I spend a fair amount of time reading about changes in publishing. Recently I've noticed a few articles that are addressing diversity, or rather its lack, in the industry. Publishing Perspectives offered a great article by Porter Anderson that focused on Sisters in Crime, a writers support group with chapters across the US. It seems they annually release a "Report for Change," and this year they spoke up for "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Mystery Community."
Apparently, they looked in the mirror and weren't satisfied with their reflection:
In addition to the racial and ethnic groups identified in the chart, they also looked at groups within their ranks such as LGBT and disabled writers.
The introduction to the report begins:
Becoming a successful writer is hard work. For writers who belong to the groups often referred to as "diverse," there are factors that make it even harder. But talking about diversity can feel like walking across a minefield. Some people show angry resistance to having the conversation at all. Even those who see the need for change can be stuck because of fear: fear of getting it wrong; fear of seeming to pander; fear of being criticized; fear of making things worse. [Emphasis mine]Sisters in Crime
I couldn't agree more: fear holds us back from the important conversations that are needed in order to better understand each other. Yet I also believe it is incontrovertible that if we can expand our knowledge of each other, we can begin to create meaningful change.
When I sought publication of Speak Right On, I was filled with fears, the worst of which was that I would be pilloried as William Styron had been for his Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron was criticized for perpetuating harmful racial stereotypes, some of which I guessed were subconscious.
In other words, I feared betrayal by my own subconscious:
Obviously I did publish it, and the enthusiasm and graciousness with which I have been treated as the author continues to surprise me. But it also helps me have more confidence; it helps me keep trying to have the difficult conversations. And I know this will be true for others who demonstrate curiosity and respect when they eclipse their own fears and engage in dialogs about race.
Take courage, speak right on.
Mary I've been thinking about your suggestion of starting a conversation and hoping to do so sometime soon. However today when I read on the internet that Milwaukee is the toughest US city for blacks--actually surpassing Chicago, Ferguson,.Missouri and Baltimore. Having lived in Milwaukee as well as a small town fairly close by in the 1950s and 1960s, this is very disturbing. A 2014 study by University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee found nearly half the north side residents (mostly black people) live below the poverty line compared with 28% in the city overall. Another study found that just over a third of men ages 20 t0 64 were employed compared with 78 percent in the greater metro area. I remember distinctly in the 1960s when a white priest named Father James Groppi, led 200 nights of marches in the Madison and Milwaukee areas to push for fair housing laws. Rev.Jesse Jackson participated in similar marches across the country. It is disheartening now fifty years later there has been such a lack of progress. On the brighter side I am grateful how you--a white woman--wrote Speak Right On and continue to promote improved race relations by means of this blog.
Jeannette, I share your dismay. I am reminded of the Jewish entreaty: Never Forget. This phrase reflects the atrocities of the Holocaust as well as the survival of atrocities. There are periods in history where a breakthrough occurs, the horror is stopped, and we think we have entered a new reality. Much later, we admit that the same problems need to be addressed.
The numbers you cite are deeply disturbing. Thank you for not letting us forget this grim reality. Another quote comes to mind: the sins of the father are visited upon the children. We inherit the wrongs that precede us--we need to right them while we can.