James Patterson apologizes for saying white writers face a ‘form of racism’
James Patterson, the prolific author of thrillers and other bestselling books, apologized on Tuesday after saying in an interview that older white writers face “just another form of racism” that keeps them from finding work.
The comments by Mr Patterson, who is widely regarded as one of the most commercially successful writers of decades, drew immediate backlash after they were published this week in London’s Sunday Times.
“I apologize for saying white male writers struggling to find work is a form of racism,” Patterson wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers. Please know that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard – in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.
Mr Patterson, 75 and white, has sold nearly 450 million books since 1976, according to the Sunday Times.
A staple on bestseller lists, he has written children’s books and biographies as well as works of science fiction and fantasy. He is perhaps best known for his mystery series Women’s Murder Club and his series on Alex Cross, a black detective and psychologist. The Cross books were made into movies starring Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry.
Mr Patterson has also written two books with former President Bill Clinton and a book, “Run, Rose, Run”, with Dolly Parton, published in March. He received the National Humanities Medal in 2019. A White House citation accompanying the honor called him “one of the most successful American authors of our time.”
In his interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Patterson spoke about the success of the Cross books.
“I just wanted to create a character that happened to be black,” he said. “I wouldn’t have tried to write a serious saga about a black family. It’s different in a crime novel because the plot is so important.
But it was Mr. Patterson’s comments about older white writers that got the most attention. The newspaper reported that Mr Patterson had expressed concern that it was difficult for these writers to find work in film, theatre, television and publishing.
The problem is “just another form of racism”, Mr Patterson told the Sunday Times from the terrace of his house on the Hudson River, just north of New York. He spends most of the year in Florida, the newspaper reported.
“What is this all about?” said Mr. Patterson. “Can you find a job? Yes. Is it more difficult? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet a lot of 52-year-old white men.
The comments were roundly criticized by writers and others who noted that, despite efforts to increase diversity, the publishing world remained overwhelmingly white.
In a survey of companies published in September 2020, Mr. Patterson’s publisher, Hachette, found that among its new authors and illustrators, only 22% were people of color. Lack of diversity was also an issue within Hachette’s workforce, which was 69% white. And 80% of senior executives in leadership positions were white.
Other major publishing houses reported similar homogeneity in their ethnic and racial makeup. A 2020 study at Penguin Random House found that around 80% of its employees were white.
In a Penguin Random House audit of its contributors, including authors, illustrators, and other creators, the company found that 75% were white, 5% were Hispanic, 6% were black, and about 7% were Asian.
“What an obtuse statement from James Patterson,” wrote Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, the author of “This Is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity.” on Twitter. She suggested that Mr. Patterson read books to learn about racism.
“Missing the good old days when white men had ALL the writing gigs?” she wrote.
Jason Pinter, the founder of Polis Books, an independent publisher, said he’s been to editorial meetings where books by Black, Indigenous and other writers of color have been turned down because “we already have some. a”.
“I respect all that James Patterson has done for independents and giving back to the industry, but his comments about race are wrong, hurtful and beyond tone deaf,” Mr Pinter wrote. on Twitter.
Frederick Joseph – the author of “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person” and “Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood” – said “Patriarchy Blues” was rejected by 20 publishers “who didn’t think people would buy a book by a black man discussing patriarchy.”
“James Patterson thinks white men face racism in publishing,” Mr Joseph said wrote on Twitter on Monday. “From a black man who had over 50 books (all of which are now bestsellers) turned down because white publishers don’t understand them or ‘already have black male authors’…shut up. “
Rebecca Carroll, the author of the memoir “Surviving the White Gaze”, also dismissed Mr Patterson’s remarks.
“Imagine being born the year Jackie Robinson was the first black MLB player in history,” she said. wrote on Twitter“and then grow up to be one of America’s richest writers, talking about struggles for white men is ‘another form of racism’.”