Further Thoughts on “Black People Don’t Read Books”

Earlier this week, I saw this tweet

To which I responded

Which led to the creation of this video.

I said in the video that I have more to say, and I do. Also, I’ve found my glasses since then.

Here are some thoughts I had about this executive’s comment.

  1. This executive must think that Black people do not possess the economic capital to buy books, therefore they don’t read books. Okay, so buying and reading are not synonymous. I don’t buy a lot of books anymore, but I still read a ton of books. There’s an assumption about both whether or not Black people have money and about how we spend our money. Ah, generalizations.
  2. Stories about Black people aren’t worth telling because everyone only wants to read about White people. I mean, everyone knows that characters in books are automatically visualized as white unless otherwise stated anyway.
  3. I’m sorry, my guy, but White girls are not the center of the universe. Other people read YA too. I understand that there are systemic structures in place that make folx think that White girls are the end-all-bees-knees and such, but that system was created by White men as a means to maintain power. So, no true.
  4. Speaking of systems created by White men to maintain power, can we talk about history for a second? It might be that this statement has some basis in the Negro Act of 1740 in South Carolina or any of the other codes from Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, or Alabama that prohibited Black slaves (or in some cases, freed men) to read and/or write. Because if they can’t read, then White men maintain their power as the Black slave is dependent upon their master. So – don’t publish stories about Black people so Black people will continue not to read and he’ll be able to maintain his position of power. We could also get into Carter G. Woodson and The Mis-education of the Negro here, and talk about indoctrination in schooling, which is related, but I won’t.

I can’t even imagine the mental gymnastics and internalized White supremacy it took for that person to fix their mouth to make such a statement.

I’ve been fantasizing of pulling together a cadre of Black readers, storming this unnamed person’s office and going, “So, you were saying…?”

I’ve been in meetings all day (yes, on a Saturday), so that’s all I’ve got. What else does this statement bring up for you?

2 comments

  1. Very much agree with everything you have said here, and in addition, as a White person, what jumped out to me was the piece about White teens not wanting to read Black people’s stories. I think what’s clear from the success of The Hate U Give, Children of Blood and Bone, and many others, is not only that plenty of Black people read but plenty of non-Black people enjoy YA books with Black characters!

    Ugh, that comment is infuriating (and, I’m sure, not an isolated incident). Hoping that recent trends are causing more publishers to wake up and question their assumptions.

    Like

  2. As heartbreaking as it is to read that statement being made by a publishing executive, I can’t say that I’m surprised to see evidence that racism is still alive and well in publishing or that someone would be so open about such a horrible and inaccurate belief–that Black people don’t read.

    I also completely agree with what you’ve said, both in this post and in your video, about how many passionate Black book bloggers, book vloggers, and bookstagrammers there are. At least half of the children and teens who come into my library specifically looking for books are Black. While, as a white woman, I can’t fully relate to or fully understand their experiences, the most fulfilling part of my job is the conversations I have with each of them.

    They definitely missed out on one of the best books I’ve read in ages. Not only that but… The Hate U Give? Hasn’t been available in my library system (which is a large system with more than 20 branches) since it was released. Not because we didn’t buy any… we bought quite a few. It’s never available because it’s always checked out. People don’t want to only read about white people all the time. I hope publishing execs like the one mentioned learn this and I’m glad someone else had already learned it.

    Like

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