract from the experiences of others, like I said, everyone experiences racism, but it is to shed light on the people who claim, “I’m the only victim of racism.”
The only person saying your voice doesn’t matter is you and the writers of articles like Claudia Rankine in her garbage piece, “In Our Way: Racism In Creative Writing.”
At my undergrad university, there was a ‘diversity team’ meant to make sure everything was ‘fair.’ They monitored the school literary magazine and one-year questions why there weren’t any Alaska native authors in it. The people who managed the submissions said they just didn’t receive any. They said they didn’t look at names on papers, they just read stories and articles and published the best ones. That’s it. When asked how they advertised the submission process, they explained in great detail the many different ways they reached out to everyone in the community and there just hadn’t been any Alaska natives who submitted for that issue. The diversity committee said the magazine would not receive funds from them anymore and if they desired funds, they would have to do MORE for the Alaska natives than they did for anyone else. That’s not equality or fairness.
It’s also not equality for someone to be accepted for publication, not because of the quality of their writing, but because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation. That’s identity politics and it has no place in the literary arena.
I believe it was last year that the literary community became outraged as a white man was published in the 2015 Book of poetry because he had an Asian name. I believe he mentioned using the name because as a man with a white name, he couldn’t be published. Sherman Alexie was the editor for that book and he even said he picked the name because he sounded diverse, but he also thought the poem was great. How about instead of picking someone based on their name and/or assumed background, you pick people for publication based on the quality of their work? Why is this so difficult?
Do you not see the problem in a white man needing to change his name to a different ethnicity in order to be published? That’s not ‘fairness’ or ‘evening the playing field.’ That’s outright discrimination and many publishers, agents, and magazines I’ve seen boast about this kind of discrimination.
Racism goes both ways and you know what the surest way to discredit everything you say is? “I can’t be racist because of my skin color.” S’cuse me, if you run on special rules because of your skin color, then you have set yourself up for racist interactions. In my professional career, I’ve worked with wonderful people who didn’t play identity politics and just did their jobs and I’ve worked with people who said, “Oh, you’re just training me/correcting me because you’re racist’ and they said this because they were black and I was white. I’ve had good and bad employees and coworkers of varying color and creed; there is no ‘identity’ that excuses you from criticism or hard work.
Recently I took a survey from AWP, wherein at the end, it asked for sex and racial identification. Every time I see these questions I hesitate to answer with anything other than ‘prefer not to answer’ because I know when I say I’m white, people like you automatically rate what I have to say as less. That’s the social climate we’re in right now. I always answer honestly because I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am. I don’t want whites to go into hiding because racial discrimination is not only allowed, but encouraged if the recipient of the treatment is white and that’s why I’m writing this letter.
The Writer’s Chronicle, this issue has proven that you are not a professional magazine focused on assisting writers to become better at their craft and become published. You are not interested in better storytelling or community. You are interested in creating divides within the community based on identity. You are not interested in the truth, but interested in what will make you ‘feel good,’ about getting pats on the back for being ‘corrective.’
Look, you’re supposed to be some kind of literary magazine that helps discussion about craft and the writing world, but instead, you’re nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece. You’re publishing lies to appeal to the minority of self-victimizing individualize that would scream like they broke a rib when they just stubbed their toe. Continuing to publish things like this makes you look more like a sham than a professional business. I only regret that this was the year I finally invested to go to AWP because if these articles are what you are all about, then I have no place there and I never will.
I will not be subscribing to your magazine once my current subscription comes out. As far as I’m concerned, you are not interested in helping me and it’s likely that you never really were. You’re only interested in assisting those who fit the physical description of what you think a writer should look like. Based on this issue, you hate white writers and you might also hate men. How progressive of you.
Following the receipt of the monthly copy, I also received an email from you talking about a new “inclusive initiative.” I find it funny and disgusting that the same people so focused on being inclusive see absolutely nothing wrong with excluding or disregarding anyone who’s white. You don’t need to put someone else down to bring yourself up or to celebrate yourself. If you find that you have to put someone else down in order to be ‘inclusive’ or celebrate who you are, then maybe you’re just looking for an excuse for your hatred. Stop trying to act like you have the moral high ground when you choose to dismiss people based on their skin color and you might want to stop thinking this will bring you greater success. Every company that has sold out value, quality, and talent for affirmative action so far has ended up suffering. It’s not your path to success to pander to discrimination. Stop acting like it before you lose all credibility.