Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Race Discussion Paradox

Do we want people to discuss the racial divide in publishing, or don't we?

Author Sara Gran blogged about the fact that there is a notable lack of well-known black authors in the general literary establishment. She went on to question that absence and ask why......why is it that she only hears about other white authors, and very little about those that are black....unless, of course, they're Toni Morrison.


Wouldn't you say this was a great opportunity to educate her, tell her why? To illustrate the fact that authors who are black are regarded and treated differently by the industry? To show her how authors who are black are only expected to write for, appeal to, and thrive among other black people? You'd think this would be such an opportunity.

But instead, Sara is being chastised and berated for her "ignorance" and her supposed failure to go "looking" for work by black authors. As if they were exotic animals or something, and she should know that a special trip must be planned to the zoo in order to see them.

This is precisely why people (white authors in particular) stay away from this issue. When they speak honestly, some black authors are inclined to focus on, and take offense to, their expressed perspective. What they don't realize is that an unaffected author's perspective can't be expected to be in the same ballpark as an affected author's.

Sara was not rude or insolent or offensive in her post. She asked a question. One that everyone in the industry should be asking and seeking the answer to. I only hope this misplaced chastisement won't discourage her from continuing to engage in the dialogue and the efforts toward a resolution.