Author Stephen King is a member of the resistance in good standing:

But some of his progressive fans were shaken today when King suggested that “diversity” shouldn’t play a role in “matters of art” only the quality of the work:

As you can see, that statement was liked more than 32,000 times, but it also brought a strong reaction from thousands of people who felt that King was speaking from privilege:

Hugo award winning author Nora Jemisin had a similar take:

Director Ava DuVernay called the tweet “backward and ignorant.”

A couple of hours after his initial tweets, King offered a clarification:

That wasn’t good enough for Jemisin:

When Roxanne Gay writes that King’s statement “implies that diversity and quality cannot be synonymous” I think I get what she’s saying. There are plenty of talented people of every race so there’s no reason you can’t have both diversity and quality. Fair enough. But I don’t think King was saying they can’t be synonymous only that a judgment of quality shouldn’t involve any judgment of race.

Let’s not forget the context here. The Oscars are judging the cream of the crop and once again this year the awards (and the Oscar voters) are being accused of not nominating enough people of color. The suggestion being made is that the largely white Oscar voters are too biased (perhaps unconsciously) to be fair. And in response to this accusation which is making the rounds on social media, King is saying that he tries to judge the quality of work, not the diversity of the creator. In other words, he’s not giving anyone a bonus in his estimation because they are a minority, just as he wouldn’t give anyone points for being part of the white majority.

I think it’s fair to say, as King does, that it’s important to try to ensure a level playing field which certainly hasn’t always existed for people of color in Hollywood and elsewhere. However, as a voter at the Oscars this year what is King supposed to do about this? Is he supposed to judge what’s presented to him on quality alone or is he supposed to favor someone based on their perceived opportunities?

As a judge, King still needs to look at what’s out there fairly. Self-conscious bias for one group is no improvement on unconscious bias for another. Equal opportunity is important but making that a reality can’t all be placed at the feet of Oscar voters. So as much as I don’t enjoy Stephen King’s political commentary what he said about judging quality apart from diversity isn’t backwards.