by Maggie Libby Davis
The AWP starts taking flak for a lack of diversity and transparency and in comes Kate Gale to defend them. Her article has generated a load of internet activity, maybe even more than the original claims against the AWP.
Diversity is the main event – every one is talking about it. This is a good thing because we have a lot of work to do to bring about a more diverse literary marketplace. No point makes this clearer than when the New York Times published its summer reading list and every author listed is white. When I first saw it, I wondered briefly if that’s just how it shook out – maybe those authors presented the best books for that collection, but this over-weighted representation of white authors is not an anomaly.
I mean no offense to the writers selected for the NYT list – it’s an honor they should be proud of, and if the field were truly level, I’m sure most other authors would applaud them. But that’s just it, isn’t it? The field isn’t level. Anyone who argues that it is either denies or doesn’t understand the drag that history can have on the ascension of a person in society. America hasn’t fully evolved beyond marginalizing certain communities of people. Otherwise how could Donald Trump spout off about Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals and still see his ratings with Republicans stay around 50%, jumping as high as 63% in mid-July shortly after his statements. Discriminatory barriers to progress exist even if some people out there continue to smugly insist that all Americans are afforded the same opportunities for success, people like Donald Trump… Seeing Trump’s poll numbers so strong among Republicans, I had to wonder at the collective show of support from the party, right or wrong. But this isn’t about Donald Trump.
Looking at our responses to Kate Gale’s “AWP is Us” article, I wondered at our collective showing. It’s important to stand together to shine light on her article, but continuing the conversation about Ms. Gale seems only to keep us distracted with someone most of us never heard of before. Kate’s sun has set, so let’s refocus on pushing for more diversity on AWP conference panels, or in NYT reading lists, or in editorial staff and college programs, etc. Let’s remember how precarious the hold is on the ground we’ve gained and stand together to affect positive change.