Monday, February 20, 2017 by Thomas Dishaw
Political correctness has reached an all-time high in society. Big publishers like Lee & Low Books, which is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States, have adopted company-wide policies to use “sensitivity readers” to flag possibly offensive material such as racism, sexism, or general offensive content before their books hit the shelves.
Publishers believe this is a necessary step due to the backlash writers have received recently over portrayals of so-called marginalized groups. According to the Chicago Tribune,”Last year J.K. Rowling was strongly criticized by Native American readers and scholars for her portrayal of Navajo traditions in the 2016 story ‘History of Magic in North America.’ Young-adult author Keira Drake was forced to revise her fantasy novel ‘The Continent’ after an online uproar over its portrayal of people of color and Native backgrounds. More recently, author Veronica Roth – of ‘Divergent’ fame – came under fire for her new novel, ‘Carve the Mark.’ In addition to being called racist, the book was criticized for its portrayal of chronic pain in its main character.” (RELATED: For news they don’t want you to read visit Censored.news)
What is a Sensitivity Reader? WriteInTheMargins.org, a website that helps writers and publishers find sensitivity readers, says these are people that will read through a manuscript and look for issues of representation and instances of bias on the page. These readers charge $250 per manuscript, and they claim to be experts in areas ranging from transgenderism, immigration, queerness/bi-sexualness, mental illness and much more.
According to the Sensitivity Reader Database, a lot of this so-called “expertise” comes from personal experience. One reader claims her expertise is in transgender and lesbian issues/representation, alcoholism, mental illness, and PTSD. Her “vast” knowledge comes solely from claims that she is a transgender and a lesbian, a rape survivor, and has dealt with PTSD, suicidal depression, and substance abuse.
One problem with the logic that life experience relays into expertise is that not everyone in a marginalized group has the same experiences or worldview. How one gay person perceives life will vary from that of another gay person, so these writers could still end up offending a reader.
The readers actually see themselves as a vital part of the publishing process. Dhonielle Clayton, a librarian and writer based in New York says she reviews two manuscripts per month. She goes line by line to look at diction, dialogue and plot. Clayton says she analyzes the authenticity of the characters and scenes, then points writers to where they can do more research to improve their work.
Clayton says, “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they’re supposed to be escapist and fun, they’re not supposed to be a place where readers ‘encounter harmful versions’ and stereotypes of people like them.”
Just imagine for a moment if Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Catch-22 had been screened for sensitive language. All of these books, which many have tried to ban over the years, would have lost the creative sparks that made them literary masterpieces. The writers being forced to hire sensitivity writers are a done a disservice as this type of censorship prevents them from perhaps making an impact on society. (RELATED: Get more news like this at Journalism.news)
This is a blatant attack on free speech. A reader being offended by certain language is not reason enough for the original work to be compromised. This has 1984 “Newspeak” written all over it. We cannot allow this Politically Correct generation to speak for all of us that are of sound mind to make personal decisions on what we do and don’t find offensive. If they succeed in destroying the language the next logical step is to destroy our thoughts.