The RWA situation: my statement
Some of you may know about the implosion that has been happening with Romance Writers of America (RWA) on Twitter over the past week. For any who don’t and are interested, there is a good recap here
and several news articles that are mostly like this one at the Washington Post
I have been extremely vocal on Twitter about this terrible situation (but only today thought to make a statement here; I’m sorry, but I’ve been pretty sick).
RWA is very important to me and has been for the 18 years I’ve been a member. I served in leadership positions in several chapters for the organization and then served on the national board of directors from 2013-2017. I had even intended to run for president-elect, a two-year term that encompasses a year as PE and a year as president, but ultimately withdrew for reasons that I’ve since learned were manufactured. That’s a long story for another time. Suffice it to say, RWA is very important to me. I’ve met many of my closest friends there. I made industry connections. I met wonderful readers at the literacy fundraisers.
There has been a critical failure in leadership at the national level. The decision to censure and attempt to silence the voice of Courtney Milan, a member from a marginalized community, for calling out racism against that very community, was entirely and absolutely wrong. It has also demonstrated a reprehensible, systemic pattern of racial discrimination within the organization that has existed for many years.
I hate that, for far too long, I was too stupid and blind to see this. My eyes were opened by many members on my board of directors to things I should have noticed before, and we did try to make RWA a more inclusive and welcoming place for all writers—not just white, heterosexual, able-bodied writers. But now it feels like we only slapped Band-aids on the worst fractures. I’m very sorry for that.
I’m sorry I didn’t realize that there were, in practice, two RWAs—one for straight, white women and one for everyone else. I’m sorry that in 2006 I was excited to win a RITA award, when I should have realized it was ‘best romantic novella by a straight, white person.’ I am sure there are things in my old books that may be problematic; I will spend time beginning this month going through old books with a more educated eye. I apologize with all my heart for anything I’ve written that has caused harm, and I promise to do better.
I will always listen and try to be better and stand up, all the while recognizing that white privilege has blinded me to the micro and macroaggressions that so many have endured for so long. I will offer help when I can, and I hope RWA survives, but right now I’m not sure it deserves to.
I resigned my membership in protest at RWA’s actions against Courtney Milan but then withdrew my resignation when the time came that my voice would be important as part of a recall petition to force current leadership to step down. I am a signatory, with several past presidents and past board members, to a letter calling for a full forensic accounting and answers to the questions that must be addressed before RWA can move forward.
We can do better. We MUST do better. Love is love is love. The romance genre is about hope, and I must continue to believe and be hopeful, especially now, at the beginning of a new year and a new decade, that we can build a professional organization for romance writers that is inclusive and welcoming to all who agree with and live this belief.
Alyssa Day, January 2, 2020 2:40pm EST
RWA Director-at-Large, 2013-2017
RWA member since October, 2001