The RWA Board spends a portion of every year reviewing, discussing and revising the RITA® contest to ensure that it meets its stated objectives and is reflective of the best books in the genre. Specifically, during the last few years, we’ve taken a hard look at contest issues, including judging, categories and scoring. A recent discussion among our members has highlighted a systemic issue—black authors are significantly underrepresented as finalists. While the Board only votes on changes to the contest during the July Board meeting, the only in-person meeting when the contest is not active, we do assess it all year long and the lack of representation of our black romance authors as RITA finalists and winners is a serious concern for us.
We’ve only recently started collecting demographic information on our members, and that is on a voluntary basis. But from what we could determine, the statistics for black author RITA finalists from 2000 to 2017 are:
• The number of finalist books by black authors is less than half of 1% of the total number of finalist books
• No black romance author has ever won a RITA
We understand there are questions about which authors enter and what percentage of entrants are black authors. We will attempt to gather that information in the future to answer these questions but, in the meantime, it is impossible to deny that this is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed. The RWA Board is committed to serving all of its members. Educating everyone about these statistics is the first step in trying to fix this problem. We know there are no perfect solutions but ignoring the issue is that not acceptable. To the extent members have suggestions, the Board would like to hear them.
This will not be an easy or quick fix, but we are committed to RWA being a welcoming and fair professional writing organization, open to all romance authors and celebrating the best romance books through our RITA contest.
You may contact any Board member with your thoughts, or President Dee Davis directly at president@RWA.org.
The RWA Board