Tomorrow, I’m going to highlight one of the most clear-cut examples of ignorance that I’ve come across in a while, but today, I want to highlight a comment from the SB’s racism in romance thread, that really made me think, and depressed me at the same time.
This is an excerpt from Trumystique’s thought-provoking post:
…However, I am heartsick by the silence around this issue. Granted its been talked about for many years without a lot of action. Maybe its all invisible action and what we see is the tip of the iceberg. I hope so but I dont think so. I have been really sick about this Marcotte issue (just this horrible nauseau in my stomach– Hilary’s comments last week just sent me over the top) and I have felt this at many times. Its like someone you think is your friend and is working with you reveals she’s a backstabber and doesnt care about you– she’s working for herself. Its a profound sense of betrayal.
Compound that with the fact that you are invisible in everyday life from the internet, on the bus, at work and in popular media. And I am invisible for so many reasons. People dont see me they see the stereotype. I am invisible because when people finally do see me they are like “Oh well I dont see color and you arent like other X people”.
That is what I am talking about- I need allies. I need someone who is willing to work with me and not pay lip service to working with me. Dont pat me on the head and say that sucks and keep doing what you are doing. If I tell you that this genre makes me invisible then please listen to what I am saying.
The inequality of it being possible for a white author to write about black characters and have that book shelved as “romance”, but when a black author does exactly the same the book tends to end up being marketed as “AA romance” means that to create real equality, white readers would need to support not just books written by white authors which include black characters, but also books written by black authors about black characters.
So I hear that you get what I am saying. And you are willing to be an ally. But frankly I think there needs to be a change in terminology. Romance is not Romance. For the most part I dont see myself or anyone like me in most of the romance novels on the shelves. There is nothing that is universal about Romance if it continues to silence, marginalize whole groups of people and their intimate relationships. If LaNora is a Romance author and Beverly Jenkins is a Black Romance author- there is a BIG FAT PROBLEM. Clearly is says that Jenkins is writing something different from Romance.
So we need to use different words and call it what it is. LaNora writes White Romance and so does Crusie, SEP, Laura Kinsale and most of the rest of those published in NY houses. And all the taglines on most blogs should change too. So the tagline for the SBs should change “all of the white romance and none of the bullshit”.
But I dont think anyone is going to like that proposition. So another suggestion would be to come up with an acronym to replace AA Romance. Because the term AA romance reinforces the idea that there is something essentially different about the love stories of black people. So maybe to acknowledge that it should be RwPOC. So that would be Romances with
People of Color. But again kinda lets the whitewashing of Romance off the hook. And of course my acronym doesnt speak to the fact that if romances are written by Asian women or Latina women they are shelved in the White Romance section. Hmm actually doesnt that reproduce what happens in this country when immigrants enter the US and they have been asked “Do you want to be with us or you want to be Negroes/colored/black folk?” We all know the answer to that question…
Very thought-provoking indeed.
SB Sarah posted this comment in the same thread:
One article cited featured a quote from an unnamed magazine publisher who stated that romance covers featuring Black characters in “Afrocentric styles” might make white readers uncomfortable. This same publisher said that covers without people would be preferable.
(White reader Sarah says: “What a bunch of unmitigated poppycock.”)
I think that Sarah’s dismissal of the above statement is wrong, and I said so:
I’m not sure if that statement is poppycock though Sarah. I think that a lot of white romance readers would be put off by a black couple on the cover. There are obviously exceptions, but I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of the white romance readers here have sub-consciously by-passed books that have featured black protagonists on the cover.
I still believe that one of the reasons Dorothy Koomson’s My Best Friend’s Girl sold so well, was because of the clever/subtle cover (UK version that is, the US version sucks arseholes). A lot of white readers confessed that they hadn’t realised that the heroine was black, until halfway through the book…
I think I’ve said it before, but I truly believe that even if the AA authored books were shelved in the same place as ‘regular’ romance, I still think the majority of white romance readers would not take a second look, if the cover featured black people.
I believe this to be true, and I’d really appreciate it if nobody brings up the fact that Suzanne Brockmann featured black protags or that Anne Stuart wrote an IR romance featuring an Asian hero, because they are really weak arguments.
Another argument which makes me cringe is the ‘But I’ve got nothing in common with these characters, plus they speak funny’.
It’s good to discuss the issue of racism within romance, but it saddens me that nothing ever changes.