What we have here is a failure to communicate. Since the dawn of Romance novels, publishers and editors have believed that POC (People of Color) preferred to read about white women and white men. Also, and more to the point, white women didn’t want to buy books about POC so don’t put them on the cover! Well, in recent years, a lot of people of varying shades have expressed their displeasure at this policy. Romance Writers of America has taken steps to improve the situation.
At my most recent local chapter meeting of RWA, the phrase DEI was used freely. I had to look it up. It stands for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion. That is the goal and certainly the best possible outcome. Along the way, there are roadblocks and potholes to be navigated. Believe it or not, the biggest uproar has come from a publisher of M/M and F/F (and lots of other letter combinations) romances.
Riptide Publishing has been the best house for authors of LBGTQ+ stories since they opened in October of 2011. Yet they have had to apologize for several insensitive steps they have taken, culminating in a conversation with a POC author that led to the firing of an editor and a lot of controversy for the publisher.
July is the month, every year when the RWA National Conference is held. This year was in New York. Again. The local chapter holds a recap of the event in August. The world of Romance writing and publishing is changing. And it is an uphill battle. At one panel in New York, someone asked, “How do you talk to black people?” I shared that with my husband since it caused my jaw to drop a few inches. He shook his head and said, take the color out of the question. How do you talk to people? Yes. That’s the solution.
Another comment from that same panel was someone pointing out that they didn’t see any POC in the room. Were they literally not looking at the representatives of various ethnic backgrounds? Or were they saying, as one local member tried to explain, they didn’t see color when they looked at a person? I live by that last idea, but I mean I don’t judge a person by their outward appearance.
I think that if we don’t see people of color as they are, we rob them of the life experiences they have had. We make them another part of the washed-out white world. Before I retired, I learned that working in an office that held a diverse population among the workers provided more chances to learn about other cultures, to grow comfortable around these people. And to express appreciation for the people that make up the human race.
Some time ago, I put out the final anthology under the Bowman’s Inn collection. I wanted a mixed-race couple for the cover. I shopped all the stock photo sites and found nothing at all useful for my needs. While flipping around Pinterest, I stumbled upon the perfect shot. A black woman, a white man, a winter setting, a loving look shared between them. The picture was part of an engagement shoot for the couple. I contacted the photographer and bought the rights to the picture for use on this cover.
That experience sums up this diversity situation. What’s out there for use by writers and cover designers is not meeting the needs of that group. However, in real life, People of Color are getting along with love, marriage, and having a family. Let’s hope Art will imitate Life really soon.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.