A Muslim activist and artist weighed in on a controversy surrounding diversity in the arts by lamenting that she’d been unable to get anyone to publish her children’s book about Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Kay Tarapolsi, a Libyan American artist who according to her website creates art to “promote a positive image of Arab and Islamic culture,” accused horror writer Stephen King of displaying his “white privilege” on Tuesday.
King tweeted earlier in the day that he “would never consider diversity in matters of art.”
“It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,” he added.
The iconic novelist’s tweet earned him fierce backlash from progressive Twitter users, including Tarapolsi, outraged by King’s lack of “wokeness.”
Tarapolsi slammed King for his “white privilege” and said she’d been unable to find a publisher for her “quality children’s book on Ilhan Omar” last summer.
But you say this from #WhitePrivilage
I wrote a quality children's book on #IlhanOmar last summer & the struggle to get it published was painful & ultimately it didn't happen
You have zero idea how to live in my world, where I can't even find one book like this for my child
— A Crafty Arab (@acraftyarab) January 14, 2020
The “struggle” to get her book published was “painful,” Tarapolsi revealed, and ultimately fruitless.
“You have zero idea how to live in my world, where I can’t even find one book like this for my child,” she added.
Other Twitter users joined in the pile on, arguing that King’s status as a “white man” disqualified him from speaking on the realities facing people of color.
“Sir, respectfully saying you as a white man can’t really say that,” tweeted David Weissman, an American screenwriter who also happens to be white. “You had more advantages and opportunities than a person of color would have. They have been wrongfully held back in so many ways just because of their color skin.”
…said no liberal ever when the Grammys are won almost exclusively by blacks, or when blacks win Oscars but also have black only award shows, or Latinos win Grammys but also have the Latin Grammys, or….
You people are a joke.
— ❌Not Rich, Not White, Not Liberal (@Marcus_Porcius2) January 14, 2020
Feminist writer Roxane gay said it was “painful” to read King’s tweet.
“It implies that diversity and quality cannot be synonymous. They are not separate things. Quality is everywhere but most industries only believe in quality from one demographic. And now, here you are,” she said in reply.
“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,” tweeted LitReactor columnist Gabino Iglesias.
“Same goes for women, LGBTQIA writers, & other underrepresented voices. Diversity matters. It matters a lot.”
Difficult as creative industries are to penetrate, you KNOW us women and poc who make it past myriad obstacles stacked against us ARE QUALITY. We‘ve had to excel & eclipse our white male peers all our lives just to sit at their mediocre tables.
Stop with your willful ignorance.
— Octavia Butler knew… (@NotNikyatu) January 14, 2020
Morgan Jenkins, a senior editor for Zora, said King’s take was “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,” she tweeted.
— Peter Lloyd (@Suffragentleman) January 14, 2020
“You can’t…you didn’t just…oh ffs, Stephen, not you, too! With as much white male privilege as you have, with the audience to which you have access, if you won’t move the conversation forward, then BEEP BEEP, RICHIE,” tweeted one commenter.
King’s take was likely particularly disappointing to progressive Twitter users given his reliably left-wing positions in the past.
Uh oh… Stephen King is against affirmative action??? I hope he's ready to be canceled by all the people that LOVE him when he hates on Trump.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) January 14, 2020
The “Carrie” writer has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, who he once said was “scarier” than his novels.
In 2018, viral technology blog Mashable compiled a list of 37 anti-Trump tweets penned by King.