Have you seen the cover of Publishers Weekly? (Update)

pw afro picks

I’m sorry. Every now and then I am completely taken aback by current events. Whether it is a completely obscure Congressman yelling, “You lie!” at our President or Publishers Weekly spending a considerable amount of time and effort to come up with a cover for their magazine which is clearly offensive. I think — I may be mistaken, but I think that Publishers Weekly was trying to be funny. This issue is about black literature.

This is what happens when you don’t have any black friends. Your black friends would not let you do this. You know that this cover had to go through the chain of command. Several people signed off on this and they thought it was funny. No. It is not funny.

Maybe it is just me. Do you think it’s offensive?

From Blogher:

Here we are in this brave new world of so-called post-racial sensibilities and yet each day reality pokes us in the eye, mocking us with “You have not yet arrived.” Any effort to comment on the beauty of our differences or attempt to address the ever-present wound of our inequalities while trumpeting inclusiveness is a balancing act that lands us on our collective rump. So, it’s unsurprising that today, part of the Twitterverse erupted in outrage over Publishers Weekly’s latest cover, “Afro Picks! New books and trends in African-American publishing.”

0 Responses

  1. There is often disagreement about certain groups as to what is and is not offensive. 

    Are your views, social and political and economic, representative of all blacks or just some.?

    I do enjoy reading your blog – you do present very well YOUR (which is one of many) point of view

  2. In my opinion, yes, it is offensive. Mostly because it is unnecessary and there were so many other ways presenting African American literature. And, surely, Publishers Weekly should have known better.

  3. It’s completely inappropriate to feature this picture on the cover of Publishers Weekly promoting black literature.

  4. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m an insensitive jerk.

    What exactly is supposed to be offensive about this?

    Does it imply or portray blacks as stupid? Evil? Lazy? Greedy? Ugly? Mentally deficient?

    Exactly what is the problem with it?

  5. I think it is offensive, weird/strange…supposed to be clever?  Hair picks and pick of literature?  I guess that’s the idea…I’ll add another word, “dumb”…yes, it’s offensive and I am not black.

  6. Yes this is very dumb.  Not a good way to depict that black lioterature is something to be taken seriously.  I trivializes it.  Even if the image was going for humor maye they could have put some titles of black literature on each pick to show that someething is going into the brain…I mean the humor could have been taken to a deeper level with better imagery, otherwise it’s just a photo of a girl with nappy hair and nothing on her mind.  I do think, however that there are so many better ways to create an image of the importance of black literature.  This was just not well thought and a complete waste of resources.

  7. So, in an effort to see the issue from all angles; If I am the editor of Publisher’s weekly, I am used to seeing submissions from creative individuals all the time.  I also consider my audience to be of above-average intelligence and, in a moment of creative inspiration, I think of the dual nature of the word ‘pick’, combine that with African-American literature and come up with a visual depiction of that and what ensues is the cover that you see before you.  Whether or not this is offensive depends somewhat upon the interpretation of the reader and not so much upon the intention of the editor.  On some levels, I DO find this offensive.  Why?  The assumption, here, is that the best way – in the opinion of the editor as represented by his/her decision to use this cover – is that the ‘Afro Pick’ is the best way to represent this particular segment of writer from amongst all of the other alternatives.  I would have liked to have seen, for instance, the face of a well-known African-American writer rather than an African-American individual with a number of Picks absurdly sticking out from their head.  Also, as some may read this and just feel as though I am an overly-sensitive individual reading too much into this, remember that just because I MAY be sensitive does not mean that you are NOT irritating – and this cover is irritating…

  8. You have said this is irritating, and you’ve said it’s offensive which is not the same thing at all.

    What specifically is offensive about it?

  9. I try not to judge a book by its cover although I am skeptical about their intended direction.  Being in the hair industry years back, this was something that you may see in a black hair show.  If the article is considerably over the top in a negative way, I would definitely be offended.  I’m going to have to do my homework on this magazine in terms of who the owners and editors are.  If any of the stockholders in this magazine are from the FOX network, I’ll definitely have my answer.

  10. <img src=”http://www.tisch.nyu.edu/props/IO/1935/73/ion_dwillis093.jpg” alt=”Deborah Willis, Ph.D”/>

    From what I’ve read Dr. Deborah Willis has impeccable credentials and may have lacked judgment in the photo by assuming everyone would grasp the true meaning of the photo.  After I read a little bit about the background of the author, I have come to the conclusion that this is another way of showing power in numbers.  Artistically speaking, I am from the generation where this “Pick” was placed into the hands of African American women and men who were making a statement. That pick with the balled up fist said it all for those who were in the struggle for racial equality.  And maybe, just maybe, Dr.Willis is attempting to show how far we’ve come or not come?  Art is always an interpretation to be made by the viewer and that was subliminal conclusion  😉 .  I am quite interested to read the views of others.  Great topic Dr. Thompson!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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