Book Critics Circle Officials Quit After Racism Flap

President, 5 board members resign after email exchange is leaked
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 15, 2020 3:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – The president and five other board members of the National Book Critics Circle have resigned amid allegations of racism and violations of privacy, the AP reports. Laurie Hertzel, who had served as president since 2019, announced over the weekend she was leaving the 24-member board. Her departure came two days after another board member, Ugandan-American writer Hope Wabuke, posted redacted screenshots on Twitter of an email exchange that included correspondence from Hertzel and board member Carlin Romano. The NBCC had been crafting a response to the worldwide protests against police racism and violence. Romano, a former NBCC president, had raised objections in his email to the proposed statement, notably that “White gatekeepers” in publishing “stifle black voices.” Romano responded that many black writers had benefited from “good-willed white editors and publishers” and that he had seen “far more of white people helping black writers than of black people helping white writers.”

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“As members of the NBCC board were trying to work out the wording of a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and against racism, especially in our own realm of publishing, private exchanges were made public on Twitter, which made it impossible to continue with this discussion in good faith,” Hertzel wrote. “I, along with five of our board members resigned, though not in a coordinated fashion. I can only speak for myself when I say that such a breach of confidence precludes the sort of deliberations that are essential to the NBCC’s mission as a critical organization.” Wabuke also tweeted that she had resigned from the NBCC. “It is not possible to change these organizations from within, and the backlash will be too dangerous for me to remain,” she wrote. Like virtually every other major publishing institution, the NBCC is predominantly white. (Click for more on the "industry reckoning" that includes this flap and others.)

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