POCs in children's books
Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?
And what are the books that are being published about blacks? Joe Morton, the actor who starred in “The Brother From Another Planet,” has said that all but a few motion pictures being made about blacks are about blacks as victims. In them, we are always struggling to overcome either slavery or racism. Book publishing is little better. Black history is usually depicted as folklore about slavery, and then a fast-forward to the civil rights movement. Then I’m told that black children, and boys in particular, don’t read. Small wonder.
“And in all of those thousands of books, I’m just not in them?”
“Are there books about talking animals?”
“And crazy magical futures?”
“And superpowers? And the olden days when people dressed funny? And all the combinations of those things? Like talking animals with superpowers in magical futures ... but no me?”
“Because you’re brown.”
Diversity in publishing has been in the news often in recent weeks. A study from a University of Wisconsin-based commission reported that just a tiny percentage of children's books last year featured non-white characters, and an essay by Pulitzer Prize winning fiction writer Junot Diaz, published in The New Yorker, attacked the "unbearable too-whiteness" of creative writing classes...
The book world has long struggled to advance from diversity panels to actual diversity, operating under a contradiction between its liberal, pluralistic ideals and the narrow range of its own population, especially in positions of power. Non-whites are absent, or close to it, on executive boards throughout, from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR). Overall, the industry has few prominent non-white publishers, editors, agents, booksellers or book critics...
"Clearly any attempt at a fix will have to confront a multitude of formidable structural challenges," Diaz said, "but that means that the structural commitment to diversity has to be equally as formidable."
On the Lack of Diversity in Publishing