The first tweet featuring the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag appeared on April 24th, 2014, and since then the campaign has exploded worldwide. The topic was trending on Twitter days before its official three day inauguration, with dozens of people answering the question: Why do we need diverse books?
Those dozens became hundreds, the tweets surged into the tens of thousands and the number of impressions for the hashtag mushroomed into hundreds of millions.
I’m very excited to be on the WNDB campaign team, and I’m thrilled at the attention we’ve been getting from media and like-minded people everywhere. But there are some among us that I’d like to have a little conversation with.
First off, a declaration–I’m white. More specifically, I’m a white author. I’m not rich and famous like @realjohngreen or @_SuzanneCollins, but I’m multi-published. And a few of my published books feature main characters of color.
So you might think I’m on Easy Street being involved with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. That I have this giant platform to stand on to trumpet to the world about my books. That I might not be rich and famous now, but I will be soon because I can slap that #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag onto the three hundred Twitter posts I’m planning to tweet, complete with “buy links” of my diverse books.
Erm…no. I have not used that hashtag to promote my own books, nor do I intend to. And here’s where I have to have a little conversation with all you fellow white authors out there.
Be honest–have you used the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag to promote your “diverse” book? Maybe posted something like “#WeNeedDiverseBooks and that’s why I wrote DUCK AND WOLF ARE FRIENDS. Buy it here:”
Please stop. Don’t do that. Number one, you’re white, and a big part of the WNDB campaign is to support and encourage diverse authors, not just diverse books. Number two, you’re white, and while I don’t know this for certain about your particular book, there’s a possibility that you have not done your homework and even with the best of intentions, what you think are diverse characters are actually full of offensive stereotypes.
And number three, no matter who you are, as unseemly, tacky, and distasteful as it is to go around blaring to the world on Twitter that people should go out and buy your book, it’s even more unseemly, tacky, and distasteful to do so in the guise of being a supporter of diversity.
Because the way so many of my fellow white authors jumped in, I had to wonder just how important diversity was to them before #WeNeedDiverseBooks made such a big splash. Whether they’d been on the diversity soapbox for years like Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo. Whether those white authors show their support of diverse authors by buying their books, or if they just saw a topic trending on Twitter and jumped right in to take advantage.
Maybe the white authors I saw tweeting about their “diverse” books weren’t as opportunistic as they seemed, jumping on the bandwagon of a successful movement. If nothing else, the campaign has certainly demonstrated that there are people of good will everywhere. All those eager promoters might just be people passionate about diversity.
Either way, I beg of you, white authors. Tout your book on Twitter if you must. But, please, please, leave off the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.