Monday, January 18, 2010

On Being Offended

It's possible I might lose friends over this post.

But it's something I've been thinking about, and it's been more illuminated by a book I've been reading.

But first some backstory. Or explanation. Or something.

I'm a pretty sensitive person. I think that has been clearly demonstrated in the past, but for those of you who are new here, feel free to check out some of my responses to criticism I have received. I don't think I always handle this in the best way possible. But I do attempt to be honest and vulnerable here. Hence this post.

A few years ago, I was on vacation in Las Vegas with a friend of mine who is ethnically Chinese. (Australian in citizenship) We were stuffing ourselves on some awesome buffet we'd managed to get tickets to for free and as she gazed around the dining room, she remarked, "I really do love the diversity here."

I think I said something smart about how I'd heard Australia was more diverse and she responded, not like this. Somehow we started talking about incidents of prejudice and I was really surprised. "I had no idea it was still like that," I said in disbelief. She studied me for a minute, and responded..."You know why? Because you're white."

I can't tell you how that impacted me. It was like someone had thrown up a blind I didn't know existed in my perspective of the world and the truth ground itself into my heart. I've never been able to forget it, and I'm pretty sure I've told some of you this story before. It was the first step, the beginning for me realizing that the way I saw the world (in regards to race and racial relations) wasn't necessarily the way the world was.

I can't say I was immediately reformed and aware of what I now know is called my white privilege. But I was starting to realize that I could be wrong about how I saw things and that genuine grievances existed.

Fast forward to last summer and the Liar cover controversy. To be completely honest with you, I was at Comic Con when it all exploded and was only reading tweets and the like and I didn't get it. I think I probably said some stupid things. But when I came home and read the posts in more depth, I realized what the problem was and that yes, it was a problem. And I began to think about the ways in which I myself used race as a basis for discrimination in what I read.

But the thing's possible that none of that would have happened if it hadn't started within the context of a relationship. If I hadn't had a friend who was able to tell me matter of factly and without judgement why I didn't get it. If she hadn't been able to communicate what her daily life was like as opposed to mine. If I hadn't cared first about her.

I watched with interest as a new cover controversy came up this weekend. But I'm sorry to say things have not been as smooth sailing this time. I don't feel like the book blogging community has united. I'm watching instead, a bunch of fingers get pointed. "Why didn't you say something?" or "Why am I wrong for not noticing?" More than ever, we need to love each other. Change does not happen with loudly shouted words. It does not happen with boycotts. (sorry!) It doesn't happen when we turn a blind eye to a truth. It doesn't happen because we have the best most beautiful words to articulate our point. It happens at a restaurant in Las Vegas in a simple conversation. It happens when we open ourselves up to what others are saying. It happens when allow ourselves the possibility of being wrong. It happens when we watch someone we love get grief when they come out, or we let our hearts break over what our choices have cost others.

And I believe with my whole heart that this can happen on blogs. It has happened for me. Shaun opened up my eyes to the ways of nonviolence and social justice. Brant made me realize what the church could be. Ana challenged how I see gender and feminism. Stephen made me realize the little choices I make every day matter. Liz has challenged me again and again on issues of professionalism and ethics. Beth helped me to see that savoring the little moments of life is both beautiful and necessary. Renay helped me see the depth of my white privilege. I am in debt to each of these individuals in ways I feel I can't repay.

And at the end of the day, in one way or another, I never felt disrespected by them, I always felt, in varying degrees, that they cared about me.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't sometimes feel offended or put-off by their posts. It doesn't mean that I didn't feel a flash of anger when I read their words. It doesn't mean that I didn't wrestle with their points for days.

What it means is that the offense was less than what I knew to be true....they wanted to share a perspective with me (well not just me, all their readers but you know what I mean) to make me a better person. They wanted me to dig deeper into how I see the world and why. They wanted me to ask questions of myself, so that the door to change could be opened.

Shame is not an agent of change. Neither is fear. Love is. It is always love. It has always been love.

And now I want to say this openly: to "Susan", Doret, Ari, Ah Yuah, I know that I suffer from white privilege. I know that you deal with this on a daily basis in a way I don't, and I know the pain runs deep. And I know I've seen you around and sometimes we've had some conflict. I want each of you to know that I do respect you, that in fact, I have mad respect for some of you. I want you to know that I will try to do better. In return, I ask that you will give some of my fellow book bloggers the space and grace to be offended. I know that this isn't something you have to do. I know that it isn't something you SHOULD have to do. But I'm asking it anyway because I think, at the end of the day, we all want to see good diverse books published. We want to see a gorgeous array of covers and we want young people, ALL young people to have that moment when they find themselves in the pages of a book, when they see a cover and know that book has a character that shares at least, if nothing else, the color of their skin. And we want to see books published where a young person can see, even though the character's skin color, religion, or sexual orientation is different that they still relate and find that thread that binds us all together. Humanity.

And to all the other bloggers and readers, I ask that you start reading Susan's blog, Ari's blog, Doret's blog, or Ah Yuah's blog. I ask that you seek out books with people of color as characters or maybe more importantly, authors. Again this isn't something you have to do. But I think...I think that if we work just a little harder at loving one another we will make change. But first we need to understand the depth of our white privilege. We need to know that, in fact, our perspectives might be wrong. We need to let ourselves feel offended, but only if we are also willing to realize why we are.

Perhaps this will come across as being too sentimental, I don't know. I only know that I believe the book blogging community is stronger when we're united, when we care about each other, and when we have a common goal. In any case, at the end of the day, I hope you all know that this is written out of my love for you, and if you're offended...I hope you know I'll be waiting for you here as you process it out.

Truly, sincerely, with all my love.



Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Terrific post.

Ronnica said...

Thanks for this post, Amy! This is something that I've been wrestling with as well. I've been reading "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", and the author brings up many of the same points you have. It's definitely something I'm still chewing.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Oh Amy. I don't know how you do it. I want to get all sentimental too. *hugs* Really, a terrific post. All great and passionate bloggers whom you mentioned who I follow with interest.

bookmagic said...

Wow, Amy that was really beautiful. Not sentimental just honest. And people do have to be willing to discuss issues of race and not walk away because it makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of a blog post I read about the movie Precious and some people thought that African-Americans shouldn't want to show a situation where there is no hope. I argued and that person said I couldn't discuss with her because she and I are WASP's (I'm not). People should talk and discuss and have an open mind and not judge.
I'm not sure of the controversy this weekend, I missed it but it looks like that page was removed when I clicked on the link.
Thanks for an amazing post. You should not lose friends over this, or they aren't friends

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

"It happens when we open ourselves up to what others are saying. It happens when allow ourselves the possibility of being wrong."

Being vulnerable is putting yourself and your thoughts out there - and agreeing to the possibility that there are other valid ways of seeing the world ... listening to those other ways, and thoughtfully considering them.

Well said, Amy.

Jen Forbus said...

What a very thoughtful post, Amy. Encouraging tolerance and understanding is valuable in any realm.

Edward Champion said...

Confronting the intricate and ever-shifting nature of reality begins with telling the truth, without fear of incrimination or offending others. Your statement of feelings and convictions in this post does just that. And a confession of white privilege is a braver stance than pretending that ongoing racial tensions have disappeared from American society -- as many have seen fit to do in the last year, despite the Skip Gates fiasco, the New York Post cartoon, and, most recently, the Harry Reid contretemps.

Furthermore, a true friend will accept you totally, understanding that "taking offense" is a copout to the more fulfilling existence of attempting to understand another soul. It's one of the reasons we all turn to books. After all, where's the challenge in having one's assumptions confirmed?

Kevin Holtsberry said...

Interesting and thoughtful post. People should appreciate your honesty. I think the part about change happeing within relationships and real conversations is important.

I would like to note, however, that I find the term "white priviledge" terribly unhelpful and distracting from your larger argument.

I don't want to thread jack, but in addition to real issues of race in this country there is also a group of racialized crackpots who use race as an excuse for all kinds of bad ideas and proposals.

I find it offensive when someone suggests that success is some kind of zero sum game and that by being white I have a leg up on everybody else; that I carry around privledge in my backpack or whatever.

One doesn't have to be prejudiced or support discrimination (whether formal or more subtle forms) to decry the racial hucksterism that dominates far too much of our "conversation" about race.

Sorry for the mini-rant ...

Dan Holloway said...

Great to read such a thought-provoking post. I want to say two things that come out of this for me.
First - and it's something I've blogged about - you make such an important point about the importance of people being able to read books by people they can identify with (not just about characters they can identify with, but by authors they can). It goes way deeper than covers. The publishing industry tends to use a rather insidious piece of reasoning that says x,y,z demographic group doesn't read so we won't provide books for them - which of course is the wrong way round. And I've argued at some length taht the whole pitch/query process and the way books are selevcted for publication selects in favour of the establishment's demographic group. We need a rethinking of publishing in general - and for people within poorly represented communites to be championed to stand up and do it for themselves (although this must NOT become a two-tier where they are expected to do it for free in the name of visibility - that would be just as insidious).

Second, you make the very important point that in those aspects of our life in which we are on the privileged side of the divide we have less tendency to see a problem. But very few of us are on that side in every aspect of our lives. I'm a white middle class male, but I have a mental health disability, and meet hidden prejudice in all walks of life as a result - what I need to do is remind myself that when I'm passed over for something because I have depression, the anger I feel is the same as it is when people encounter prejudice for their race or gender or age or religion, even though I don't "see" those prejudices at work - I need to make the empathic transfer.

heidenkind said...

Amy, how could anyone be offended by that post?

Sometimes it is justifiable to be angered by others' ignorance and prejudice. But the only way to heal that is through friendship and listening to other people. Realizing that your viewpoint and experiences aren't the absolute truth and that other people experience different realities. That's the power of books! For a set number of pages, you can see the world through someone else's eyes. You don't have to like it, you don't have to be proud of it, but sometimes you have to see it.

I think posts like this make you a great leader for the book blogging community, Amy. :)

GMR said...

Wow. What a touching post! No seriously...I think you spoke from the heart and isn't that what a blog is about? Telling your story or your view of something? The ideas and suggestions you set forth in your post are great...I myself have actually read several books (at the very least) from various perspectives and narrators. It doesn't matter to me if the main character is a carbon copy of myself or my neighbor...or if they are blue-green with purple polka dots. A good story is simply that....a good story...and it should be told/shared and appreciated by readers of all walks of life...regardless of status, race, gender, and the likes. Thanks for sharing....happy reading to one and all!

Beth Hoffman said...

Though I've been on book tour and don't know how this began, I want you to know that I am deeply touched by your post.

Big hugs to you, Amy!

Aarti said...

I am not entirely sure how to respond to this post yet. I, like your Chinese-Australian friend, grew up a minority and have often been surprised by the way Caucasians seem to think that racism no longer exists. I don't think I have been a "victim" of racism very often in my life, luckily, but I have certainly felt its affects and sometimes have had to consider whether I was treated a certain way (positively or negatively) because of my skin color.

That said, I am not hugely offended by the cover controversy on these Bloomsbury books. I personally don't think the marketing decisions were made based on racist tendencies, but on the likelihood of the book's sales based on its covers. So I kind of think people are focusing on the wrong detail. Instead of shouting about Bloomsbury putting Caucasians on covers, shouldn't we question WHY people are more likely to buy a book with a Caucasian on the cover than someone with a different skin color? That, to me, is more depressing and offensive because it's probably less overt.

Maybe I subconsciously skip over books that have people of color on the cover because I think that book is more likely to appeal to a certain ethnic crowd. I don't KNOW that I do that, but I know I DO consciously seek out books that have Indian people on the cover because of my background, so it does, in a way, raise the possibility that I avoid other ethnicities. And that's what I think is the real issue. I assume that Bloomsbury markets its books in the way that will make them the most profitable. So if they put a white person on the cover of a book featuring a black character, then that is probably because they feel it will sell better with a white person on the cover. And while we can't objectively rate how subconsciously racist someone may be (even when they really, truly don't think they ARE racist), we can trace their buying trends and see that maybe they read books with certain covers. And if people who don't think they are ignorant, who fight for equal rights and have diverse friends and hope as so many of us do for skin color not to matter- if those people STILL buy books with Caucasian people on the covers in much larger numbers than they would buy books with people of color on the cover- then I think THAT is something worth focusing on and trying to eradicate, more than focusing on the cover itself.

Nymeth said...

First of all: this is one of the things I like the most about you, you know. Your openness, the fact that you don't automatically step away from ideas that make you uncomfortable, the fact that you don't act defensive. Not everyone has the courage to do that.

I wish we could have conversations about race/gender/prejudice of any kind without personal offense ever becoming a part of the discussion. Still, I understand why this is difficult - because when we're told that we're a part of a system that supports something that, if we pause for a moment to think, we find appalling, we often feel that who we are as people is at stake. It can be difficult to keep in mind that being called out for participating in or silently witnessing a racist act is not the same as being told you're a horrible person. I understand being jolted, uncomfortable, even offended like you said. But we all have to make a conscious effort to make sure the conversation doesn't become about that, or else precious time/space is being taken away from the real issue, and what could be a useful discussions runs the risk of derailing into a fight. And once again, those who are marginalised on a daily basis are forced into secondary roles.

I do hope that in the future, bloggers can stand together when it comes to these things. Sadly, I don't have a magic solution to achieve this, but I hope that we're learning, bit by bit.

Amanda said...

I am white, but grew up my first 10 years in a 95% black community, and my second 10 years in a 95% hispanic community. Particularly in that second 10 years, I was the object of discrimination because of my skin color. I never understood minority discrimination because I WAS the minority and I was discriminated against. My child-self learned to fear and distrust white people. It wasn't until I moved up north that I saw how most people discriminate against minority races and it upset me so much. Only a year ago did I come to realize my own prejudice against white people when I discovered I felt GUILTY because my kids were not mixed race.

I always feel like I'm the odd-person out in this discussion because I'm white but went through the same experiences that many minorities go through.

heatherlo said...

Remember when I said that you inspire me? Well, add this post to the mix and multiply what I said by about a million.

You're awesome, Amy, you really are. And how in the world could you think that you could lose friends over this? When your honesty and light just shine through the computer screen and make me proud to call you a friend.

Thanks for this post.

bermudaonion said...

Oh Amy, how could you possibly lose a friend or offend someone by pouring your heart and soul into a beautifully written post? This is part of why we all love you so much.

Heidi Ayarbe said...

Hardly sentimental! This is an incredibly well-written, thoughtful response to an uncomfortable subject. Thank you for mentioning NOT boycotting and "thrashing" out in ways that would hurt other authors as well. We're all in this pot together, and I think you're right -- getting a bit sentimental, hurt, angry, enraged and more is inevitable, but once we get past that, we can make change.

Beth F said...

Amy, I respect and admire you, and you have me as a friend for life, regardless. Your open heart and open mind should be an inspiration for everyone.

I wrote a longer and more personal comment but have decided to keep the focus on you and your thoughts.

Thank you for this post.

Pam said...

My daughter came home Friday from school spouting a poem about being Freedom's Child. She was concerned about Martin Luther and had lots of questions. We had an amazing conversation and watched the video of the "I have a dream" speech. I was so proud of her at that moment, for not just being a white kid and not caring. We have lived all over the world, Dominican Repulic, London in a Muslim neighborhood, Holland in a Moroccan development. My daughter has grown up steeped in such a diverse culture and I am proud of her for not feeling people are different.

The book cover thing is starting to bother me. We should band together and not fight amongst each other and it wouldn't hurt for people to read outside of their comfort zones and at least TRY to understand how other cultures are feeling.

I was accused on Twitter at some point for not reading black authors. I never look at the author picture in the book. I never have any idea what color the person who wrote the book is. I have read a lot of Latin authors, I love their history and culture. Instead of bashing me for reading too many white people why not offer me some titles from black authors that might possibly match up to the kinds of books I tend to read?

Great post Amy (apologize profusely for the long comment)

Fence said...

Amy I don't think I've ever read a post here that hasn't been a book review, and I don't think I've ever commented before, but I just wanted to say congrats on this post.
That may sound odd, but it is hard to be so honest, about yourself and about how other see you, so you deserve kudos for it.
I've sorta been out of the blogging community for a year or so, so I've missed alot of the drama, only caught the fringes of it. But I have been reading a lot of race & gender blogs recently, and they certainly have opened my eyes to a lot of issues. I don't always agree with them, but that doesn't mean they aren't right :)
One of the problems with white privilege is that unless someone points it out to you you might never see it. Which is understandable, so the more people who point it out the better (I am white, and in a very mono-cultural county)

Renay said...

This post is excellent.

I will say one thing: that it is useful to point out when People Aren't Getting It and doing so publicly. It is also sometimes necessary, because while people need space to be offended, people cannot honestly get upset when they are making problematic and public statements, creating a space where their feelings the focus of a discussion about something they possess tons of privilege in.

A lot that gets lost in these discussions is that white people will often make it about their feelings and never go back to the issue at hand after being confronted with their privilege: many people are not like you.

Allowing problematic public statements to stand turns discussion about race into, surprise, a discussion about white people, and that is a problem, because we will then drown out the voices of PoC. It asks them to be silent; to not expect more. I think that is a dangerous request to make.

I second Nymeth's comment in this context.

I also disagree about the tone argument (re: loudly shouted words), but I think that is simply the nature of how far I have come in these discussions: I can no longer go back to not knowing, and I am a terrible teacher with little patience when white people start talking before listening, which is exactly what's happened with some of the posts I've seen. I think that's just a difference in approach: I can nicey-nice people participating in a racist system to death, but I have found anger and loudness to be more effective. It's a Catch 22; can't be too polite, people won't take you seriously. Can't be too angry; people won't take you seriously. Alas.

But I agree about the boycotts.

April said...

Amy, this is a beautiful post. I agree with so many of the points you make, and love that you included the personal story in there. I love that you acknowledge your white privilege (I have white privilege as well) and I like that you acknowledge how hard it can be to be open-minded and listen to the pain of others. I think so many people have the idea that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement, when it's still prevalent.

Anyways, I just wanted to commend you for this post.

JC Martin said...

I applaud you, Amy, for this though provoking, eye-opener, and confession (if you will for lack of a better word). I am one of those people who experience the many prejudices of the world, but because I was raised by an openminded and open heart person, I turn the other way. I ignore the things that others seemed bothered by. In a sense, people of my nationality and race would call me privileged. But I wasn't and I'm not. However, I am very privileged in the things that I read. Yes, I love to read stories where the characters are black with a Jamaican accent (just like my mother and me) but that isn't the case. It's sad! I read books written by humans, no matter their color or nationality. Because my imagination allows me to pretend like the characters on the pages favor me in some way. Really when I read I'm looking to escape my every day life, and experience things I wouldn't really ever be a part of.

The best part of your post for me, is realizing the value of friendship. The kind that allowed your friend to look you in your eyes without conviction and tell you the raw truth of the matter, and her statement did not change your relationship. That's a relationship of the heart and not based on race.

Too bad the publishing world can't follow in a way similar to that. Maybe if we all boycotted the pigeonhole we are forced into when it comes to books, the industry will make a step in a different direction. but for now we all will have to be understanding and respecting to each others rants.

Chris said...

Lovely post Amy.

I loved what Nymeth said about the conversation veering off from the more important issue and becoming a fight. All the anger is becoming displaced.

Thank you for posting your thoughts.

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

I will respond to all comments tonight but I want to quickly say @Renay I'm not asking anyone to be quiet. Asking for grace and space are not the same as asking for complete silence. xoxo

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

You can't tackle every "important" issue out there. You pick and choose an decide yourself.

Why would a group of people be upset over a blogger who doesn't blog about an issue? That person's blog is their own and can do whatever the like with it.

Honestly, when did bloggers become the gate keepers of what's right, wrong and worthy of discussion. You pick and choose tour battles and you shouldn't feel bad if you don't join in with the others because they make it seem that you should.

lilly said...

Great post Amy. very thought provoking. However, I have to disagree with your friend and her remark. I am white as well but I know that it's not race or color of skin that makes it easier or harder to notice strong prejudice. It's simply being different from others. I experienced it myself and still am experiencing it every time I open my mouth and speak because I have an accent. I came here eight years ago from Poland and I had to deal with many people treating me like I was a half-wit only because I had a foreign accent. Or how others assumed right away that some word or other I used didn't exist because I used it and they never heard of it. So I think it's not the race as much as whatever it is that separates one person from the group. My personal experiences have caused me a lot of hurt and made me struggle with my own self-esteem for the longest time. And to be honest with you, I also had to struggle with hatred and anger towards all these people who felt entitled to openly make fun of the way I spoke or to make me feel stupid and always less than. But it was futile and now I know that and honestly I feel sorry for them and everyone else who will make fun of me in the future.

Renay said...

Amy: no, it's not asking for grace that's the problem; I miscommunicated. I apologize.

It's that people will sometimes take the request for space, twist your words, and use them to silence, or assume they're being given an out and now have a right to ask people to shut up in particular venues and virtual places, because oh hey, this other, more important blogger said it's okay (when that's not what you said). My issue is that much of the time people will look for anything to avoid facing these things, and that includes taking thoughtful words and well...making it about white people and their horror at facing that which was invisible to them before.

It's a symptom of the system, is what I meant, and which I failed to explain properly. Sorry. <3

Jodie said...

Just wanted to pop by and say I've seen the post you reference about people asking if they're a bad person for not noticing the cover. What I really want to post to them (but hmm am not sure about because I don't know them as a blogger and I am not always a brave person) is that this discussion is not about them, or me, or about anyone else white getting their feeling hurt. It's about all those wonderful bloggers you mentioned above (and I just want to add that Ari's blog is especially awesome all the time, not just today, as she just plugs away writing review after review of the kind of books she wants to see more of and adds books to my list) whose feeling were hurt, who feel diminished by Bloomsbury's actions.

We all need people to point these things out to us, missing them doesn't make you a bad person, but if you're unable to accept and to learn after someone more knowledgeable points things you may have missed out (it may take a struggle, it certainly has for me) there's something lacking there. I wouldn't have known about this is I hadn't seen Ari's post (because I haven't read the book yet and the UK has a different cover) and like you I def wouldn't be as aware of how unaware I have been about race if it wasn't for others who were willing not to shout too loudly at me while they explained things that seem very simple and very real to them.

So good going with this post. I really hope we can all work together on this issue, starting y'know yesterday.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

First off, any friends you lose over this post weren't worth your time in the first place.

I love that you're starting a conversation about this and exploring what the fact that we feel offended should signal to us. For me, it usually means that either something really does go against my values and ethics OR that it makes me feel like I might be wrong, and that makes me uncomfortable.

It is out of that discomfort that the most important lessons grow, and I certainly hope this post will be a call to examine ourselves and feel some discomfort about the ways we think (or don't) about other people's experiences of the world.

Because so much of how we experience the world is shaped by the media we consume (books, TV, movies, music, etc.), it is vitally important that that media offers accessible, relatable role models in whom people of every race, color, creed, and sexual orientation can see themselves and begin to shape their lives.

My husband and I had dinner with a friend recently, and the topic turned to TV. The friend (who is in his 50s) was talking about the increasing number of gay characters on TV and said something like "I mean, I'm OK with it, but I don't see why they have to be so out there, like kissing and everything." And I said, "Well, if they were straight people kissing on TV, and there are plenty of those, you wouldn't think anything of it. And we should get society to the point where it's just as normal for gay people to kiss. Because hello, it IS just as normal."

And it's important for young people to be able to see people like them in the things they read and watch and to be able to imagine a life for themselves if the place they're growing up doesn't allow them to do it.

That's the battle we should be focusing on. Pushing publishers and producers to create full, accurate depictions of all kinds of people should be our goal. Anything else, especially bickering on a blog, is a waste of time and a distraction. Thanks for reminding us about what the focus should be.

Sally said...

Great post for MLK Day!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I applaud your integrity and honesty and ability to write the above post!!! It really sets a standard.

Vasilly said...

Amy, thank you for this honest post. It know it was probably scary for you to post this. There is an invisible knapsack, what you called "white privilege" that people wear. I agree with Renay that it's good when others tell you honestly about the things you might not be able to point out for yourself.

As an African American women, I will be boycotting Bloomsbury. The Liar controversary was a huge issue that was discussed all over Twitter, blogs, websites, magazines, and more. Bloomsbury obviously didn't learn from this lesson. It's sad but it's true that money talks. By not giving Bloomsbury my money and instead giving it to a rival, I'm telling Bloomsbury that as a reader not just as an African American, I am putting my money where my mouth is because this repeated whitewashing is wrong and offensive.

Susan, Doret, and so many other bloggers have been encouraging bloggers to read more books by and about people of color. Not just books about slavery or the Civil Rights era but books with people in modern-day time who are living their lives right now.

By acknowledging invisible knapsacks and reading books by and about people who are different from us whether it be because of sexual orientation, race, religion, language, disablities,or national origin, we're opening our minds in a way that can change us all for the better.

Florinda said...

I wish I had something meaningful to add to this discussion. I'm mainly here to support and commend you for speaking your thoughts and feelings. Your openness is truly one of the things that makes you special to us, Amy.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Like Florinda, I think it has all been said, so I'll just pipe up here and offer my support. The post was very heartfelt, and we do love you for that. The one thing that popped into my mind while I was reading was not only the white priviledge issue, but the straight priviledge. I guess I'm sensitive to the discrimination against gays and lesbians because of my sister. I'm truly horrified sometimes at the hatred aimed towards them. In this day and age, no less.

Melody said...

I echo the others, Amy. You have written a thoughtful and heartfelt post, and we love you for who you are.

mylastread said...

I think everybody sees this world differently and it's not anything unusal or bad. We are all different people. As a Chinese immigrant who grew up in Hong Kong and who spent most of my life there, I have seen how a lot of white people here feel awefully guilty about being white and I really can't understand why....

I have relatives and friends in Australia, one of my cousins is there studying architecture.... He has a great time there and he totally loves Australia... I visited there a few times and I never felt I was discriminated, the white pepole I met there were very friendly to me during my stay... So I don't know, racism nowadays seems to be like "beauty", it's in the eyes of the beholder.

I think it really depends on the person and the cultural background the person grows up. I do realize that Australia born or American born Chinese see racism more as a problem than Chinese immigrants who grew up in their homeland...

And somehow I see that they also seem to be more sensitive about their ethniciy, physique or race...(like they would critize me highlighting my hair or me wearing color contact lens because I don't like my own race... when lots of us do that in China or Japan or Taiwan, and we never even related it to the fact that we wanted to look like a white person,... we just do it cause it is fashion... and we think it's pretty... looking exactly like a white person is never our goal or even in our mind...we want to look fashionable, that's all) But the ABCs (Austraila or American Born Chinese) say it's a denial of one's race...

I never felt I was being discriminated anywhere I go, I had been to many places in the white world... (one of the place includes Kansas and Alabama..)and I never felt it was an issue. I actually felt that the white pepole are more friendly and helpful to me than my own people back home...Chinese people back home are less social and like to keep to themselves and mind their own business... But I realize white people I met are very outgoing and more willing to help if you have an accident or if you get choked in a restaurant.

So, all you white people, just stop beating yourself up... Racism in these days is really in the eyes of the beholder. If anyone walk around and have in his/her brain that he/she was being discriminated, that was the mentality and attitude that the person will be stucked with and therefore comes the sensivitiy...

There is a Chinese saying, "Nobody can belittle you unless you belittle yourself first...". I think it also applies to discrimination.

I think the difference is immigrants who grew up and educated in their homeland tend to have a lot more confidence about our racial identity. We feel very secured about our position. We think that we are important to the world economy, we have unrivaled education, language and job skills... Therefore, we don't feel discriminated...we don't think our position in this world is threatened by anybody, whether it's a white person or purple person.

Now, it goes back to my point above. As long as one lacks confidence and carries the suspicion of being discriminated, that person can feel he /she is discriminated even in their home country.

Being comfortable with who you are is the only way you will feel comfortable everywhere you go...

This is just my opinion from my own experience.

Color Online said...


Thanks for saying what I felt wasn't being heard. Vasilly, I'm glad you got my back.

To all who participated in this discussion, thank you. I don't want or need agreement. It has been a long, hard road making my voice heard thanks to what Amy said building relationships, making allies and refusing to be silent.

I don't expect you all to boycott, to like my tone or my message. I do expect the space and freedom to be heard.

Staci said...

I have no idea why anyone would be offended by your post Amy. This is a truthful and honest revelation....thank you for giving me a lot to ponder.

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

Thanks Lauren!

Ronnica--that sounds like an interesting book, I'll have to look for it

Natasha--thanks. Yes they are some pretty fine bloggers.

bookmagic--Thanks. I agree we need to be able to talk about this stuff and have grace for each other.
And..know when we need to step away as well.

Dawn--I think when we've wrestled with an issue once, it can be hard to listen again.


Ed--thanks for commenting. And well said.

Kevin--I'm not exactly sure how to respond to your comment. For me, I was just blind because I could afford to be blind.

Dan--Excellent excellent point. We all have areas in which we are misunderstood and in the minority. It should help us make that transfer as you say.

Tasha--well said. I pretty much love everything you said.

GMR-- I agree and I hope we get to see more good stories about all kinds of people.

Beth--thanks for stopping by!

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

Aarti--yes I think digging into the deeper issue of why is important. aNd in general I think the answer is still that we don't feel we have enough in common. People have told me that
they avoid books that are clearly marketed or labeled as being about POC because they don't think it's "for them." I agree covers are a symptom, but they are a symptom that are showing us we need to look deeper.

Ana--I think we have to take into account that personal offence is always going to be a part of the process. When you're asking people to consider they are actually supporting something they know on a conscious level is wrong.
I do agree that we have to everything to keep it from becoming a fight, because from my personal experience, nothing shuts down a conversaton faster than anger.

Amanda--I think that gives you a unique perspective to offer. And I personally want to hear all perspectives. :)

Thanks Heather.

Candace--if you want to send me an email with a response, I welcome your thoughts as they often sharpen my own.

Pam--I"m sorry you've been bashed and yay for your daughter! I know Carleen Brice did an event on twitter once where they offered suggestions of black authors similar
to white authors. I added a ton of books to my wishlist and bought a few. (haven't read them yet but that has more to do with my review schedule than anything)

Fence--yes true, I agree. And the best is having a good hearted loving person point it out.

Renay--I definitely see that. And I'm sorry for it...I think the best thing to do is engage with the people who want to learn. I don't know does that sound lame? also, I just think anger shuts down
a conversation really fast. I think it makes people think, why bother? I see this in all kinds of arenas. I also think, the longer we live with something burning a flame inside of us, and the more intimately
acquainted we become with injustice the harder it is to remember what it was like to be the ignorant one. And so we think fueling our anger is the fastest way to deal with it.
When I talk about love, I don't mean we should be nicey-nice or too polite. I think it's possible to be direct and completely honest and still be acting in love.

Thanks for stopping by April and for your kind and honest words.

JC Martin--thank you. I wish there were more books with black characters and a Jamaican accent as well! Anyway your comment really touched me and I thank you for
taking the time to leave it.

Chris--yes, I hope we can work together. :)

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...


Heidi--thanks for stopping by! I hope we're all in this together and that we can indeed bring change.

Lilly--this is true. There are all sorts of ways we discriminate against each other. And I'm sorry for the pain you suffered at the hands of people who needed a way to feel in control.

Renay--that makes sense thanks for clarifying. I don't mean to give anyone an easy out..I actually want everyone to feel their offense and uncover the root of why. But it's a tall order!

Jodie--yes, we all need extra measures of humility I think. None of us are all right or all knowing. but for some reason being teachable can hurt. I think the absolute world of Ari. She's amazing.

Rebecca--well said.

Thanks, Mom.

L.Diane Wolfe--thanks.

Vasilly--I certainly support your decision to do whatever you think is necessary. And I am well aware of the good work Susan and Doret are doing.

thanks Florinda.

Sandy--of course you're right. I touched on it only briefly in this post, but there seems to be no end to ways we can hate each other.

Thank you Melody.

Mylastread--you bring up like, a whole other kettle of fish and I'm really interested in your thoughts and perspectives. Thank you so much for weighing in.

Susan--thanks for stopping by

Staci--thanks for commenting.

Colleen said...

I agree with Kevin (I think - way at the beginning) and take issue with "white privilege" as well because I think that socioeconomics play a bigger part of privilege than anything else. In other words, being Caucasian does not grant you a life of privilege as anyone who has seen Appalachia would agree.

But I understand what you are saying here - I get your larger point.

Having said that...the irony of writing "Change does not happen with loudly shouted words. It does not happen with boycotts." on Martin Luther King Jr Day is not lost on me. Actually, boycotts have effected huge change in the past as everyone knows. Is it the right thing to do in this case? Susan thinks so and it's what she wants to do. Some folks will disagree with her and that's okay. She's making her voice heard the way she wants.

I really think part of what blew up at Story Siren was the way the original question was framed - "Am I a bad person for not noticing this"? I'm sure Kristi had no idea things were going to get out of control like they did but it quickly became less about racism in a book cover and more about good or bad people and, well, that is so not good.

I do think folks need to realize that a cover like Magic Under Glass is damaging though because it is an affirmation of the out dated idea that dark skinned young women do not sell something as well as white skinned young women do. I think "The Frog Princess" proved that wrong in a very big and obvious way and yet, publishing still doesn't believe it. They should be out in front of this issue and not behind which is what is so frustrating to me and I imagine a lot of other folks as well.

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

Thanks for stopping by Colleen. After reading Susan's post, the boycott thing clicked better for me. Once again, I was being ignorant and framing things out of my perspective and experience where boycotts=not successful instead of looking at the larger picture of history.

If there's a term you and Kevin prefer (perhaps the elimination of white in front of privilege?) I'm open to it. But as has been stated, we do all experience varying degrees of discrimination in different areas of our lives and what I meant to say is, I could afford to be ignorant to racial issues because they didn't affect me directly.

And yes, I agree bad cover decision. And I loved the Frog Princess for many reasons. Been meaning to write about that.

Chris said...

I just wanted to pop in my two cents, Amy. First of all, thank you for this post. I always love what you have to say, my friend :) There are certain people in this community that I can't thank enough for what they've given me. You're one of them. I'm one of those people that always came from privilege. Of course I was and am aware of racism and always will's something that sadly won't disappear. I come from a family that is sadly, not so in tune with their own white privilege...they know they have it, but they unfortunately use it way too often.

Bloggers like Renay and Ana and you, Amy really opened my eyes to what I have. To how skewed my worldview is and have challenged me to look at the world how it REALLY IS. And it's not so pretty all the time. Or I should rephrase that. It's beautiful. It's really freaking beautiful. I've actually always appreciated the diversity that this world has, but it's so freaking sad how clouded we become by what we're given based on our skin color included. It really is a training process to see beyond that and it's one that I continue to go through.

Anyway, I could ramble forever on this. But thank you Amy...thanks for this post and for making me think :)

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

I don't think I say it enough, Chris, but you have been an absolute teacher and guide in humility and love to me. And for that I thank you.

susan said...

How do I say this without shutting down all the love here?

Outside of those of you I already know, why haven't any of the rest of you commented at Black-Eyed Susan's or sent me any correspondence. All this understanding but no direct contact?

Once again the offended, one of the people directly involved here is being talked about instead of talked to.

While I may be direct and candid, I don't bite. I am interested in dialogue. How about coming to my space for a change?

Meghan said...

At this point I don't think I have anything to add to the discussion, but I applaud you for this post, Amy. I agree with so many above that your honesty and openness is a huge part of why we love you and I'm 100% behind bringing this out into the open and making us all question our own assumptions about race and how we are to go about making diversity better represented. I was startled when I was introduced to the concept of white privilege myself but it has really caused me to question my own worldview. I'm doing my best to purposely broaden my horizons this year and consider the situations of others who are not like me in a way I might not have done before.

I agree that anger is not the way to go, and just today when I have finally opened up GR I'm astonished at the anger going around. So I'm glad you spoke out, and it's hard to believe anyone could be angry with you about such a heartfelt post.

Lori said...

We want to see a gorgeous array of covers and we want young people, ALL young people to have that moment when they find themselves in the pages of a book, when they see a cover and know that book has a character that shares at least, if nothing else, the color of their skin. And we want to see books published where a young person can see, even though the character's skin color, religion, or sexual orientation is different that they still relate and find that thread that binds us all together. Humanity.

Perfectly said. As was your entire post.

MissAttitude said...

I've read and scanned through most of the comments here I just want to point out the following
1) Thank you for all the love Amy and I don't think you will lose any friends over this post. It's honest and heartfelt. You're amazing, with so much energy and heart!

2)I'm tired of the boycotts don't work arguement. I'm with Colleen, if boycotts don't work how did Martin Luther King Jr. do what he did? Fiery oratory, exceptional organization and boycotts! (and a lot more but you know what I mean)
3) I think all white people have white privilege even if you live in Applachia because you will never be discirmnated aganist because of your skin color. Because of your class yes, but that's easier to change than your skin color

4) Somone mentioned they wanted to read a book with a Jamaican accent: 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. The mc is Jamaican and it doesn't play a huge part in the novel, it's more subtle. Awesome book!

5) I think that people who are saying that we aren't getting to the deeper issue here haven't been reading other posts. Because that's exactly what we're trying to do, make people think and realize how few POC books there are out there and so when they are published and have whitewashed covers, its devastating. And covers do matter, we do all think about them, especially if we haven't heard of the book (if you've heard good things about the book that's different).

Thanks for this post Amy and I encourage everyone to speak out and take action :)

Doret said...

I've read this four times now and I am still trying to understand why my name is mentioned.

So, Amy tell me what I said that you need the space and grace to be offended.

Please, post it here so everyone can see.
Do I blog about books featuring people of color? Yes.

Am I upset that more bloggers don't? Yes

Though, at the beginning of the year, I've realized I can't worry about what other people do or don't do.

I finally understand it is what it is. Some people just won't change.
I've come to peace with that.

"I ask that you seek out books with people of color as characters or maybe more importantly, authors. Again this isn't something you have to do."

"Again this isn't something you have to do" -

That is a clear example of White privilege. Readers of color don't have the choice about ignoring White authors or White protagonist.

And you know what, I don't want to. I just finished the newest Melina Marchetta - Finnikin of the Rock. I loved it so much. Marchetta can do no wrong in my eyes.

I refuse to miss a great story simply because of skin color

Amy @ My Friend Amy said...

Hi Doret,

Your name is mentioned because you participated in a conversation on another blog (one that inspired this post) I didn't link to that post here, but it's why I've mentioned you.

mjmbecky said...

Nothing more needs to be said by me here than to say, "Well said" as always Amy. Thanks for your post.

thetruebookaddict said...

Wonderful post Amy...such honesty and integrity. I thought about your post for awhile before commenting. Your honesty is the reason I am giving you this award:

April said...

What a terrific, heartfelt and wonderful post, Amy. Kuddos to you. I am going to check out the blogs that you mentioned right now.

Book Dilettante said...

I think your friend's response, "Because you're white" probably only meant that you might not experience race in the same way that monorities might. I'm sure she meant no offense. Her experiences might not be the same as yours simply because you are both seen differently and maybe treated differently. It's a fact of life that different people are often seen and treated differently. I don't think that should be offensive to point it out, and it probably was not meant to be offensive.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and incisive post. As a writer I want people to read my work. As a black writer, I want people to read my work, regardless of their background or ethnicity AND regardless of the color of my characters skin. I know I read books by all kinds of authors and all kinds of genres simply because I am looking for a good read. I just would like more readers to expand and include writers of color in their libraries. That would be great.

Bonnie J. Glover, Author

Mardel said...

I agree with a lot of what you said, and it boils down to your remark that;
"We want to see a gorgeous array of covers and we want young people, ALL young people to have that moment when they find themselves in the pages of a book, when they see a cover and know that book has a character that shares at least, if nothing else, the color of their skin".

That sums it all up for me. I happen to a few "ethnicities" running through me, though to see me, you might not notice as I take after my caucasion dad down to the blue eyes. Growing up though, I felt (and still do to some extent) disconnected from "white" people, and disconnected from spanish people (mom didn't teach us spanish, we taught her english). I don't see a lot of racism applied to me personally, but when certain teachers met my mother things changed for me in the classroom. I also noticed a lot more racism now, than while I was growing up. I remember being very surprised that the "minorities" could be racist with each other. Anyway, that's a little off topic.

I enjoyed your post, and as someone who is part spanish I notice when there are a lack of covermodels of color, and as someone who is part white I feel pissed off when I'm judged for being white and having "white privelidge" - But it happens to be true. If I get pulled over the cops aren't going to give me as hard a time as they might one of my darker-skinned friends. Life isn't fair, and a lot of "white" people didn't bring this on themselves, just happen to be born with light skin. The rest of my siblings and cousins are all obviously Latino-with me, you can only tell by certain features on my face, certainly not by the color of my skin. But that's the thing everyone needs to remember. We all just happened to be born with a certain skin color, and we all basically want the same thing-to be acknowledged. The publishing houses do need to make a bigger and better effort of recognizing all the diverse people who buy books, read books. They are ignoring a huge population, a huge potential market.

Michelle said...

I'm late to the game here, but I just wanted to reiterate what everyone else said about this being a beautiful, heart-felt post. Thank you for having the courage to be open and honest about a difficult topic! (And, as others have mentioned, if you lose any friends over being honest, then they weren't friends to begin with!)

Amy said...

susan..I hope some more people went over and checked out your efforts.

Meghan--it can feel like a shock, but I think just being aware is a first step to help us broaden our horizons.

Ari..thanks for taking the time to comment and for clarifying some things.

mjmbecky--thanks for reading. :)

thetruebookaddict...thank you so much for thinking of me.

April...I'm so glad!

BookDillettante--I think the title of this post might have been misleading. I may have felt a bit stung when my friend said that, but my point is that she was my friend...and helping me to see that in context of relationship made it possible for me to realize she was right. I don't think she meant to make me feel guilty at all...she was just nudging me towards seeing why I didn't see things she saw. But yes, b/c racism is such an emotionally charged reality, when someone suggests you participate in it or support a system that does, it can offensive. And while that shouldn't detract from getting something done like Renay and Ana have said, it also doesn't help to just assume everyone will be okay with it straight away. Changing perspective takes time and sometimes is painful.

Bonnie--absolutely. I will look out for your books. Thanks for commenting.

Mardel..I found your comment so incredibly interesting and you're right. We want to be acknowledged. I hope to see more diversity in publishing as well.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Michelle!

thekoolaidmom said...

Just wanted to let you know that You are The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week :-)

Anonymous said...

You have got to see this. Obama playing on XBox. Funniest video ever.

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