May 13 2008
Millenia Black announced that the settlement of her suit with Penguin over the allegations that Penguin tried to make her write black characters. As a part of the settlement, Black had to purge every reference to the suit from her site as well as refrain from any future discussion. Oddly, some people deem this as a victory. It’s a victory for someone, but I don’t think it’s a victory for African American authors particularly in light of the gag and purge order.
The very fact that the discussion is completely stifled doesn’t illuminate bad practices or even prevent the actions that were alleged from happening in the future.
Settlements are victories only for the parties involved, not for the classes the parties might represent. This case can’t be used as a sword by any other author in the future and with the gag and purge order, the discussion around it is quieted. I would actually argue that the winner is Penguin and wonder about the strength of the allegations due to the fact the outcome would seem to indicate that Black herself had little leverage. The gag order, you see, is common. The purging? Uncommon.