Are the Publishing Industry and YA Book Community Really the Inclusive and Safe Spaces They Claim to Be? // A Discussion on Performative Allyship and Anti-Blackness in the Book Community

I’m sure all of you know the recent BLM protests in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless other innocent Black people spurred several conversations and revelations on YA Book Twitter.

So many people have been speaking out about their past or current experiences of racism and anti-Blackness within the publishing industry, and the number of bookish organizations and people recently revealed to be racist bigots are in a word, appalling (but not entirely surprising, unfortunately). And after every single one of these things would happen, the thought of ‘who is there to trust, then?’ kept springing up in my mind.

Maybe you’re thinking that it’s not all white people, or the actions of a few people in the same group don’t determine those of the rest in it (if this is what you’re thinking, I request you keep your mouth shut). But why is it that whenever another white person fucks up for the 1000th time, they always claim to be the ‘best’ allies or to have previously committed actions which are completely averse to the ones they’re being panned for? And are white and nB people showing support for Black people because they genuinely care about what we have to say, or are they just doing so in avoidance of being canceled?

I feel as if the publishing industry claims to be so inclusive and diverse with the ownvoices books they’re publishing, the marginalized creators they work with, and their uplifting of diverse voices, but when they’re condemned rightfully for behaving the exact opposite, they pretend as if this isn’t the case . . . or just, you know, don’t say anything at all and wait for everything to blow over. Also, I’m certain this goes hand-in-hand with what I just said, but it is so exasperating that all of the organizations and people recently criticized against for their actions have claimed to be the most respectful and inclusive allies towards Black people, but then proceed to show their ass right after. And for some, they just imply they do not care about any of the wrong happening in the world if it doesn’t directly concern them (in that case, they’re as bad as the people who publicly voice their terrible opinions).

I also wanted to talk about the effects the protests are having on the support and audience, numerical wise, on Black creators and their work. I’m glad about all the support for Black authors and creators recently in publishing and the YA book community, but some part of me is fearful that nothing has really changed, and it’ll go back to how it usually is at moment’s notice. That people will stay with their identical YA fantasies with the same basic white heroine, their carbon copies of various SFF book boxes which are really another word for ‘Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Mass, and Holly Black books, candles, and accessories,’ and their middle aged white women bookstagrammers who think speaking up about people’s right to live is ruining their ‘safe space.’

But also, why do we have to get murdered for you guys to finally hear our voices (yet some still blatantly ignoring them)? Why do people have to burn down and vandalize things for our work to be recognized? Why does it take so much work for Black-authored books to become largest-river-company bestsellers when similar opportunities and accolades are casually handed to white people? What in the world will it take for people to actually listen to our voices, year-round, and not when we’re being viciously discriminated against or in the time of [insert-minority-group-month]?

I know it will take a lot of work for Black voices in the book community to finally be treated well and fairly, and for nB and white people to support us with the same vigor you do with your white creators, or even something more than it. This isn’t something which can be changed in one day or with 280 characters, but I am begging you guys to make an active effort to start changing things. And ignoring everything happening, calling your social media platform a safe space when you really mean ‘I’m perfectly complacent with ignoring the struggles of an entire group of people and posting my black square for the day 😀’ is not helping at all.

So, I ask you: please keep this energy of support in July, in September, in 2021, and forever. Please listen to what we have to say and uplift our voices. Please do all of this, not because it’s woke or it’s what’s in right now, but because we have been aching so badly for our voices to be heard for such a long time. Please do so because it’s only fair after all the attention you give to white people for doing the bare minimum. It’s honestly only human, so please.

I don’t really have anything to say, but please sign these petitions, donate if you can, and consider utilizing these resources! So many petitions haven’t met their goal yet and there are countless of Black organizations and people in need of funding.

35 thoughts on “Are the Publishing Industry and YA Book Community Really the Inclusive and Safe Spaces They Claim to Be? // A Discussion on Performative Allyship and Anti-Blackness in the Book Community

  1. I just read this entire post and wow – I’m so glad you’ve made a post like this, it was really well written (even though you shouldn’t have to write posts like this in the first place) BLM is not a trend and it’s sad that people are treating it like one. Part of me understands that the nature of social media is to focus on one thing and then move on and forget about it – despite how important the topic might be – but I know this can’t be the case for BLM. This can’t die down in a month. Everyone must always be fighting for change – (thought people probably won’t be as vocal as they are right now), but I know me and other nb people still need to be making sure they are listening to black voices, supporting them, educating themselves, reading books by black authors etc and not just going back to “normal” (reading the same popular white books and supporting only them) as you said. Sorry I feel like I just repeated everything you just said in Ur post in this comment. But genuinely this post is so important and perfectly written – will be boosting this forever 🥰🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE THIS POST, Faith!! Everything in it was written incredibly well and it completely encapsulated all my scattered feelings about both the bookish community and Black Lives Matter/ allyship. Of course, it was written much more coherently and actually made sense, unlike if I wrote this 😂. I completely agree with this statement, especially: “What in the world will it take for people to actually listen to our voices, year-round, and not when we’re being viciously discriminated against or in the time of [insert-minority-group-month]?” OH MY GOD this makes so much sense and all of my thoughts are clicking into place!
    It also frustrates me that so many white book influencers (“allies”) are standing AGAINST the movement and doing the bare minimum that will allow them to not be canceled by their audience. Also, I haven’t been especially active on book twitter, so could you fill me in on what prompted you to write that lots of bookish organizations and influencers were exposed as racist bigots? Were any prominent figures exposed? (asking so I can avoid them haha) Sorry lol if you don’t want to, I completely understand- it’s not your job to educate me 🙂
    This post is everything- as an nB POC I feel like I can relate to certain aspects of this post/struggle in general, but I also understand that I will never understand fully (my ethnicity isn’t being disproportionately killed, denied loans, housing, and more, etc) and all I can do is be the best ally that I can. ❤
    Thank you for writing this post, although I'm also saddened that there is even a need to write it. Sending love through these times xx and if you want to scream about Felix Ever After or anything else with me (almost done with FEA!!!) my email is oddityinamillion@gmail.com and I'm active on Hangouts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Aditi!! And I know!! There are so many white people who’ll do the absolute bare minimum (though now thankfully, you see less of it in the book community specifically) and then . . . cry???? because people are criticizing them for it?? Also, I’ll dm you some companies. And ik I already said this but tysm 😭😭

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ” Please do so because it’s only fair after all the attention you give to white people for doing the bare minimum. ” I /love/ this post Faith!!! These times have made all of us a little more mindful and critical with our decisions as both consumers and advocates. Thank you for writing this and I know this might have been stressful yet cathartic for you as well. :>

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thank you for taking the time and energy to write this, faith. you wrote everything so well, but i’m glad you had to write this post at all ❤ it is devastating to see how people have only begun to care about Black stories and voices, and i'm so sorry you have to suffer between feeling the recent boost in support for your community and wondering why it took death for that to finally happen / if it will even continue after this. (it makes me so happy to see the promo that Black books are getting from publishers right now, but it genuinely makes me flinch to think about how they hadn't been doing it before and there's no way to tell if it'll even continue next week.)

    i hope going forward that the book community will be reading Black books all year round, and that certain people will stop being so performative!! we all have work to do (myself included!) and i hope this has finally opened the eyes of the people who needed it. thank you again for writing this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your post so much! Books by black authors deserve all the support, always, and some people (and companies) have been really exhausting and just weird lately. I hope people will continue to support black creators and continue to care about the black community even after BLM stops trending. Your post is so good!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. faith, thank you so much for writing this post! you’re always incredibly eloquent and this couldn’t be more well written!
    i’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difference between my social media feed and the world out there. i’ve seen so many people standing up for black lives matter in the past weeks, which is a great thing, but how come everyone in social media cares but we still have people like trump and bolsonaro (president of my country, just as fucked up) in power? how many of those people actually *do* care about black lives and other minorities and how many of them are just afraid of being canceled? it is tricky, because i’d like to believe that most of these people who are sharing and talking about it do really care and are taking this time as an opportunity to learn and educate themselves and be better. but i also can’t stop the pessimist thought in the back of my mind that when the dust settles and it comes time for people to vote and actually *do something*, they will go back to putting their own interests first.
    anyway! i’ve just been having a lot of thoughts recently and felt like venting here for a minute. once again, thank you so much for sharing this! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thank you so, so much for writing this post – you expressed your thoughts and ideas in such an eloquent way. (even though you should not have had to write it at all) as a nB person, i can’t even imagine to feel what the Black community has been experiencing, and the fact that the BLM movement is being treated as a ‘trend’ is just disgusting. it’s awful that people are starting to support the movement only because they’re afraid of being canceled and that this awareness might soon go away once it stops trending.

    i completely agree with you that it’s critical to always support Black voices, and while it is so great that they are being uplifted now, the horrifying part is that it took death for that to happen. i really hope that everyone can make a true change year-round going forward (calling myself out here as well). this post is so powerful – again, thank you so much for writing this, Faith. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Emer from A Little Haze Book Blog recently mentioned to me that she’s even seen some comments that people ‘can’t wait’ until things are ‘back to normal’ & these sort of statements make me frustrated and so incredibly sad, in equal measures. What an insensitive thing to say when Black people don’t have this luxury because to go back to the way things were before means oppression, death, and having their voices silenced?

    Thank you for continuing to educate the book community – I only hope that everyone reading this post will be inspired to continue to advocate for Black voices today, tomorrow & forever. 💛💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reading this post was so heartbreaking because you’re 100% right. It should not have taken so many murders of Black men and women to get people to pay attention and start amplifying Black voices. It has also been horrible to watch how some people and companies haven’t taken the time to denounce racism or share how they’ll be improving, and even worse to see people go one step further and actively share their racist beliefs.

    I really hope that the change and support that I’ve been seeing from most people is sustained throughout this year into the next and the next and the next. I hope that the changes people are making are lifelong, and not just performative, like you said. Thank you so much for sharing this post and discussing this matter so openly and thoughtfully. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for writing such a powerful post Faith. I’ll definitely be more conscious in future of the organisations I support within the bookish community but you’re right to point out how wrong it is that horrific events are what it takes for people to sit up and listen to what black voices have been shouting all along. It’s concerning that the threat of short-term social media trend status hangs over Black Lives Matter, you’re completely right that the bookish community needs to keep working for lasting change to be a reality, rather than getting complacent. Thank you again for taking the time and effort to put this post together, it’s really something! ❤️📚 X x x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Strong views that match the topic. I sense your frustration and channel mind through choices. See it starts from the point of creating anything for mass consumption. If you pay attention to the structure of most industries that can really put you out there, they ask for specific things up front. Genre identification is an example, locking you into what is there. We also have to bear in mind that the market that we are pandering to are only looking for itself and not really diversity. We know that there are people out there that long for what we want to see and produce but we can’t find them through established channels. The joke is that even black consumers have learnt the prevailing habits of the market, and are inaccessible to a certain extent because they only purchase sanitized works promoted by the biggest promoters. Once again anyone wishing to bring original content has to work twice, three times as hard to incorporate the known with the new. Thanks for your passion……

    Like

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