On May 25th 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a black man called George Floyd was brutally murdered by police officers for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer, called Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, subsequently causing his death later on that day.
The death of George Floyd and other black American citizens at the hands of gross police brutality has sparked widespread outrage and was the catalyst for a renewed campaign in the Black Lives Matter protests, not just in America but also in the U.K. and across the world.
The victims of racially charged hate crimes and police brutality are distressingly many in number and include among many others; Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, as well as numerous peaceful protesters injured in Minneapolis protests.
These heart-wrenching events occurring in shocking succession has seen not only an overwhelming worldwide support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, but it is also inciting many to question their attitudes towards race and in some cases, their unassuming complicity in the systemic racism of their social structures.
This awareness has also led many within the book community to actively seek out books written by mainly black but also person-of-colour authors. It has sparked a much needed conversation regarding the representation of black authors/black main characters in fiction but also across a wide range of literature.
An article from The Guardian made the following observation;
A major survey conducted by the Publishers Association last year found that “significant progress” was still needed to improve racial diversity, with only 11.6% of respondents identifying as BAME – lower than the UK population (14%), and significantly lower than London (40.2%)Black Writers’ Guild calls for sweeping change in UK publishing -The Guardian
This prominent disparity really emphasises the need for more black representation within the book community. I find it genuinely upsetting and a source of great sorrow that it took such drastic measures for us to finally be having this conversation.
Whiteness within literature has long been considered the default, the bastion of normalcy. The book industry is still predominantly white, from those who preside over its publishing houses to its authors to those who sit on awards committees. It should thus come as no surprise that in this environment, we would expect to mainly read about white protagonists, with little to no representation of other ethnicities. Now that these conversations are becoming a lot more mainstream, we really need to support black authors and campaigns to amplify black voices, thereby disentangling the net of deeply entrenched structural racism within the publishing industry.
Books By Black Authors Recommendations;
“Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.”