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.