by Imani Simpson
As a college student, I can attest that printing color pages can get pricey. The library I grew up in only had four printers and colored pages were 75 cents a sheet. Eventually you learn to settle for black and white, all the while mourning the brilliance that could’ve been yours, if you’d had 75 cents.
The publishing industry is something like that. Except it’s going to take more than a few quarters for color pages to get on the same level as white ones.
In the article “Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” by Daniel José Older discusses the disparity in the publishing industry between works published by authors of color and works published by white writers. That’s not to say that writers of color don’t get published. An investigation by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin shows the levels at which children’s books about children of color are published over a number of years.
One of Older’s main points is that the change that needs to occur has to happen on multiple levels at the same time. Editors and publishers are likely to shift the blame to authors or “The Market”. The mysterious and fickle “Market” doesn’t ask for books about people of color and therefore fewer are printed. In her article “The Uncomfortable Truth About Children’s Books” Dashka Slater mentions this stating that a market study indicates that “Hispanics, for example, were 27 percent more likely than the average American bookworm to take home a kids’ book.”
So it’s not “the Market”. But then why were less than 3 percent of the children’s book published in 2013 about black people? In Older’s words, “the underlying illness is institutional racism.”
While steps are being taken towards change, it’s important that more people of color are involved at every stage of the publishing process. As Older says “[it’s] work for writers, agents, editors, artists, fans, executives, interns, directors and publicists… reviewers, educators [and] administrators.” Everyone in the publishing community needs to come together for a more than diverse future.