From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
15 Demands for Anti-Racist Bookstores
We are the Black & Trans Pegasus Affinity Group, made up of current and former employees of Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Oakland, California. We want Pegasus and other bookstores to grapple with their ties to anti-Blackness, and start making material changes. We want bookstore owners and booksellers to implement our demands immediately. We want book shoppers to be critical of their local bookstores and only buy from bookstores that commit to anti-racist practices such as not calling the cops.
Who Are We?
We are the Black & Trans Pegasus Affinity Group, made up of current and former employees of Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Oakland, California. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What Do We Want?
We want bookstores to grapple with their ties to anti-Blackness, and start making material changes. We want bookstore owners and booksellers to implement our demands immediately. We want book shoppers to be critical of their local bookstores and only buy from bookstores that commit to anti-racist practices such as not calling the cops.
How Did We Get Here?
Our group was formed in response to anti-Black apathy and aggression we encountered from Pegasus Books' management and staff. On June 4th, the day of George Floyd's first memorial service in Minneapolis, a staff update was sent out without any acknowledgment of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and more Black people in the so-called United States. This disrespect is completely in line with how Pegasus has historically treated its Black employees.
We felt the need to reply to this staff memo with reports of experienced anti-Blackness at Pegasus in order to confront admin and staff on their rampant racism. We chose to also include reports of transphobia and ableism by our white affinity group members because if nothing is done to address discrimination by Pegasus admin, future Black employees at these intersections will inevitably experience transphobia and ableism to a more extreme degree.
These grievances included: Badgering and silencing Black employees, racial profiling of Black adults and children, and insufficient protection for Black workers from anti-Black management, staff, and customers alike.
"Pegasus's message to me was loud and clear: that I should remain quiet about issues that impact me as a Black person, and that I am expected to provide emotional support for my white coworkers."
No accountability or repair has been taken in any harmful incidents despite our attempts at creating a space for Pegasus admin and employees to change their behavior.
How Did Pegasus Respond?
For months we have received no direct response to our grievances from the owner, Amy Thomas. Amy has not taken responsibility for how thoroughly she has structured the store to silence and repress the needs of its Black employees. Rather than working with the Black anti-racist educator that we specifically requested (or negotiating with us), closed-door management meetings resulted in a decision to hire a white consultant who is "[committed to] loving fellow white people on their own journeys". So far there has been no sign that Pegasus ownership is willing to hold themselves accountable.
Why Go Public?
We were inspired by the work of No Neutral Alliance at SFMOMA, the Nyum Bai Workers Collective, and others who have openly confronted anti-Black workplace dynamics. Amy Thomas says "it has always been kind of a religion with [her] that [Pegasus expresses its] values by the books [it brings] in." We find this deeply chilling considering Pegasus sells books by known white supremacists and cops like Jordan B. Peterson, Francisco Cantu, and Charles Murray. The end result is that Pegasus, and other bookstores who give racists platforms, put a great deal of effort into retaining white supremacist customers while leaving Black employees unsupported and exposed to anti-Black micro- and macro-aggressions. As of now, Pegasus is not a safe place for Black people to work.
Complete inability to provide an environment in which Black employees feel safe falls on the heads of management. We are going public in the hope that our community of booksellers and customers will help hold Pegasus management accountable. If you want to support Black workers and fight anti-Blackness in your community, implement our demands. Encourage other local bookstores to do the same to avoid becoming obsolete. Deliver regular public reports of your store's implementation process. Continue to engage with Black employees and community members who are committed to anti-racist action beyond these demands.