Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy 2006!!

Seasons Greetings from this side of the alligator!!

I'd like to wish everyone a very happy holiday with their family and friends! May Santa be as good to you as he always has been to me!

I'll be flying to Canada this evening to enjoy a snow-filled Christmas Day! I'll probably be MIA until after the new year, so until then, here's to the very best for everyone in 2006! May we get at least one step closer to bridging the gap of the racial divide in the publishing industry, at long last.

I have a dream, that one day, white authors and black authors, young and old, will be treated as equals by their publishers!!

Morgan Freeman makes a lot of sense. I'll tell you why.

Actor Morgan Freeman (one of my absolute favorites) is a wise man.

His recent comments regarding Black History Month are on point. The purpose of BHM is no longer conducive to people of color and the fight for human equality in our society. It's just a month where black people get to shine a spotlight on themselves and say, "See? We can do it, too!"

The thing is......Of course we can do it too! It's an insult to say you need a month to blow your own horn when you're not handicapped. What? Are black people not expected to make worthy contributions to art, science, theatre, humanity, etc.? Are we not expected to foster the ability to make great accomplishments?

If the United States government hadn't made learning illegal for people of color, for hundreds of years, we would never have been made to feel like we had something to prove. Hence, Black History Month. Black Entertainment Television. Essence. Ebony. Yada, yada, yada. All the skin-color based organizations. Would they be able to run their businesses if you took color out of the equation? If they didn't have that crutch to stand on? Could BET survive as just ET? Entertainment Television? Unfortunately, they probably never want to find out....So, it behooves many to keep the racial distinction alive. Racial inequity lines the pockets of many and white.

Go Morgan Freeman. We need more wise men such as yourself to shine a light on the fact that most people of color are psychologically crippled. And when you try to take their color-crutches away....they lash out with anger and take great offense because they don't know what else to stand on.

Bottom line. Black History Month = See? We can do it, too!

It truly is ridiculous, Morgan. Thanks for saying it.

Morgan Freeman says in an interview with “60 Minutes” that there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Monica Jackson's Take

Boy, word spreads fast when it strikes a cord.

Over on Monica Jackson's blog, she weighs in and makes an excellent point. Tess Gerritsen isn't black. She's Asian. She has it a little better than we do, believe it or not. How many black authors are as successful as Tess Gerritsen? Did they give her grief about writing for a wider audience? For her main characters not being Asian? Did they tell her that only Asians would be interested in reading Harvest? Or all the romance novels she'd written prior to that? Probably not.

So, when does it end? When does the racist suppression end? Last time I checked, there were laws that made racial discrimination unconstitutional. Yet it continues in publishing......What, are they special in this industry? The laws of the land don't apply to them? They get to handle black authors one way (despite the content of their work) and whites another, affording them much greater potential?

One of these days, a publisher may end up getting sued. Maybe that's what it'll take to change things. Win or lose, at least it'd get their attention.

Tess on the Mess: Race in publishing

Interesting that Tess Gerritsen tackled this subject on Saturday, since I'd just made a previous reference to her book cover contest. It's great that a prestigious author such as Tess is willing to tackle such a subject. You certainly don't hear any other NYTBS'ing authors speaking out against it....Well, I don't count because I'm black and I've only hit it once. We have to bitch about it....often times in silence if we don't want the food taken from our mouths.

We need more non-black authors, like Tess, to stir the pot. To help bring about the type of awareness that'll force the publishers and editors to be accountable for their actions. As it is, they're just rolling along with the status quo and choosing to ignore the fact that they're blatantly practicing racial discrimination.

In the case of the author that contacted Tess, how can anyone justify restricting that work purely on the basis of the author's skin color? The characters were NOT black! Unbelieveable. I'd love to know who that author is, as she isn't alone. The same has been done to me. I've never made race a focal point of my plots, but my publishers do so without so much as batting an eyelash. It's as if they're saying, "You're black. Only your own kind is interested in what you've written. And that's the way it is whether you like it or not."

Friday, December 16, 2005

If it's not racism....Then what is it?

Ok---Based on this post over at Vision Circle, I think they ought to go ahead and give that poll to black writers. Or black actors, corporate execs, etc. If you live in the United States, and you're trying to make a living, thrive at your can the fact that your skin color's a liability NOT be the most significant problem you face? Progressively speaking.

Let's say for instance, in acting. What if Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were black. You think Harry would've ever even met Sally? And if he had, only black people would've known about it. Only black people would've cared about having "what she's having."

You think Denzel and Halle could've filled in for Richard and Julia in "Pretty Woman"? Uh...No. Because then it would've been a "black movie".

Let's face it. As it still is today, blacks aren't allowed the same opportunities as whites. The playing field is not only uneven, it's riddled with prejudicial obstacles. Why? You know why. Because we're on the wrong side of the alligator. Period. Point. Blank.

Well---what about Stephen L. Carter?

It's inevitable. The minute you start bitching about racism in publishing, someone pulls Stephen L. Carter and THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK out of their ass.

Yes, he is black. Yes, his debut novel was a bestseller. So was Edward P. Jones' THE KNOWN WORLD. Does this change the fact that this almost NEVER happens to authors who happen to be black? Of course not. These are the rare, and oh so elusive, exceptions.

The fact is, their writing is of the literary ilk, which we know has its own market. A market that's not exactly saturated with black readers. Case in point with the likes of Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, and a few others.

So that explains that.

What if you were black?

Speaking of debut extraordinaires, let's look at a few.

Jennifer Weiner's GOOD IN BED
Nicholas Sparks' THE NOTEBOOK
Elizabeth Kostova's THE HISTORIAN

Etc., etc.

Notice anything? Well, hmm, let's see......They're all WHITE. Even if there are black characters in their stories, did their publishers slap ethnic covers on their books and say, "We don't want to miss out on the African American market"? What are the odds these wonderful authors would have been debut bestsellers if they were black? Let's face it. They wouldn't have been.

Do you think any of these authors---or others like them---have ever so much as given that fact a first thought? Probably not. They're too busy enjoying the benefits of being born on the "right" side of the alligator.

Why should they care, you ask? Well, let's just put it this way. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Wake up people. It could just as easily have been you.

Hey...It's dark back here.

Why remain anonymous? Well, let me explain.

As my dear, diligent agent keeps reminding me, my writing pays the bills. It puts food on our fine china. Cable on the plasma screen, etc. You get the picture.

If you piss off your publisher, there's always the possibility they'll feel you're more trouble than you're worth. This is exceptionally true if you're accusing them of being.....Oh, let's say......passive-aggressive racists who care more about their short-term bottom line than they do about racial equality, liberty and justice for all.

So there you have it. I remain on the wrong side of racial justice. I must continue to bite my alligator until I'm lucky enough to out-sell....Oh, I don't know, the likes of debut extraordinaire Sue Monk Kidd maybe?

Perhaps then I'd be worthy of commanding the royal "white author" treatment. Perhaps then I'd be treated as if I were on the other side of the alligator. Perhaps then, I'll be able to make editors and publishers accountable for their blatant suppression of black authors.

Tess Gerritsen's cover contest

Hey, look. They're running a contest for designing the cover of bestselling author Tess Gerritsen's next book! Any chance they'll pick one with Chinese American or Asian people on it? After all...It's all about race...Isn't it? No? You mean more white people read Tess Gerritsen than Asian Americans?? Nooooo......You don't say! I'm speechless. Shocked. And here I was thinking that white people only wanted to read books by other white people......

Well, at least that's how it is from this side of the alligator.

Donna Hill "Gets Hers"

Love it, love it, love it! Now here's something to celebrate. A book by a black author with a multi-racial cover on it! Donna Hill is certainly "getting hers" with this victory. Wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Alligator? Ahem...Let me explain.

Back in elementary school Math, when we learned about greater than/less than/equal to, our teacher told us to think of the greater than/less than sign as the mouth of an alligator. She said, "Whichever number the alligator's mouth is opened for is greater than the number that's on the other side."

I remember immediately looking down at my skin and thinking, " I was born on the wrong side of the alligator."

I was 5 years old when I first discovered that my skin color was a problem---that I was "less than". That in this country, the United States of America, it would be a lifetime burden. It was a horrible feeling.

It's not exactly a topic regularly discussed in polite conversation, but I've often wondered if other black people remember when they first found out. Let's face it, no one's born with that knowledge. I found out in Kindergarten when I was started in a predominantly white elementary school. I don't recall any specific incident of ill-treatment, but in the classroom environment, I immediately became aware that the white-skinned kids were treated better than those of us with colored-skin. Again, it was a horrible feeling.

So for years thereafter, that's how I saw myself. As being on the wrong side of the alligator that our teacher taught us about. Growing up in the 70's and 80's I can't say that I ever had to deal with any blatant racial discrimination.

That is, until I got into the publishing industry.

Boy, they sure know how to keep black authors on the wrong side of that alligator, don't they? If you're black, you can't possibly write anything that white readers---the "commercial" market as it were---would appreciate. If you're black, it's the automatic "for you, by you" treatment. Under these conditions, is it any wonder why the Times list is consistently dominated by white authors? Week after ever-loving week?

When one of us does manage to hit it, we'd better not get too damn comfortable. It's one week (maybe two if you're chasing Terry McMillan) and then you're gone. Left to be comforted by Essence, Karibu, and all the other "African-American" lists. Bottom line. If your work doesn't self-impose ethnic or cultural limits, why do publishers do so purely on the basis of the author's race; effectively cutting us out of a good 85, maybe 90% of the book-buying market?

Hey, Mr. Alligator? Where can we find an equals sign?