Dear Tattered Cover Customers,
Tattered Cover has been largely quiet in the wake of the events that have unfolded over the last ten days. We want to make a statement of support and take a moment to explain why we've been quiet.
Black Lives Matter.
We agree with, embrace, and believe that black lives matter. We reject the statement "All Lives Matter" as an either valid or helpful response. As an analogy, consider the human skeleton. There are 206 bones in the human body. Do they all matter? Yes. But if one of those bones is broken, it matters more than the others, and will continue to matter more until it's healed. We stand in solidarity with our black friends and neighbors, and grieve the senseless and brutal loss of life; not just of George Floyd and other recent victims, but of all lives lost from centuries of oppression and abuse. We believe there must be systemic change. We believe this with all our hearts.
So why have we been quiet?
First, we think this is a time for voices other than ours to be heard. As a white-owned business, with a predominantly white staff, we feel this is a time for us to take a step back, to allow others to command more and greater attention.
More significant, though, is our nearly 50-year policy of not engaging in public debate. For Tattered Cover to shout this from the rooftops, to drape our spaces with banners proclaiming these simple and unalterable truths, would be anathema to a different principle that we also hold dear, and one that is central, we believe, to the role of an independent bookstore.
Our value to the community is to provide a place where access to ideas, and the free exchange of ideas, can happen in an uninhibited way. It's not for us to determine which ideas in the pages on our shelves are valid and which are not. We leave that to you, our readers.
Consider Tattered Cover's history:
Whom a person chooses to love is as plain and simple a concept as equity and justice for all Americans. Yet, Tattered Cover did not take a stand when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was being debated in Congress and was ultimately passed by Congress. This was in spite of the many members of the LGBTQ community on our staff who were appalled at the law. Nor did we publicly cheer when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as being unconstitutional.
Ted Nugent, a controversial and outspoken advocate of gun rights, was scheduled to appear at Tattered Cover not long after the Columbine High School shooting -- the first school shooting in what would be a horrifically sad trend of school shootings in the two decades to follow. Mr. Nugent's comments about Columbine were both insensitive and abhorrent. Yet, despite staff opposition and the threat of violence, Tattered Cover went forward with the event.
Tattered Cover did not take a stand on Denver's Urban Camping Ban, which according to some, criminalized homelessness. This in spite of Occupy Denver protesting outside our downtown store most Friday nights for three and a half years. They threatened and cajoled staff and customers, they defaced the building, and they disrupted business. The easy thing to do would have been to write the letter to city hall decrying the camping ban that Occupy Denver demanded. We did not.
Why? Why go through this heartache?
Because this is a slippery slope.
If Tattered Cover puts its name and weight either behind, or in opposition to, one idea, members of our community will have an expectation that we must do the same for all ideas. Engaging in public debate is not, we believe, how Tattered Cover has been and can be of greatest value to our community.
We provide access to knowledge, information, and ideas, and we create a safe space for those ideas to be discussed. We provide access to books filled with a multitude of life experiences. Books that heal, educate, challenge or bring any range of emotions to the reader. The unprecedented number of orders we received over the last week, and are still receiving, for books about antiracism, is evidence of how we can serve you best -- by being a conduit to information and stories that matter to our community.
Some people may also think we take these positions for financial gain, or to protect sales. We don't, and the reality is usually the opposite. In many cases where we refuse to proactively engage in debate, it costs Tattered Cover business and customers. We do it for the principle.
Can we improve how we go about doing what we do? Absolutely.
We know we can and we will do better in regard to the things that make our bookstores strong and relevant. With this in mind, we state the following:
* Tattered Cover will carry and promote a wider diversity of books. We commit to you, our customers, that we will identify and feature more titles by black authors, and by all authors of color and from all under-represented communities.
* We will schedule a wider diversity of author events. We commit to you, our customers, that we will schedule more events with black authors, and with all authors of color and from all underrepresented communities. We will partner with organizations and communities of color in Denver and statewide to ensure we do this in a mindful and meaningful way.
* And finally, we pledge to you, our customers, and to our staff, that we can and will continue to hire and promote employees from as wide a diversity of backgrounds as possible. That we will do our best to take measurable steps to ensure our staff is reflective of the entire community.
We have tried to do all these things in our five years of stewardship of this business, but we acknowledge we have fallen short. Our priority is to make Tattered Cover a more equitable space for customers and staff alike, and we will take steps to do that. We expect you to hold us accountable.
These are things we can and will do.
But we will still not engage in public debate because the principles of free speech, reader privacy, and the right of our customers to feel Tattered Cover is a space free from judgment, are how we believe we can best serve all of you.
All we can offer is our conscience and industry to do what we think is right for Tattered Cover, its customers, and the larger community, and to continue to transparently communicate our goals and intentions to you.
Thanks as always for your support.
Len & Kristen
Co-Owners of Tattered Cover Book Store