A few weeks ago, I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about publishers hiring sensitivity editors, especially for children’s books. From the title of the article, I assumed that a sensitivity editor would flag books and require authors to include some sort of warning that the characters or situation depicted in that book might be upsetting to some readers–sort of like the nightly news caution before showing graphic images or The Myth Busters “Don’t Try This At Home.”
However, the article quickly set me straight. Sensitivity Editors are readers, hired by either the publishing house or the author, to examine a manuscript and point out unconscious bias. This seemed like a good idea to me. If I were writing a character or situation for which I had no direct knowledge, I would want someone who had that knowledge to read what I wrote and point out mistakes. Not fix the mistakes, but point them out.
Much to my surprise, not everyone agreed with me. Authors, editors and readers have had mixed reactions to the idea. Some see it as a good idea, research, and a way to ensure the characters or situations are well-rounded and realistic. Others see it as censorship and slippery slope leading to the banning of thoughts and ideas.
So my question for The Extra Squeeze Team: What do you think about Sensitivity Editors?
Come back to A Slice of Orange on April 30th to read what The Extra Squeeze Team thinks.
In my opinion, this is entirely censorship. The thought police are out in full force these days, and they can literally find bias in a glass of water. The whole issue of “unconscious bias” is like a lot like beauty–it’s solely in the eye of the beholder.
I think it’s an intriguing idea. I know I shy away from writing ethnic characters for fear of offending, but I might try if I knew I had a sensitivity editor to let me know if I’ve gone astray. We all see the world through our own eyes, but our experience may not be expansive enough to relate an ethnic character with authenticity Something to think about.
It’s interesting to note how the definition of terms has changed over time. We’re all speaking the same language and using the same vocabulary, but the breadth of meanings and interpretations are vast. Words have been given a new range of nuances and underlying tones depending upon professions, cultural mores and political affiliations. Have we become that diversely separated? How do we all get back on the same page.