Courtney Milan and RWA

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Keep in mind the RWA's stellar record [sic].

No, I'm not surprised. But this is the last straw for me with regards to how I view the RWA. They're not interested in being better.

If you read the decision it's particularly illuminating.

This is not an organization acting in good faith.
 
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ElaineA

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I just re-upped 3 weeks ago because I volunteered to judge for the RITA-first round this year for the first time, and you have to be a member in good standing. IMO, the contest needed more judges who would see inclusion of diversity (of both authors and characters) and love stories of people in marginalized communities as an asset, not a reason for scorn, and I hoped I could provide that. So, I signed up, spent my hour+ listening in on a well-presented introductory D&I seminar given by the consultant the RWA hired to help guide them through their commitment to becoming a more inclusive organization, and then joined the D&I forum on the RWA boards. And then they hang their asses out like THIS? This is how they demonstrate a "commitment" to diversity and inclusion?

My god, what a betrayal of writers of color as well as those who are part of other marginalized communities.

I'm taking my cues from both writers who have served on the board, and those who have been an active part of trying to drag RWA out of the NWL-created muck they were wallowing in. Those writers seem to universally be saying, "that's it for me, there is no point in trying to work from within to change an organization so recalcitrant as RWA seems to be."
 

thethinker42

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Of course now they're back pedaling like whoa. We'll see if it's too little too late.

I'm still on the fence about staying in or canceling my membership, RITA entries, etc. Part of me wants to stay because I hate the idea of the bigots winning. Part of me wants to say "peace out" and bolt because WTF.
 

ElaineA

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I can't get past the certainty that they thought they'd unload this under the radar by doing it right now. What a fundamental misunderstanding of...well, everything.
 

Ari Meermans

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And this part:

. . . RWA’s Board of Directors rescinded its vote accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee report and the consequent penalties against Courtney Milan pending a legal opinion.

still leaves Courtney Milan in limbo wrt her status. They're managing this very badly and have done so from the beginning.
 
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thethinker42

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I can't get past the certainty that they thought they'd unload this under the radar by doing it right now. What a fundamental misunderstanding of...well, everything.

A lot of people are side-eying the timing. Send the verdict RIGHT after the RITA awards closed (and everyone has paid their entry fees), and do it RIGHT before the offices close for the next 8 days, while giving Courtney 10 days to appeal. Everything about it is shady AF.
 

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I can't get past the certainty that they thought they'd unload this under the radar by doing it right now. What a fundamental misunderstanding of...well, everything.

Yes. I think that too was deliberate.
 

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And chatter on the RWA forums indicate that all of the discussion that has occurred on the PAN (Paid Author Network) board -- THAT NOT EVERYBODY HAS ACCESS TO SEE -- is heavily moderated to the point where dissenting posts have vanished magically like magic.

ETA: Courtney Milan's response to the backpedal.
 
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Alessandra Kelley

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Ouf. The more of this that comes out, the sketchier RWA looks.

Do I understand that the RWA secretly assembled an entirely new ethics committee just for this one issue, without informing the actual sitting ethics committee? And then did not make clear that it was their hand-picked ethics committee, not the real one, which voted “unanimously” for censure? That must have been astounding and upsetting to those members on the real ethics committee, assuming I heard correctly.

I can't get past the certainty that they thought they'd unload this under the radar by doing it right now. What a fundamental misunderstanding of...well, everything.

To be fair, in Olden Times before social media if you wanted to bury a story you’d announce it on a Friday or immediately before a big holiday. The story would be ignored and forgotten in the rush of other news.

It’s a strategy that probably would have worked back in the twentieth century.
 

Barbara R.

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. Part of me wants to stay because I hate the idea of the bigots winning. Part of me wants to say "peace out" and bolt because WTF.

The whole RWA thing is triggering flashbacks for me! I was a member of the oldest online writers' forum since the days of dial-up, and an admin on the same forum for a decade or so. When I first joined, the forum was diverse and welcoming. Gradually it became less so. There were outbreaks of racist comments that were not removed by management, because the rules of the forum prohibited personal attacks, but not disparagement on grounds of religion, race, nationality, or gender. Writers of color left in disgust and, quite reasonably, they blamed management for allowing that kind of hurtful, bigoted commentary. Jews left. Writers whom I had brought into the forum---my writing students and editing clients---were personally hurt. That was agonizing for me.

I tried for quite a long time to convince my fellow sysops to change the rules. "Free speech!" most of them cried. Holy free speech, sacred free speech---no matter that the speech was being used on the forum to demean and hurt minority writers. There was a...what's that thing called?---a lively discussion over the issue, and in the end I lost. Free speech trumped decency, IMO.

So I left, too. Sadly, because over the many years, it was a great community. I'd made some good friends there, and had the joy of watching unpublished writers go on to become published writers, remaining on the forum to help others. Looking back at it several months later, I still feel I had no choice under the circumstances. But it hurts to feel that I left the haters and their enablers to rejoice over the spoils. It's a smaller, whiter, more monolithically Christian community than it was in the old days, but that's how those members like it.

I'm not a member of RWA, as I don't write in that genre. But if the pro-diversity members are able to wrest control from the others (and this Courtney Milan fiasco may provide that opportunity), then my hope is that they will do it and clean house, rather than start a separate organization. Why let the bad actors carry the day and keep the organization that so many volunteers spent so long building?
 

ElaineA

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I read this interesting tweet thread this morning about why it's such an uphill battle to change direction. Basically it says RWA is an organization that depends on institutional "stability". They have a building, an entrenched staff, years of avoiding upheaval, some incidents in their history that have made them default to maintaining "status quo." The thread doesn't cast aspersions, just realistically highlights how those interact with a situation like Milan's. It's a recipe for old skool disaster.

By the way, several authors have resigned from the ethics committee, including at least two women of color I'm aware of.

Rachel Grant twitter statement and then responses to her tweet

Ruby Lang and

Mia Sosa
 

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I wonder how many POC are on that Ethics Committee that is making expert judgements about racism. And how many credentialed ethicists. As someone who sits on scientific ethics committees I would expect any such judgement to be by with representation and by consensus and it seems that it wasn't.
 
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Ari Meermans

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I read this interesting tweet thread this morning about why it's such an uphill battle to change direction. Basically it says RWA is an organization that depends on institutional "stability". They have a building, an entrenched staff, years of avoiding upheaval, some incidents in their history that have made them default to maintaining "status quo." The thread doesn't cast aspersions, just realistically highlights how those interact with a situation like Milan's. It's a recipe for old skool disaster.

By the way, several authors have resigned from the ethics committee, including at least two women of color I'm aware of.

Rachel Grant twitter statement and then responses to her tweet

Ruby Lang and

Mia Sosa

Like Lisa, I've heard the rumblings over the years but with this new outrage it gets nastier and nastier, doesn't it? I had thought the best approach would be to accept accountability, clean house, and seek guidance from the membership and, in doing so, work hard to rebuild trust—in short, an upheaval and course correction. But now that I see the way the organization operates, I'm not sure Hercules could clean out that stable. There's no incentive for staff to change their ways. And, of course, the sense of betrayal runs too deep in the membership.

Some in the Twitter threads are calling for breaking away and starting a new org. That approach is fraught with perils, too. Too many to list here, but a new (competing) org, in addition to suffering the usual growing pains, would start off with a stigma possibly as great as RWA's, that of being labeled as malcontents.

Note: I also saw some folks on Twitter forward threads wrt this fiasco to SFWA as a cautionary tale. Also, one agent tweeted that she was finished with RWA. :\
 
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thethinker42

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And chatter on the RWA forums indicate that all of the discussion that has occurred on the PAN (Paid Author Network) board -- THAT NOT EVERYBODY HAS ACCESS TO SEE -- is heavily moderated to the point where dissenting posts have vanished magically like magic.

And yet historically, they've apparently been unable (mmhmm) to moderate the forums when members are being racist, homophobic, etc. A number of people have mused that "oh, hey, apparently they've figured out how to moderate their forums."

It's like they've literally tried to find every possible way to make this debacle's optics as terrible as possible.
 

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Do I understand that the RWA secretly assembled an entirely new ethics committee just for this one issue, without informing the actual sitting ethics committee? And then did not make clear that it was their hand-picked ethics committee, not the real one, which voted “unanimously” for censure? That must have been astounding and upsetting to those members on the real ethics committee, assuming I heard correctly.

Rachel Grant confirms this in the tweet series ElaineA posted. (Here's a repeat of the link, though.)

And chatter on the RWA forums indicate that all of the discussion that has occurred on the PAN (Paid Author Network) board -- THAT NOT EVERYBODY HAS ACCESS TO SEE -- is heavily moderated to the point where dissenting posts have vanished magically like magic.

And yet historically, they've apparently been unable (mmhmm) to moderate the forums when members are being racist, homophobic, etc. A number of people have mused that "oh, hey, apparently they've figured out how to moderate their forums."

It's like they've literally tried to find every possible way to make this debacle's optics as terrible as possible.

Yeah, I'd even brought this up in another thread on the DEI forum and felt like my concerns had been brushed aside or swept under the carpet, like "we'll make this discussion more public 'soon-ish or so'."
 
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WrenWrites

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The timing is certainly deliberate, but I can't imagine how they really thought they wouldn't get a huge backlash for this. It sounds like they didn't even follow procedures. How on earth did they think this wasn't going to end up making RWA look terrible? It seems like everyone who's ever had a problem with them is now airing their dirty laundry. I just don't understand why they didn't anticipate this reaction.
 
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lizmonster

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Hubris. Privilege. Willful ignorance. Unconscious bias.

The whole thing smacks of folks who somehow thought the majority would agree with them, or at least not care enough to make a fuss.

Me? I'm not a romance writer, but I've been a reader for a long time. I'll be spending some Christmas money on books by some of the folks the RWA has been failing to properly support.
 

Ari Meermans

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I just retweeted this thread by Courtney Milan. It's an excellent thread with a great deal to ponder if you're a writer who wants to write about a culture not your own. This is something I've covered in a number of beta reads over the years (to mixed results, *sigh*) but that thread really brings home the pitfalls a well-meaning writer can fall into all unknowing/unthinking.

For instance, this:

I just wanna say this: If you, as a writer, think you’re going to write someone from an ethnic group where people do not generally have blue eyes, but you’re gonna give them blue eyes to show that THIS person is special...

Please stop.
 
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ElaineA

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The whole thing smacks of folks who somehow thought the majority would agree with them, or at least not care enough to make a fuss.

I don't believe for one second they don't know there is at least a significant enough cadre of writers of color and writers from underrepresented communities, as well as white writers who support writers from marginalized communities, who would raise hell. I am on the PAN forum and I've seen plenty of people pushing back on racism, bad representation in stories, and on people saying sh*tty things in forum posts. Board member Donna Alward is (or was) the mod last time I checked in there, and she seemed to me to be supportive of diverse communities and perspectives. They know. They absolutely know.

And if they did believe they could weather this because enough NWLs would agree, or thought not enough people would care to make a fuss, that's straight up stupidity, and none of them should be in the positions they're in. That level of ignorance is disqualifying, period.
 

frimble3

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I just retweeted this thread by Courtney Milan. It's an excellent thread with a great deal to ponder if you're a writer who wants to write about a culture not your own. This is something I've covered in a number of beta reads over the years (to mixed results, *sigh*) but that thread really brings home the pitfalls a well-meaning writer can fall into all unknowing/unthinking.

For instance, this:
"[FONT=&quot]One question: in worlds where eye color tends to reflect the magic a person has in their soul (e.g., green eyes for earthmagic wielders, blue for watermagic, red for fire, etc.) is it still categorically inappropriate?"

If nothing else, how desperate to avoid brown-eyed characters can you be that you would use the quite-rare green eyes to indicate 'earth magic'? If ever there was an obvious colour for an earth-magic user, it would surely be brown. Especially when there's such a need for matchy-matchy eyes that red eyes are the sign of a fire-magic wielder?[/FONT]
 

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