Thursday, July 16, 2020

Why Do I Have to Be a Black Author?

Back in 2005 I started working on my very first book (Whatever! A Baby Boomer's Journey Into Middle Age).  The book was written for middle aged women, like myself, who were going through things like menopause, divorce and dating after 40, working for bosses young enough to be your children, etc.  I not only shared my own personal (humorous) experiences but I also did research to offer tips to women in order to help them navigate their own middle age journey.  The final stage was creating the cover.  I was trying to decide whether or not it should include my picture.  I wanted to have it there---probably more so for vanity than anything, but it was my first book and I wanted people to be able to put a book and a name with a face.

BUT then this happened...........

When I was putting the finishing touches on my first book, a person I highly respected (a white woman who was a colleague in the newsroom) told me to leave my picture off of the cover because I would get more sales.  She said if I put my picture on the cover, white women would think it was a book about black women and they wouldn't buy it.  I took her advice and the book went on to become an Amazon Best Seller.  I wonder, in hindsight, what would've happened if I ignored her and put my picture there.  (I actually wrote this in 2008 in response to a blog post on diversity written by my good "virtual" friend, Mitch Mitchell (@Mitch_M).  

Mitch recently reminded me of what I wrote back then and it got me to thinking about how systemic racism permeates every aspect of a black person's life.  Why do I have to be classified as a "black" author?  I'm just an author who HAPPENS to be black.  Am I not qualified to share my experiences about menopause as someone who went through it for several years?  Don't white women get divorced and try to get back out on the dating scene just like I did?  Haven't many of us been in real life work experiences where we find ourselves taking direction from someone who's 5-10 years younger? 

Systemic racism says I am ALWAYS labeled as Black first:  Black journalist, Black blogger, Black Motivational Speaker, Black Professional, Black woman, Black mother, Black grandmother, Black activist---BLACKLISTED!

Fast forward to 2017:  I published my 5th book (to the right on this page).  I didn't hesitate to put my face on the cover and I intentionally chose a white person as a counterpart.  Some people thought I did it to add so-called "value" to the book.  I did it to show that I was in control and I had the power to do so! Oh, and by the way, The Baby Boomer Millennial Divide: Making it Work at Work  also became a Best Seller on Amazon.