James Patterson apologizes for saying white male authors face ‘racism’

Author James Patterson appears at an event to promote his joint novel with former President Bill Clinton, "The President is Missing," in New York on June 5, 2018. Mary Altaffer/AP Photos

Prolific novelist James Patterson issued a public apology Tuesday after comments he made during a newspaper interview drew fierce criticism.

In an article published Sunday by The Sunday Times, Patterson speaks about how white male writers are victims of “racism,” especially older white men.

Patterson expressed concern “that it is hard for white men to get writing gigs in film, theatre, TV or publishing,” as paraphrased by The Sunday Times.

The paper quoted him as saying that this alleged exclusion of white men is “just another form of racism. What’s that all about?”

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“Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet many 52-year-old white males,” Patterson told the outlet.

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His comments immediately drew ire from racialized writers who spoke about how difficult it is for them to land book deals.

Frederick Joseph, New York Times best-selling author of The Black Friend and Patriarchy Blues, tweeted that he has had white editors reject his novels because they “already have Black male authors.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Patterson shared his apology on social media.

“I apologize for saying white male writers having trouble finding work is a form of racism. I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers,” he wrote. “Please know that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard—in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.”

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Patterson is one of the world’s most successful authors, having published more than 200 books and selling around 450 million copies of his work. One of his most popular series centres around Alex Cross, a black detective, and has been adapted several times into movies. Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry have both portrayed Alex Cross in film adaptions.

In 2020, The New York Times did an analysis of 7,124 books and found that 95 per cent of books written between 1950 and 2018 were written by white people. In 2018, white people wrote 89 per cent of books.


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