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Journal Editor Regrets Publishing Racist Article

July 31, 2020

Jonathan B. Imber, Jean Glasscock Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and editor in chief of the journal Society, said in a statement that he regrets publishing a commentary by Lawrence M. Mead that many scholars say is racist.

Publishing the piece "was a mistake, and one I deeply regret," Imber said. "My intent was to have this commentary published alongside two critical reviews of his 2019 book, Burdens of Freedom, on which Mead’s commentary is based, that identify flaws in Mead’s arguments. The decision was entirely my responsibility and no other member of the editorial board of Society was consulted or participated in that decision."

Imber said he's "recommended the call for retraction," and that Springer Nature, Society’s publisher, is conducting an investigation to be completed shortly. "I deeply regret the pain that this has caused. I apologize to everyone affected by this," he said.

Mead, an influential professor of politics and public policy at New York University, denies that his article attributing poverty among Black and Latinx people to their "culture" espouses racist views.

Springer Nature on Friday confirmed in a separate statement that it had retracted the article. "We are deeply sorry that this commentary was published in one of our journals and for the harm and distress this has caused," the publisher said. "Owing to a lack of editorial oversight, on both content and process grounds, this article should not have been published. Following an expedited investigation, the article has now been retracted and removed from the journal’s website with the full support of the editor-in-chief." 

Saying that it condemns racism and discrimination in all forms, the publisher added, "We have a responsibility to publish scholarly literature that is based on, and supported by, facts and evidence. In this instance we fell far short of the standards we set ourselves as a publisher, resulting in an article being published which failed to meet a high standard of research. We are doing everything we can to make sure this does not happen again."

We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

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