In an effort to celebrate Black History Month, and in a push for ethnic inclusiveness, book publisher Penguin Random House and retailer Barnes and Noble are turning white literary characters black.
For a promotional event in one of America’s largest cities, twelve classic novels are being given a facelift as covers swap characters’ races as a means of giving representation to individuals of varying ethnic backgrounds. Nothing in the novels themselves is being changed, so white characters within the so-called ‘diverse editions’ are still Caucasian in the text, making the move the literary world’s version of blackface.
Among the titles sacrificed on the altar of hollow pandering are Romeo and Juliet, Frankenstein, The Three Musketeers, and Moby Dick. Grabbing the most social media attention, however, is the updated cover to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as many believe it is dripping in racial stereotypes. The image depicts a black Dorothy, but instead of elegant ruby red slippers, the iconic shoes are replaced with a pair of sneakers.
The two companies are supposedly pushing for representation, but the only thing being represented here is the disingenuous mindset behind corporate America’s diversity agenda. Time and time again they raise the flag of various causes and tout the importance of [insert whatever identity here], yet rarely do they live up to their own publicly held ‘ideals’.
Be it LGBT issues, poverty causes, or inclusivity initiatives, far too often the people being put on display are nothing more than tokens to the actors claiming righteousness. Thankfully this time people were quick to see through the facade, but who knows? Maybe next year they’ll move beyond literary blackface, and a new iteration of Moby Dick will feature Ahab hunting a brown whale instead of a white one, and the woke side of the net will clap.