A personal discussion of the need for diversity in publishing.
by Victoria Mays, Scriptwriting Editor
I am black. I am a female. As a writer, those very distinct qualities that are genetic and unalterable are the very things I fear being discriminated against in publishing. Though one may believe the fight for gender equality in the field has been conquered, the question still remains: Did we fail to include minority women? In my case, black women. So, that still leaves me at two strikes. When I was asked to do a presentation over diversity for class, I wasn’t surprised by the numbers for the lack thereof in the industry. It wasn’t news to me that the fight still isn’t over and that it may never be over.
As a black woman, I feel the need to create literature that will be empowering and uplifting to people that can identify with me personally or know someone that can. Throughout my high school and early college career, I studied some of the so called greats in the literary canon: Virginia Wolff, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell and Oscar Wilde. Though I admire and respect the energy and passion they put into every work that has gained them the fame they have today and wouldn’t dare rob them of it, I have always wondered why there weren’t any black writers amongst the literature we read. Writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Walter Mosley and Richard Wright that captured the essence of the black soul and shared the struggles that my ancestors had to endure and overcome in their time.
Being a writer of the times, I feel the call to represent the beautiful and ugly things that black people have encountered in their human experience. In his essay, “Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing,” Jame Older stated, “Publishing is always negotiations between what you want to say, what you can say, and what society will allow you to say.” Not only do I have to worry about publishing quality work, but also facing the fear of presenting quality work that isn’t accepted because of the message that it conveys. Will it be another story thrown into the pile of work that doesn’t contain the idea of a universal character that “generally indicates a false neutral that more or less resembles whiteness?” (Older)
The VIDA Count, a system that “started when the cofounder Cate Marvin sent out an email addressing the lack of feminist conversation in contemporary literature,” has expanded to include data that addresses race and ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and ability (Prufer). The data covers information for a variety of publications. While we still have work to do as far as increasing diversity in the publishing realm, VIDA shows us where change and progress is needed. If everyone in the industry were to get on the page and use the data that is free and readily available to the public, we could take steps in the right direction.