Stephen King found a new way to horrify some of his readers on Tuesday—with a pair of tweets that dismissed the importance of diversity in art.
King, apparently responding to the controversy over the Academy Awards nominating mostly white people in many of its categories, posted his thoughts on the matter on Twitter, writing, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue--as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway--did not come up. That said...— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
...I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
Unsurprisingly, King faced an immediate backlash from writers and readers upset that he seemed to be discounting the importance of diversity in the creative world.
"never considering diversity" is, in fact, making a choice to privilege certain works of art over others. WOMEN CRIME WRITERS, a collection I know you have read, would not exist without the specific goal of diversity, in the form of reviving neglected/overlooked writers.— Sarah Weinman (@sarahw) January 14, 2020
I hope you’re listening to the well-reasoned responses pointing out that this position is itself a major reason why the awards are so white. It’s hard to unpack your own biases when you pretend they don’t exist. Said, of course, with the utmost respect.— Gwenda Bond 😈 (@Gwenda) January 14, 2020
Every writer of color reading this, including me, has had to work ten times harder to get the same recognition/opportunities straight white male authors get from the start. Same goes for women, LGBTQIA writers, & other underrepresented voices. Diversity matters. It matters a lot.— Gabino Iglesias (@Gabino_Iglesias) January 14, 2020
With all due respect, I'm afraid that a meritocracy could work only if the game weren't rigged.— Laura Lippman (@LauraMLippman) January 14, 2020
With the utmost respect, I think this is quite a bit unfair. When films created by people of color, irrespective of quality, constantly get overlooked by institutions that are predominately comprised of white men, there is an implicit bias at work here.— Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins) January 14, 2020
King appeared to listen to his critics, quickly following up his original tweets with two that acknowledged that women, people of color and LGBTQ people “are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.”
The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
You can't win awards if you're shut out of the game.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
Michael Schaub is an Austin, Texas–based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.