Dear White Christian Publishers, Black Pain Isn’t For Your Gain…

To get a clearer picture of how I feel right now, imagine the angry feeling from the Emoji movie. Yea…him

Unless you have totally been removed from reality, you know the world is in timeout right now.

Between COVID 19 and the present racial reckoning, a whole lot has been happening. With that said, there has been a so-called awakening in industries that have fostered systemic racism for years. All of a sudden, they “weren’t aware and want to do something”. I’ve always been hesitant in my speech because as a first-generation Nigerian-American who lived her childhood and early adulthood in Nigeria, I understand I have a certain privilege living in America for the past two decades.

I am able to do a lot of the things I do here because I stand on the backs of African Americans(Black Americans) and the fight and blood that has been shed for years. I however do my part to educate my fellow Africans and lend my voice to the cause and culture. But I digress…

One of such industries is the publishing industry. A stunning hashtag on Twitter some time ago…#PublishingPaidMe had me disgusted. I’ve experienced my own share of racism as well as systemic racism working in Corporate America but what that hashtag revealed was just too much.

Overnight there’s a call for #ownvoices #diversestories, all the big to intermediate mainstream publishing houses are now trying to “do their part” I was kinda skeptical because;

  1. Indie publishing no longer has the stigma it once did. I’ve never needed a publisher to validate me. And this is due to many hard-working, talented indie/hybrid writers who have done wonders to revive Black Romance. From Christian fiction, Urban, Paranormal, and every subgenre in between.
  2. How will they market and promote these stories if they aren’t making changes from within by hiring Black editors(of all kinds), working with Black blogs & promoters or Black indie bookstores?

Now to the title of this post and why I’m fuming….you would expect Christian Publishers to be different when it comes to bias. But then look where we are in America..photo ops in front of churches and ish.

Lo and behold, not only are they behind but I promise y’all Jesus is not in that mess, they call themselves doing. So here it goes, I attended a call today( Aug 1, 2020) to “shed” light on the state of Christian Fiction and what they are looking for in #own and #diverse stories

Y’all ready? In a nutshell. They want BLACK PAIN. Well Dear White Christian Publishers, Black pain isn’t for your gain!!

Here’s a paraphrase: Race stories are hot right now. You’ve (Black Americans) had the experience of slavery.

So one of my sheros who reads my work and knows what I am about askes where African stories fit in this “new era”. I’ll pause here, in case you don’t know, or this is your first time here…I do not wax stories of African oppression, I do not tell downtrodden stories of social injustice. Those are not the type of stories I tell.

Newsflash: Black people are entitled to Black Joy! And Black Love that doesn’t come with PAIN. We deserve it!!

I showcase the fantastic culture, experiences, food, music, the scenery from the Continent the media doesn’t show while telling stories of faith. Featuring real people. The kind Jesus came for, those who are flawed and are only redeemed by the grace of God. Our daily struggles clinging to the cross and remaining anchored in faith, hope, and love while living in a fallen world.

Here is the answer to the question of where African stories fit into White Christian Publishing:

Very close paraphrase: “Unless the stories are stories of AIDS, POVERTY, or MISSIONARIES, going to Africa to build wells or it takes place on a Safari… readers( white women between 40-70) and the Christian Publishers won’t really go for it.”

Big African cities with African characters basically not needing the white man as a savior apparently does not cut it.

It’s taking everything in me not to curse right now. Yea Jesus works on me daily. Are you freaking kidding me?? Is that what Africa is to white American “Christian” readers??

You come to our land, steal, massacre, and loot our people and resources. Hundreds of years later, YOU still want to profit off BLACK PAIN? When will your conscience kick in?? I have no idea what Bible you’re reading? But Jesus is not in that. This is why people are leaving the church. We are not the example He has called us to be.

I will be here all day if I go into every single stereotype about Black America and Africa I heard on this call in 2020!!! To crown it however BLACK readers aren’t a demographic that can really make a difference in terms of buying power to sway what white Christian publisher want…

I’m so so done…

Yo America tuck your shirt in, your devil is showing~ Wale

Unoma

22 thoughts on “Dear White Christian Publishers, Black Pain Isn’t For Your Gain…”

  1. As a Christian and avid reader and white person, this breaks my heart. Although I am thankful for the small misguided step publishers are taking towards embracing diversity (which readers have been requesting for years), it is only because the smallest evidence of change is slightly better than decades of stagnation. CLEARLY their efforts leave loads of room for improvement and it is my responsibility as a reader to hold them and myself to a higher standard of advocacy for diverse stories and authors.

      1. Thank you for sharing your experience. People need to know this kind of discrimination is still an issue so we can all do our bit to end it.

      2. Hi Beth, I saw a comment on your Facebook page but I couldn’t respond for some reason so I want to respond here.
        To answer the question of who, I don’t think calling out the individual will do any good as she is an agent who was telling us what Christian(White Publishers) want to see. She is a representation of the larger bias that exits within the CBA. Christian Booksellers Association, it runs deep and is dated back years.
        Black Christian Fiction authors are forced to take the scripture out of our work so we can have a chance, no matter how small it is, with mainstream “inspirational”
        We shouldn’t have to do that. We have God centered stories to write about Black Joy and Love.
        I appreciate your offer to help, right now it will be to spread the message. Maybe a conversation can be sparked.

  2. Yes. Everything Beth said. I will also add that the person saying those things on that call does NOT have her finger on the pulse of Christian publishing as much as she thinks she does. She does NOT speak for this reader who falls into her 40-70 year age bracket, nor does she speak for most other readers I know.

  3. I’m sorry you went through that! This is heartbreaking, sadly revealing and does not represent their readers as much as they think. I’m in that demographic, but I want to read more encouraging stories. Though I haven’t read your books, one of my fav authors writes the style you are talking about. Toni Shiloh is a weaver if words that inspires and hugs my heart when I read her books. Praying other publishers catch on and sign on more diverse authors across genres. Looking forward to reading your books. Continued prayers for God to heal our land and awaken our hearts to His beauty everywhere.

  4. Very true and heartfelt post. I’m 2nd generation Mexican woman born in the US and write fiction. I never write with intent on representing my race but did consider writing a fictional account of my mom’s life. I hesitate because I know my version of Mexican culture won’t mesh with another Mexican’s view of their cultural experience and…so on. Someone won’t approve of my POV. Some readers will dissect my story and complain. So, the book remains unwritten. I get what you are saying about stereotypes. Hispanics and Latinos are portrayed as maids, druggies, lower socioeconomic gang members, or prostitutes in books or films. I have read Mexican literature where characters are survivors just living life. The Help was written by a white woman and became a bestselling award-winning book and film. Could that happen today? Or would it be considered racist? So, my question for you is should only POC write the voices of POC?

    1. I think you should write your mom’s story. The best stories are the ones told through our own experiences. We are very different beings living different lives and every book has a reader, we just have to find them. Of course as creatives we can create anything, however if a person is going to write another persons narrative, there should be proper research and they should get sensitivity readers before publication. That though wasn’t the meat of this post.

  5. Wow! I am so sorry.
    It is disheartening to see the same cookie cutter book on the shelves. There is a generation of readers and writers that want diversity and real culture.
    I come from an area that is very bland (we are all the same color, similar backgrounds—well, you get the picture) and so I like to read about differences in people, cultures, backgrounds, and histories. I won’t pick up non-fiction because it’s boring, but Fiction opens up an inner door to other lives. I want to read that. I want to write that.
    We writers have to be bold enough to push the envelope.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing about this, Unoma. I do know a few white women age 40-70 who are not very interested in books about Black Joy, Black Love, and Big African cities full of life, culture, and uniqueness, but in my experience they are the minority. And they have *plenty* of other books to read if they don’t like those. So why is Christian publishing so sure their readers won’t “go for it”? Especially when they’ve never offered it? I am sorry and disappointed to hear about this, but I also, like you, believe there is still hope. Though God Himself never changes, He is pretty awesome at bringing about change in others. May all our hearts be open to His work.

  7. What an outrageous and frustrating situation. I am so sorry. Do they have Black people (especially authors) on their committees/boards who can steer them in a better direction? Do you think they will seek input? Did they get feedback during the call or was it just one-sided? If they got feedback, how did they respond to it?

    I am glad that Black indie authors have been successful outside of the traditional publishing industry – I am happily indie myself – but it’s unacceptable that they should be excluded or “guided” in such an abominable way inside of that industry.

    And yes, I am in that middle-aged white woman bracket. I hadn’t read many books with other-than-white main characters until the last five years or so, but I do now, and I’d like to see more of the kind of books you describe as well as romantic suspense and mystery.

    Now that I think about it, I probably didn’t read many racially diverse books because I was then limited to paperback books found at the bookstores and library. Traditional publishing.

    1. Hi Cathe, from the way she spoke, I wouldn’t think they have anyone Black. My main issue was, she knew she was coming to a room full of Black women authors and still was so free with her audacity.
      I guess I should be grateful, saved me from submitting anything for the CBAs consideration.
      We were told to give feedback, I just blogged mine which surprisingly blew up.
      I have no hope in the CBA at this point, either I continue to indie publish or I go with mainstream and strip my Christian content and make it more inspirational.

      1. Please don’t stop glorifying God in your books! Stay indie if necessary, but we need your voice – your books! – in the Christian community.

        I wouldn’t ask you to extend grace toward those people now, but I do encourage you to watch for repentance and change. They asked for your feedback, and you were very articulate, so hopefully they will hear and be ashamed. Maybe you will trigger meaningful change!

  8. I want to leave a reply … I’m determined to leave a reply … but I’m still trying to process your post. I’m reeling from what I read, in a surprised/not surprised kind of way. My heart aches for every single person who had to listen in on that phone call … and yes, for the people who talked about what people supposedly want to read. (Grace, right?)

    1. Thanks for your comment Beth. After three days, I’m still at a loss of words. I’ve been told about the CBA but it’s another things to experience it.
      When someone blatantly tells you that all your narrative can be is AIDS, POVERTY of Missionaries coming to build wells in your villages. Or how authentic it would be to write a slave story because you’ve had “the experience” or that to get a book deal you have to have 10k followers across platforms…my post was mild. But then grace 🙂

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