Amazon has been widely condemned by dozens of anti-racist campaigners over the listing on its website of racist literature under the label of “collectible”.
Various editions of Ten Little N*ggers by English writer Agatha Christie are currently available for purchase, through third parties, via the online retailer.
The use of the racist slur in the title has sparked concern from a number of Black writers and public figures.
Award-winning author Alex Wheatle told HuffPost UK: “I object to any books of racist content being sold on Amazon. The company needs to tighten up its checks and procedures so these bigoted titles are not available on their platforms.”
Lawyer and media commentator Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu also tweeted: “This RACIST/OFFENSIVE title of Agatha Christie book is labelled rare & collectable by @AmazonUK.”
She added: “Profiting on oppression of Black people & enabling racism is REPREHENSIBLE. Remove NOW and apologize promptly!”
Just weeks ago, Amazon banned the sale of most editions of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other Nazi propaganda books from its store following decades of campaigning by Holocaust charities.
Evadney Campbell, founder of Shiloh PR – a marketing company aimed at amplifying Black businesses, echoed Mos-Shogbamimu’s sentiments.
“Our pain, as Black people, is not recognised – and seen as if it can be used for marketing,” she told HuffPost UK. “I think Amazon should remove this immediately and it should be condemned because in this day and age there is just no room for such words any more.”
Speaking from an entrepreneurial perspective, Campbell questioned whether organisations profit from outrage created by racism scandals.
“I was so appalled and disheartened to see the book being sold,” she told HuffPost UK.
“From a PR point of view, I think sometimes these things are deliberately placed to stoke controversy among Black people. Black people are a powerful group in terms of Black Twitter and how we will get onto something and cause it to go viral.
“Sometimes I think this is part of these companies’ marketing and PR strategy.
“It is as though this is free publicity from us and the more we share and show our anger and disgust at these things, the more publicity these companies get and sadly the more they sell – because there are people out there who want to buy these products, who don’t care, who want to see us arguing over things that we find offensive.”
Tweeting directly to Amazon, one user, Lisa Elliott, said: ”@AmazonUK @amazon how can you have this disgusting book on sale in your site? How very dare you sell this open display of racism in this day and age – awful!!!!!!! #racism #racist”.
Another person wrote: “Wtf @amazon how is this available on your website/app? In this day and age you sell racist items? I don’t care if it’s a collectible, this needs to be removed and the seller banned!”
Another user, with the handle @BlackBoysCan1, tweeted: “Why is @Amazon & @AmazonUK still selling these books? It’s 2020 FFS. It was racist then. It’s racist now! Amazon remove these from sale and prevent sellers being able to sell products with n*gger in the title!”
Cairo Aibangbee, author of Searching for Rainbows, described the revelation as “exhausting”.
“Visibility of derogatory work such as this is harmful. It perpetrates the false narrative that Black people are lesser, it reinforces old tropes and harmful stereotypes. It is violent – why should I or anyone be exposed to such harmful and aggressive language?” she said to HuffPost UK.
“The fact that this is still a public listing on Amazon illustrates a total lack of regard from the company and an arrogance or dangerous indifference rooted in white privilege and institutionalised racism. Racist products should have no shelf space on Amazon’s virtual marketplace.”
Like many others, Patrick Vernon – community activist and founder of the 100 Great Black Britons campaign – has also called for the retailer to remove the book from circulation and instead focus on promoting Black history resources on its platform.
He told HuffPost UK: “Amazon as a leading online global brand should have clear policies which support equality and diversity of all its customers and retailers. If the company really values its customers, especially from those around the world of African descent, it should stop selling and promoting this and other similar publications immediately.
“This publication and many others are part of this history and context which still influence everyday racism and the portrayal of Black people in the media, and the rise in online racism and AfrIphobia on social media platforms, which many people in public life are experiencing on a daily basis.
“The diffusion of negative racist and stereotype images was based on the perception, experiences and value judgements of colonial expatriates based in Africa – teachers, administrators, soldiers, missionaries, entrepreneurs, settlers, explorers, and anthropologists – and the legacy of slavery and plantation societies in North America, the Caribbean and South America.”
He added: “Amazon should focus on selling and promotion Black British history instead.”
In the light of the Covid-19 crisis and with school closures, Vernon has collaborated with the National Educational Union (NEU) to launch a unique home school competition for children and young people to explore Black British history and multicultural Britain.
This competition is part of the relaunch of the 100 Great Black Britons campaign to celebrate the continued legacy and achievements of Black people in Britain.
The controversial novel by Christie was published in the UK in November 1939 and is among the best-selling books of all time.
It is named after a racist 1869 nursery rhyme for children which would later become a standard musical number featured in blackface minstrel shows over the years.
The US edition of Christie’s novel was later released in January 1940 with the title And Then There Were None, which is taken from the last five words of the song.
“One little n*gger boy living all alone/ He went and hanged himself and then there were none,” the line goes.
HuffPost UK has identified at least half a dozen books, all penned by white authors, containing the N-word in the title, with listings on Amazon.
An Amazon spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important. We are mindful of the global history of censorship and do not take such decisions lightly.
“Our store maintains content guidelines, which address content that is illegal or infringing. We remove products that do not adhere to our guidelines and when a concern is raised we promptly investigate it.”
It comes weeks after a new report by the Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD) revealed that dozens of hate groups and racist media outlets are receiving income via mainstream payment processors including Amazon.
On Amazon, self-published books by white supremacist authors and the entire catalogue of white nationalist publishers – including audiobooks – are easily available.