“Do better, be better, treat us better.” Education Around Racial Inequality
The increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement has provoked a necessary conversation on how to be active allies of Black British communities. It has also sparked a conversation on how to increase the level of diversity within the publishing industry. As Dorothy Koomson says in her open letter, “we want a level playing field, an equality of opportunity, the chance to write books and explore as many subjects and genres as our white counterparts.” Koomson then goes on to say the industry can be “extremely damaging for black authors.” Therefore, the publishing world must be changed and the only way that can happen is through educating yourself and reflecting on how to “do better.”
Publishing houses have come out in support of Black Lives Matter in various ways. Hachette has donated to both The United Friends and Families Campaign and The Inclusive Indies Fund, whilst also reaching out to all Black employees through its THRIVE network. Faber & Faber curated a reading list on Twitter of ‘important books to help educate on racism and white privilege.’ Furthermore, in response to an open letter from the Black Writers Guild, Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House UK acknowledged that, while they had been working on their inclusivity strategy for a number of years, "change is not happening fast enough and we need to address that with urgency." Despite the support put forward by publishers, there’s some criticism about their intent. Koomson asks "what will the result of this ill-thought-out rush to find and support Black voices be?" So, now we're learning how to become anti-racist, what do we do next? It's not enough to just educate ourselves – we need to make real changes going forward.
One way to do that is to support the inclusive indies that are striving to increase BAME representation throughout literature. Knights Of are committed to creating ‘quality content for kids – with as many perspectives as we can squeeze into the making-of each book.’ Little Box of Books have partnered with Rochelle Humes in a crowdfunding campaign to send thousands of inclusive storybooks to primary schools throughout the UK. And for adults, there’s Jacaranda, who are dedicated to "creating space on the bookshelf for diverse ideas and writers." These publishers are creating environments where Black writers aren’t required to educate, but are instead given the chance to explore the subjects and genres that Koomson calls for.
The Black Lives Matter movement saw Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race surge to the top of the charts again, earning Eddo-Lodge the accolade of the first British Black writer to top the Nielsen Official UK Top 50. The public are using these books to really educate themselves about the experiences of Black lives across the globe. The diversity in the books published in the UK, and around the world, should accurately reflect those who live in these spaces. The industry, alongside the rest of the world, needs to continue to educate themselves in, be conscious of, and promote diversity in the books we produce.
See below for the top five best-sellers at Waterstones:
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
Natives by Akala.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad.
The Truants by Kate Weinberg.