An organization that frequently advocates on behalf of divisive writers has ousted a poet from a committee leadership position for tweeting lines from Gone With the Wind.
Vanessa Place, author of several works including La Medusa and a criminal attorney, has been tweeting, line-by-line, the text of the novel for several months. Her account features a picture of Hattie McDaniel, the actress who played Mammy in the movie adaptation of the book.
On Monday, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), which supports 50,000 individual writers along with 500 college writing programs through advocacy and education, removed Place from a planning committee.
While some have supported what they see as Place's right to free speech, others see racism. A Change.org petition calling for her removal from the committee garnered more than 2,000 signatures, including from Saeed Jones, author of 'Prelude to Bruise' and BuzzFeed's literary editor.
"AWP's stated desire for inclusivity and diversity in the panel makeup requires an atmosphere of trust on the part of POC, LGBTQIA, and Disabled panel applicants," reads the petition, "and Place's racially insensitive, if not downright racist, projects violate that sense of trust."
"AWP believes in freedom of expression," the group said in a statement. "We also understand that many readers find Vanessa Place’s unmediated quotes of Margaret Mitchell’s novel to be unacceptable provocations, along with the images on her Twitter page."
"The group's work must focus…not upon the management of a controversy that has stirred strong objections and much ill-will toward AWP and the subcommittee," the statement continued.
But Place wrote Monday on Facebook, "I am sorry for hurting people of color. I am not sorry for forcing white people to reenact the soft comfort of individual denunciation or the sweet meat of playing ally when the best status one can hope for is that of collaborator. This is a necessary cruelty, and I believe in necessary cruelty."
She said she will stop the project only when she receives a cease-and-desist or when she has finished tweeting the novel.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.