Editor’s Note: Today’s post, which focuses on racism in scholarly publishing, is being published anonymously at the request of the authors and contributors — all people of color — whose testimonies make powerful and shameful reading for a sector that likes to think of itself as liberal and inclusive. 

This blog post is co-edited by two people of color who work in scholarly publishing. Together, we have nearly 15 years of experience in this industry. As the idea for the blog post came together, we knew that sharing our stories needed to be done anonymously.

Yet we are eager to have our stories heard. Most micro-aggressions we experience pass without comment. We remain silent. And so do our allies. It is hard to speak up when you are alone in a white-dominated space. We hope that other people of color in our industry read this post and understand that they are not alone. We also hope that our allies will understand that they must do more if they want to claim that label.

The stories below came to us from across a range of departments and presses. We collected more stories than could fit into one blog post, so we will be submitting additional blog posts to the Scholarly Kitchen. Several new contributors have already agreed to share stories and we welcome additional contributions. Please contact our host, Alice Meadows, for more information on how to connect with us.

the problem woman of color in the workplace


Years ago, during my then press’s annual Thanksgiving celebration, one entirely white department came in to great fanfare dressed as “Native-Americans” for “fun.” Obviously, I can’t speak to how all of my other colleagues felt, though some were clearly amused and delighted by it, but I do remember that I and the one other person of color on staff immediately made eye contact with each other with a look of total dismay.

I was the only person of color in my department. When I asked the administration why they didn’t do outreach to more students of color or promote people of color, the answer from the HR rep was, “We can never find any black students who are qualified or are able to pass our proofreading tests. You were our first and we were really surprised when you passed. Usually people like you don’t make it past the first round. And since there are so few to begin with, there aren’t any to promote.”

I left six months later.

During my second year as an editorial assistant I asked our Editorial Director if I could attend the AAUP (now AUP) annual meeting. I suggested that I could apply for two grants to help cover the costs of attendance, the newcomer grant and the diversity grant. At that time, I was the only person of color in my department and another assistant also wanted to attend the conference. Our Editorial Director asked me to limit my applications to the the diversity grant so that my white colleague would have a better chance at the newcomer grant. He proceeded to explain that there were almost no minorities who attended the AAUP so I was practically guaranteed to receive the diversity grant. Angry and hurt that I was being reduced to my brown skin, I went back to my office. A few days later, I explained to him that I would prefer to apply to both since I qualified for both grants. I received the newcomer grant that year, and a different person of color received the diversity grant; I was glad to have been there to meet her.

As the only black person in my department, my supervisor once told me: “I just want to let you know that I like you. You’re not like the others…in the Mailroom, and IT, and Security. You don’t blast your music, talk loud, and leave early. I see you reading books and bringing your own lunch…I just think that’s really good…Keep it up. You might even get to move up a bit.”

I feel real anxiety when there is another man of the same ethnic background in the same room as me because there’s a decent chance that someone will mix us up, usually by calling one of us by the other’s name…I have had to deal with the same type of lazy mistake for my whole life. The incessant noise (even at low volumes) of discrimination and lazy assumptions is something that adds up over time to remind me of my otherness.

Over the course of the time that I have been at the Press, I have heard all sorts of offensive “jokes” made at staff meetings: from making light of the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, to joking about how a book on the DREAM Act needs to come out fast otherwise “everyone will be deported by then,” to the outright and casual usage of a racial slur. Because of the frequency of these jokes, the fact that they are consistently made by upper management (which is all white), and because I am one of few people of color in the room when these jokes are made, I am extremely tense and uncomfortable during weekly meetings with my white colleagues. Every time I walk into a meeting with my colleagues, the pit of my stomach hollows from anxiety; I’m in a constant state of defense, ready for something to be said that is offensive. I’m ready to swallow my own anger and stay silent in the name of “professionalism,” ready to be disappointed by my white colleagues and managers who regularly disregard this type of behavior as “harmless” or don’t even notice it as problematic in the first place.

I was on a business trip with my boss and it was the first time that the two of us had spent significant time together away from the office. During the last night of the trip, we talked about personal stuff over dinner. I was sharing stories about my family when she suddenly said with a laugh, “I wasn’t sure what you were when you came for the interview. You don’t look like any of the African Americans from where I come from.”

I’ve heard ignorant comments like this before but this was said by a relatively young woman who always made it known that she was a liberal feminist. I don’t remember exactly how I responded. I think I said something along the lines of, “like white people, black people come in all forms and shades,” and left it at that. I had no desire to dive into an in-depth conversation about race. It would have been a waste of time.

Working at a university press as an Asian American woman of color has been an experience of whiplash — pulled in one direction where my opinion has been valued to “authenticate” a project by or about Asian Americans, while simultaneously pulled in the other direction, having my opinion discounted and written off by my white colleagues. “Well, you’re not really Asian.”

I’ve been asked how to pronounce names of authors who are of Asian descent — but then told that they disbelieve my pronunciation is authentic. “What good are you?”

I’ve been asked my opinion on how to bring diversity into our staff — but then told that the lightness of my skin tone is a strike against me. “You don’t really count.”

I’ve been asked to communicate difficult conversations about race with authors of color — “they’ll take it better coming from you” — but then told I should call myself an ‘Americanized’ version of my name when dealing with authors who are white. “You should make it less difficult for them.”

I have been tokenized when it is convenient. I have been dismissed when my opinion might make waves. I have been split in two and torn apart inside by this industry — one that supposedly values the intellectual input — and output — of scholars who write about race, justice, and inclusion.

I was the only Black employee in the books editorial department, and one of very few people of color. This would not have been so striking had the majority of books we published not been about Black and Brown culture and perspective. Walking into this position, I understood the violent legacy of white people controlling the means of production, and thirsting to curate and cosign intellectual and creative work by people of color. This was not my first rodeo in terms of working within a majority white office with a “liberal agenda;” i.e., working alongside white people who were sure they were “good.” What offered me more hope for this office was the depth of much of the work by Black authors they published. It was work that I had read in my undergrad years and beyond, that truly shaped my theories of self and the possibilities I saw for my own Black Life. I thought to myself, there’s no way that even the white people reading, editing, and probing these works aren’t grasping the brilliance, and at the very least, the humanity of the people who produce this work. How could you spend months, and sometimes years, with a manuscript about history or theory regarding Black life, and not be in some way changed by it? But alas….

I witnessed the head acquisition editor be repeatedly disrespectful to the women in editorial who did most of the grunt work. I was often tokenized, and called on to affirm a white editor’s opinion of a Black manuscript. My supervisor condescendingly micromanaged all of my activity every single day, while simultaneously trying to appear “down,” by asking me my opinions about various facets of Black popular culture, often using black vernacular. Knowing that my colleagues saw only my blackness — and not my complete humanity — led me to be more detached at work. I didn’t mind that people didn’t know how to talk to me because I didn’t want to talk to them.

Editors took many non-black interns under their wing, and they were given numerous opportunities to rise up in the press. Black interns, on the other hand, were heavily micromanaged and there was little interest in bonding with them or making them feel at home. I saw several white interns elevated to permanent positions. This is something I never saw offered as a possibility to Black interns. I did my best to provide some sense of belonging to the Black interns when I could; but honestly, how could I provide a feeling of belonging if it was something I never felt there myself?

Hands down the most painful, bizarre situation I’ve faced as a POC in scholarly publishing occurred when I was pitted against another POC, in a similar role, by leadership. Despite our divergent interests and skills, unhelpful comparisons – overt and covert – were made. Eventually, in spite of my best efforts, and my expressed desires to work more collaboratively, I felt forced out and had to leave. Afterwards, a supervisor got in touch to ask how the house might improve its diversity efforts, and to casually ask if I had contact information for potential authors of color.

I consistently find a self-serving equation of “diversity” (an outcome) with “antiracism” (a practice) in our industry. Generally speaking, the appearance of progress and harmony stands in for difficult, never-ending work, and ultimately, the relinquishment of privileges.

Instead of diversity™, scholarly publishing needs decolonization – a complete, utter rethinking and remapping of power relationships. This means white people in the profession — including well-intentioned liberal whites, self-identified woke whites and well-meaning white allies — have a great deal of humbling and challenging work to do. Are you up to it?

Stay tuned for our next installment of testimonies of people of color in publishing. In the meantime, please feel free to take a look at the following resources available for white colleagues who may be interested in learning more about what you can do:

Additional Reading:





Organizations that guide individuals and institutions in anti-racism work:





47 Thoughts on "On Being Excluded: Testimonies by People of Color in Scholarly Publishing"

This is a wake-up call for the industry dominated by Western white males regardless of their abilities.
The day we can stop using “people of color” as a description of the Rest of the World, we would have already made progress.
Take a look at the top two tiers of any STM publisher. Despite people of many backgrounds working as hard and being as talented, what is the reason that we never see diversity in top tiers? Is it because the investors are White, and they select who they want to work with?

This is such an important post and I’d like to thank the women who contributed to this to share their stories. We have to challenge the idea that publishing has its house in order on these issues – I know many of us are starting to highlight the issues but this shows how far we have to go. I will be looking at these resources to see what personal changes I can make; I invite colleagues and friends to do the same.

Was it all women? “I feel real anxiety when there is another man of the same ethnic background in the same room as me…”

My apologies, written in haste – you are quite right that it was not solely women!
Thanks for the correction.

Are you assuming the contributions are all from women? Only thanking women and not people of other gender identities who may have contributed? The editors say “we knew that sharing our stories needed to be done anonymously.” Discrimination against POC occurs across genders and anyone of any gender can recognize it.

When I was teaching scholarly editing and publishing, I was able to recruit a few students of color–not as many as I wished. Their skills were at least as good as those of other students in the program. In at least one instance, a white student made a racist comment to the group outside of class. When I heard about it, I moved up the classes on inclusive language, racism, sexism, and other isms. I doubt that the student who made the remark became less racist, but she behaved better. After more than 30 years in academe and scholarly publishing, I have concluded that it is very difficult to change people’s thinking, but it’s not all that hard to change their behavior. If the leaders of an organization make it clear that certain speech and behaviors will not be tolerated, they will stop. Until that happens, it will be difficult to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. And you will lose out on a lot of talent.

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories here. I’m so sorry you have to bite your tongue and put up with so much just to be “professional”. You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. Thank you for this wake-up call, and call to action for the rest of us to make a better effort to be inclusive.

This comment left me numb.

“I didn’t mind that people didn’t know how to talk to me because I didn’t want to talk to them.”

This outcome in an industry supposedly devoted to communication.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s murder. We have a long way to go.

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed their personal stories to this important post. This post reminds me again that diversity is one thing, but inclusion is what’s most important. Why bother taking steps to improve diversity if you are then going to allow behavior that makes people of color feel excluded? I am sorry that these things happened. I am not surprised, though the personal examples are certainly hard to hear. We can all do better.

I’d like to thank and pay tribute to the authors and contributors of this much-needed post, which I hope will prompt some actual change in scholarly publishing. As Nancy Roberts said in her recent post here: “Diversity has business benefits but it’s also a moral imperative. But without action on inclusion, diversity initiatives won’t succeed.” We all need to be part of the solution – individually and collectively.

Hi Alice, these testimonials really hit close to home. Working in publishing for over 20 years, I’ve had similar experiences but never voiced them. I’m glad our stories are being heard and the conversation has been started. Progress can be made through awareness.

Thanks Lattelle and hi! Like you, I’m glad these stories are being shared. This is very much just the first step. There is an awful lot of hard work to be done to make scholarly publishing somewhere that reflects our whole community, and where equal opportunity is a reality not just an aspiration – especially in terms of POC.

These testimonies gave me flashbacks. I’d be surprised if any person of colour in scholarly publishing has not got at least one comparable anecdote (I certainly have). The conversations I’ve had with people recently on diversity have centered around the business imperative (i.e. we are excluded ourselves as an industry from the widest talent pool available). What I have suppressed is the moral imperative of diversity and inclusion. This post has given me a jolt to not shy away from this in future discussions.

Thank you to the authors and everyone that contributed.

We need to find a way to get rid of the ignorance and fear that these stories illuminate. So many people, with otherwise good intentions, are blind to their biases and the resulting behaviors. Others are self-aware but don’t know what to say and how to act. We are brought up and live in such silos. This post is so helpful in presenting unfiltered thoughts and feelings that can help to provide insights in our future interactions. The results of the Workplace Equity Survey, which will be presented at the SSP Annual Meeting on June 1, will validate a lot of what is being said here.

Thank you to all who shared their experiences. Your willingness to speak up helps bring awareness to everyone regarding how our behaviors and (conscious and unconscious) biases can impact others. We have a long way to go!

Martin Luther King Jr. said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” There is no comfort here today, and the challenge is writ large with the voices of people who have been brave enough to share their experience.

I’m a woman of color who has been in publishing for over 20 years. I’ve been passed over for promotions, raises, and projects in the 5 years at my current academic press. I consistently carry a workload that is heavier than many of my colleagues because I like the work and the authors I communicate with daily. Every year I get excellent reviews, I give suggestions to the group, and I try to help my colleagues whenever I can. Last year during my review, my supervisor told me that she never sees me do anything of value, she could never promote me to any position above the level I was now because it wouldn’t be fair of me, since I’d probably fail at it. She also felt that I had lots of years of experience, but I wasn’t management material. The next week, she hired a white male who just graduated college to be my supervisor, a position that my other colleagues (all white women) knew about, but I didn’t. My new boss is a 23 year old white man with no experience in publishing or management.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen, but it was the first time it happened to me.
I can’t believe it’s 2018.

In the company I work for there is not one senior manager of color. There is a directive to hire more people of color, but no initiative to help the people of color who are already here. (I know why that is. If they help the people of color who are already here, they have to acknowledge that they haven’t been fair to them. I think that’s too much for academic publishers, who are under the umbrella of universities. The universities can atone for slavery, but atoning for micro-aggressions and discrimination means they have to deal with the choices of what their employees have done today. With slavery they don’t have to see the wretched, they’re all dead. It’s easier to atone when you know you won’t be challenged. )We’re left to the devices of managers, who no matter how many bias workshops they go to, refuse to recognize their own bias or their own complicity in racism and exclusion in the workplace. These managers then let other employees off the hook for any indiscretion, slur, or micro-agression and then blame you, the victim for letting it happen.

When authors of color come to the press, they parade their employees of color out to show these authors how committed they are to diversity. After these authors leave, employees of color go back to the status quo of being ostracized, isolated, and gaslighted.

This isn’t my problem. But every week I’m asked by a white person what they can do to not be biased or racist. I’ve been asked to make booklists, and youtube video lists of speeches, and a list of luminaries of the Civil Rights movement. When they find out I majored in African American studies, I’m asked to speak at their kids’ schools where no child of color attends, so I can make them feel right about all the guilt they feel (this has happened twice.)

But sorry, again, this isn’t my problem. This is a problem that white people and the institutions they run need to pay attention to and dedicate more than a memo or a workshop to this problem.

I’m done talking about this, you should be too.

Now the question is: What will be done?

This post is shattering. Some of the experiences recounted above are altogether too un-subtle to allow for any illusion that scholarly communications somehow is more woke than other industries or segments of society. Thank you to the individuals who shared their stories, and to SK for posting them – a sobering reminder of how very much work we all still have to do.

Yes yes yes! At last. This is so needed.
Was it all N American contributors?
Looking forward to hearing examples of changed practices.

These testimonies are heart wrenching, yet not surprising. This should provoke more than a little introspection among all of us in scholarly publishing and our staffs.
On the bright side, there is increasing awareness that this is an issue, as evidenced by efforts underway by the Library Publishing Coalition—in the Library Publishing Curriculum and in the forthcoming Ethical Framework for Library Publishing—as well as similar efforts by the Association of University Presses and others.
I also highly recommend the essays in the last section of Peter Ginna, editor, “What Editors Do” and in particular the essay by Chris Jackson.
On the not-so-bright side, these testimonies in Scholarly Kitchen, and evidence that exclusion and racism is pervasive throughout academia and throughout society.
A 2017 Pew research study, not surprisingly, found a large gap in perceptions of racism between Democrats and Republicans (76% of Democrats feel it is a “big problem” vs. 37% of Republicans; while 81% of blacks believe it is a big problem vs. 52% of whites. This is increasing except for among Republicans.

Thank you for sharing stories to help me think, and links to help me learn. So much progress still to be made.

The introduction at the top of this post is spot-on – the stories shared in the post and the comments make shameful reading for an industry that considers itself liberal and enlightened for the most part. However difficult it is, it’s so important for us to hear the unvarnished reality for non-whites in our industry, and not the one we’d like to imagine. There is indeed much work to be done.

Thank you for this post. I’m looking forward to seeing more in the series.

I work at a publisher that prides itself on its values…. But it’s common knowledge in the company that there is rife racism and Xenophobia. I’ve repeatedly heard of and witnessed rascist and xenophobic comments. From “those kinds of people” to comments about why “they are taking our jobs”. It was escalated to HR and management but they did nothing.

Many thanks to the co-editors of the post. May we pause for a moment to appreciate the gentle irony of this post juxtaposed against the slate of Scholarly Kitchen (est. 2008) chefs who appear to be nearly, if not entirely, “white”? I include the muppet. (It’s not easy being POC in publishing.)

You are not the first (nor are you likely to be the last) to draw attention to our current makeup. We continue to invite new Chefs from a variety of different backgrounds, but finding a more diverse group of authors remains difficult for us. I wrote about this more here:

Racial and geographic diversity remain struggles. The Scholarly Kitchen in many ways reflects the scholarly communications community, which is predominantly white and western. Recruiting new bloggers is never easy. Only a small portion of the general population seems to enjoy blogging. We need authors that write well and that have the time and inclination to do so frequently. Perhaps more importantly, we look for bloggers with something interesting to say, and a willingness to take the risk of voicing a public opinion (see above). Those who face career disadvantages due to bias are more vulnerable than those in a position of privilege, which so far has made many hesitant to write in this space. We continue to try to recruit new voices and Siân Harris from INASP has joined us to help build a bridge to scholars and publishers throughout the globe.

One way we’re addressing it is increasing the number of guest posts we run — this has helped us bring in more diverse voices, particularly folks who won’t/can’t make the commitment to regularly write here. We’re also looking to offer some authors an anonymous platform to write here as well, which may help assuage some concerns about exposure. But if you have recommendations for Chefs of any background, please do send them along.

I have to agree with David on this.

I’m not a part of the diversity coffee group at my job because of the retribution or reactionary measures I fear from my supervisors. I’m already the only black person in the department, and the last thing I’d want to do is to bring more attention to myself. My work is already scrutinized closer than others, and my supervisor writes me emails that are beyond unprofessional that she doesn’t write to other members (all white) of our department. I can’t imagine writing for the Scholarly Kitchen and putting my name on anything on the website.

That’s just asking for trouble.

It’s heartbreaking to me. I’ve worked just as hard as anyone else to get this position. I went to the “right” schools, I took the “right” leadership and certificate classes, I networked with people all over the press. Yet still I’m treated as though I don’t work here or if I’m the administrative assistant. And I’ve decided that I’m leaving the publishing industry this Fall. It’s not worth it.

I’ve been at my press for 10 years, and a person that I work with occasionally followed me to my desk when I had forgotten my pass to get into the building. When I asked him what the hell he was doing, he said, he’d wasn’t sure if he’d seen me before and wanted to be sure I belonged here.

When I told my boss she said, “Next time don’t forget your pass.”

Can you imagine what she’d say if she knew I was writing this comment?

Dear David,

I have read this response from you about why TSK is so white a couple times and each time, I am supremely disturbed by the following sentences:
“We need authors that write well and that have the time and inclination to do so frequently. Perhaps more importantly, we look for bloggers with something interesting to say, and a willingness to take the risk of voicing a public opinion (see above).”

There are COUNTLESS bloggers and journalists who are people of color. When you respond to the question “why aren’t there more POC writers on your blog” with “we need people who write well. we need people who have something interesting to say,” you are implying that people of color DO NOT write well or do not have interesting things to say. There is NO reason for you to have these sentences in your response to this question. The rest of what you say is more relevant, but what you are implying by adding these unnecessary “explanations” is extremely problematic. Please be more careful with your words.

I apologize if those phrases came off differently than I intended. I’m saying that only a very small portion of the overall community is both willing and able to write in the style and with the frequency we require, regardless of their ethnic background. Since our community is predominantly white and western, and most people do not enjoy blogging, nor are they willing do the extra work and to take the risks required in doing so for the kind of writing we offer, we’re starting with a tiny sliver of a community where minority representation is poor to begin with.

Again, suggestions for potential Chefs are greatly appreciated.

While working at one job site, I sat around a large table with six people in close quarters. All of us were white except one African American man across from me. I was considerably older that everyone in the room (most were in their twenties to early thirties). I was continually amazed at how no matter the topic, the joking and laughing, talking, etc. always the somehow would morph into comments around or directly related to the fact that this man was black – comments about culture, music, people, food, etc. as if he should know all of this. I believe these people were teasing – I’ve seen it time and time again. People think because they work closely with someone, or have developed a friendly work or even out-of-work relationship with someone, allows them to say comments like this as if somehow it’s “okay” because they “know” the POC better or they’re “close” to them. Having been married to a person of Chinese descent (but not from China) for over 24 years, and seeing racism coming at him through his eyes, I can tell you that it does not matter how well you think you are friends with someone – these comments sting, are incredibly hurtful, and are sometimes(?) forgiven but never ever forgotten. My husband was willing to give a pass to an older person as someone who grew up in different era, and thus, would never understand or change. But it would totally catch off guard if we met a young person who did this. It was so disappointing. He would never have anything more to do with that person again. And be aware that pointing out something “nice” about African Americans or Asians is just as racist and no different than being called a name. Both make a person FEEL DIFFERENT. We would always laugh and call this the Chinese food syndrome. We would meet someone who, usually upon introduction, would tell us they “loved Chinese food” or “they just had Chinese food last weekend at this great new restaurant”, etc. And you’re not fooling anyone when you ask them “where are they from?” I believe the core of the problem is that whomever is in charge or whomever has the power in the organization will continue to hire people who are “just like them”. We need to break out of this as well as stop pointing out people’s differences. I would challenge people doing the hiring to do it based on resume and application only – no names or face-to-face interviews. “Oh, but we need to know if they’ll fit in”, you say. How? By the way they look? Sound? Act? That’s bias. They’ll fit in if they do their work and help their team accomplish the goals of the project. Find a way for someone to communicate what they can do, how they’ve fit into group work in the past, what they’ve accomplished, etc. so they can be hired without bias. I believe this is what has to happen.

Oh, and the man across from me at that job site? He left a few months after I did.

“We’re all really surprised how smart you are considering where you’re from, but . . . ”

—My department manager, “mentoring” me

Just ask the so-called industry leaders for a report on promotions and diversity. You will find a definite pattern emerging which resonates with all those comments above. Our industry is plagued by these:
1. Third world authors, colleagues are always treated with a doubt
2. Publishing is taking the path colonialists took in taking over content from the east for free and selling them back at high prices
3. No third world person or Asians working in any STM publisher in a european or an american location ever shows up in a management tier
4. Beer drinking buddy culture persists in top management. If you look like them, talk like them, share their demented values, you get a bump up
5. Calling ignorance of racist behavior as “unconcious bias” is just cowardice. Ignorance is not same as innocence
6. Our management culture with its abnormal margins is as greedy as any sector. The greedy you are personally the higher you get into management. POCs do not have the luxury pf greed, and that actually keeps us sane

Thank you for posting, and sharing comments, this is deeply concerning, and a much needed first small step to raising greater awareness via and within TSK.

I’m drawn to think, where do things start to go wrong in our ecosystems, kids play innocently (and in my experience) don’t see color, they just have fun, play, and share pure innocent joyous experiences, they see others as fellow humans who are fun to be with … this is the environment we sought out, and encouraged, I realize not everything is like this, and there are deep rooted prejudices across society. We need to find better ways to address, challenge and change the status quo.

My experience has been very different and, although it is only anecdotal, every POC I’ve known who grew up in an environment in which they were a numerical minority has similar stories: As an Asian American child, by 3 or 4 years old, I’d been called the c-word, g-word, j-word, and n-word (yes, the n-word, many times) by other children; had my skin touched because it was different; had children pull the corners of their eyes to make them “slanty”; been told that so-and-so couldn’t play with me because I was a [c,g,j,n-word]; and so on. This didn’t change as I got older, instead vulgar sexual insults were added to the repertoire. These things didn’t happen all the time, I had mostly good and happy interactions with other children. I’m just fine. The point is simply that I am probably not the only POC who would disagree with the claim that children “don’t see color, they just have fun, play, and share pure innocent joyous experiences.”

I think the original poster’s point was that humans aren’t born with these racial prejudices. They’re social constructs deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Western world – learned or inherited. I fully appreciate your statement though which mirrors my own experience as a person of African descent who grew up in England. What I considered in my formative years, when I thought back about the names I was called, is that those kids learnt those words from somewhere. Then you realize the extent of the mountain we have to climb when it comes to equality.

It would be very interesting to see the statistics on how many people of color stay in academic publishing after 5 years.

When I started in publishing I knew 10 people of color who worked in 5-6 publishing houses. Twenty years later I’m the only one who is still in publishing. 6 of the 10 never made it to year 3. 4 of the 6 never made it past the assistant position in those 3 years.

Is racism the cause of all these people of color to leave publishing?
I don’t know the answer to that.
But it’s certainly an enormous loss of talent, experience and culture.

When I talk to other publishing professionals of color this is the common refrain:

“We go to the same schools, get the same degrees, sit in the same classrooms and get the same certificates that others do. Yet we’re not promoted. We make less than our white counterparts. We are talked down to and passed over. We are barely spoken to in meetings and then completely snubbed in the hallways. We are told we are mad, sad, or just not a good fit. And when we complain, we’re told we’re imagining it. We just want to be successful, is that too much to ask?”

I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
I also don’t know what the solution is.
I do know that there’s a lot of work to be done, and that the publishing professionals of color shouldn’t be the ones doing the heavy lifting.

We white people can start by getting rid of terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” that continue to reinforce our centrality while allowing us to pretend we’re doing important work. Read “The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-kegler/the-sugarcoated-language-of-white-fragility_b_10909350.html). The reread this very important challenge, appropriately given the last word in the main post: “Instead of diversity™, scholarly publishing needs decolonization – a complete, utter rethinking and remapping of power relationships. This means white people in the profession — including well-intentioned liberal whites, self-identified woke whites and well-meaning white allies — have a great deal of humbling and challenging work to do. Are you up to it?” I hope we are. I wish I could be more certain.

I second Alice’s thanks to the authors and contributors of this post as well as the sentiment that we all need to be part of the solution. Having the conversation is one thing, effecting change requires so much more. We need that change.

In Edmond Sanganyado’s 25 March post “Citation Censure: When your peers don’t cite your research” he wonders why peers in his specialized sub discipline in organic chemistry don’t cite his work. It’s a small field, and anyone working in the field who has ever used a search engine has to run across each others’ work. According to Sanganyado, his work has never been criticized in related papers, but worse, it has been entirely ignored, even in critical reviews for which he work was directly on point and readily available. He wonders if he is ignored because he is an African.

The following day had a story in National Public Radio (USA), suggesting that Western journals are biased against African researchers (“Scientists In Africa Wonder If There’s Bias Against Their Research“).  It’s hard to think there’s nothing to these reports.

On a positive note, I have felt that where I work my colour or my sex has not limited me. So far my experience in the industry has been more positive then other companies and industries I have worked in. It is true that when I go to conferences many times I the only or one of a few people of colour but its never stopped me being successful. The only place I really feel racism is outside of the work place and going about my personal life. I experience it perhaps when visiting the doctors, people looking at me if I have a nice car and others areas where people can be passive racist which now I just see as a normal part of my life having grown up with it.

I’m curious, what does your press do to make you feel comfortable and help you to achieve success? If you know, please share it so it can be a road map or a starting point to academic presses who don’t have anything in place yet. I say this to you, because instead of showing solidarity your post made it look like the people of color who experience bias, discrimatory practices, or microaggressions are the cause of their own problems. Since you’ve have figured out the secret to sererenity in publishing, what’s your secret? I don’t know if you’re an anomaly in the way that people of color are treated at university presses or not, what I do know is that there are over 150 academic presses in the United States, and in this post there are 36 incidents of discriminatory practices, with many more narratives to follow. I don’t think they’re lying. Especially since the people who collected and those who have given their narratives are so fearful of condemnation and retaliation that they have not included their names on this post. What’s your take on that other than, how great your experience is? I’m glad it’s going great for you, but I have worked in this industry for a very long time and I’ve decided to leave it because I’ve worked for 5 years and have not received a promotion, a salary in pace with other project editors, and have been told by my supervisor that “she just doesn’t know what to do with my experience”, while another supervisor called me “combative” the first week he worked with me because I corrected him on something he said. These are real stories from people who love the profession, but don’t have safe spaces to work in. Don’t demean their stories with flippancy and callousness. We need to come up with solutions, are you up to the challenge?

Some additional reading.


This blog seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of “microaggressions.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social “others” are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

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