Then someone wrote the following:
But there was one response from people who were justifiably angry that I do not think was practical, and that was the expectation that the author should have spoken up publicly and denounced this cover. Even if, these people said, even if authors really have no control over their covers and it's all the publisher's doing, she should make a stand!The short of it is this: if you're afraid of losing a publishing deal for standing up for what is right (i.e. fighting against whitewashed covers, a.k.a. white people on covers for books with "colored" characters), then don't say anything. Those who get angry with you for not doing anything are just jerks.
This is roughly equivalent to expecting someone who has just acquired their dream job to curse their boss for doing something wrong. In front of a packed press room. While the boss is standing beside them on the podium.
Economics do not equal ethics, but I think it is important to consider how much we demand of people who could endanger their livelihood and their futures by speaking out. Great change has been made by brave people who have spoken out on social injustices committed by their employers, but they paid and paid and paid for it. There is real and substantial risk, and it is sometimes hard to gauge the cost-benefits to society of taking it, especially when we are talking about someone who wrote a story about a woman of colour who could well end up unable to do so ever again if she is decided to be a troublemaker not worth publishing.
To which I say, "Bullcrap."
While I understand the fear and the apprehension to act against any form of institutionalized (or even accidental) racism, you can't keep quiet about it while assuming that that no-action is ethically appropriate. Why? Because it makes anyone who doesn't say something, who doesn't stand up for what's right complicit in the wrong being committed, particularly if that person continues to participate in the institution committing the wrong (in this case, publishing).
Complicit, you say? Yes, because presumably that author is going to make money (or already has) by selling a book whose cover is the product of a racist system/accident. Said author is literally profiting off of racism, even if he or she had no control over the artwork for the cover (silence is complicity). If you don't see the ethical problems there (and I don't know if the original author does), then there's a disconnect between your reality and the reality the rest of us live in.
So, please, authors far and wide, do not stand up for what you believe to be right. Please, profit off of a system that under-represents people of color and women (for whatever reason) and participates in a racist scheme (even if it is accidental). Give in to fear and help the institution of racism to continue to permeate our industries.
A big middle finger to all those Civil Rights activists who were assaulted by fire hoses or beaten by police officers (or murdered) for having the audacity to face their fear and stand up for their rights. Big middle finger indeed.
P.S.: To the point about telling your racist boss off for being racist -- explain to me why you would want to work for a racist if you yourself are not of the same mindset? Exactly.
I also think the author isn't giving enough credit to the power of the Internet. If a whole bunch of authors writing about traditionally marginalized figures started getting "offed" by the publishing houses for speaking up against whitewashing, do you honestly think that the Internet wouldn't be on top of that like a diabetic on the last insulin shot on the planet?