Yesterday's #RiotGrams prompt for Black History Month got me thinking. And then the RWA newsletter linked to this amazing essay by K.M. Jackson about her experiences as a black author in the romance game, and what led her to start the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance. And then (another) post was making the Twitter rounds of a white author whining about sensitivity readers. For the instagram post, I grabbed some covers of black authors whom I love, or are on my TBR list. But still, I felt like it wasn't enough.
Until fairly recently, it didn't occur to me to think much about the authors I read, beyond whether or not I liked their books. I can and will admit to being super fucking sheltered. I live in the third whitest state in the US, went to college in the actual whitest state in the country, and to a tiny, expensive liberal arts school at that. I went to private schools for junior high and high school, which oddly may have made them more diverse than if I had stayed at public school. My elementary school classroom was a tokenism joke. Literally, we had one black girl, one Asian boy, and one Jewish boy in a sea of Irish Catholics. Oh and the Greek family who ran, you guessed it, a pizza place. It was the Wonder Years reimagined for the late eighties and early nineties.
My high-priced education, even in college, still focused on the 'canon' of white male authors. Sure, I read bell hooks, but it was because friends stuck it in front of my face. Even then, my feminism, which I had claimed for myself early and often, was super not at all intersectional. I didn't understand that, then. I had, and always will have, a view of the world narrowed by privilege. I can work to change that, I can bust my ass to shut up and learn, but I will still fuck up when I don't know better. Sometimes when I do know better.
And I feel like you can't pay attention to romance publishing, or publishing in general, for longer than five minutes before you realize that some awful shit is afoot. There is absolutely a double standard for authors of color. There is absolutely a dearth of people of color who are in decision-making roles at publishers. Jackson says it better than I can, so go read her essay, I'll wait.
So what's a Casper the Friendly Ghost-style white girl to do? What I can. Which is to support authors of color by buying and talking about their books. Seek out their books. Shut up and listen when people of color are talking about their experiences. This shit is not about me. Understand that when someone talks about "White Women," and I run in saying I'm not that kind of white woman, I pretty much just invalidated my whole argument. If someone ever calls me out, I hope I have the good grace to take those words and remember this:
There are tons of people who have said all of this better, but it's been on my mind. Those of us who have privilege and social capital need to step up for those who have less of it. Fix ur face.