I am the foreigner; an ‘illegal alien’ daring to cross the border and seek a new life in the segregated ‘townships’ of publishing and illustration. However, as you can imagine, the road ahead is not paved with superior intelligence, no matter what they tell you. I am greeted by a hostile environment and no room is made for me on the bus, not even at the very back. The chants of ‘“build the wall”’ is an old lament, but deafening today in equal measure as the traditional and imperialistic gated community which looms before me. This must be a first. A plantation where my services will never be required or extorted. Oh, how I weep for my enslaved ancestors! If only they had been deemed too unskilled to work the field!
Variants of this ode can be found in the folklore of so many trampled societies. I am the intolerable ‘“invasion”’. And yes, the irony of the escapades of my colonial forebears is not lost on me either. Yet, still, I am the ideological rapist who wants to impregnate the purity of the white page and stain its cleanest sheets, and literate culture, with my inarticulate black thoughts. I am the ‘“worst [of my] people”’ and my pride will come before my prejudicial fall. The book is not my motherland! I should ‘“[…] go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which [I] came.”’ before I think about writing the wrongs of others by drawing the wrong conclusions. The world of publishing does not need my voice to speak on its behalf; it speaks volumes without it.
The fact, not the alternative kind, is that the global trade in storytelling is not a tradition which has currency only in The West. We all have ‘“[tales] as old as time”’. However, what is rarer still, is to behold an advanced tribe of people who are insular bibliophiles. Such a phenomenon is astounding! Educated people should not want to patronise an establishment or hold a torch to an institution such as ‘Bar-a-Negro’. Do publishers not ‘“[…] know the best words”’? Why do you insist that a ‘trump’ must always sip from the fountain of knowledge before ‘“an educated black”’? Look how ‘45’ has thanked you for your service. He has imposed the highest linguistical tariffs on every publication you own and made the book a laughing stock; the school, the dunce in the corner; the university, the bar on knowledge, and the library, the prison of the mind.
With a handful of words, that question the existence of the dictionary, ‘45’, Mr. ‘“Why don’t we nuke […] the hurricane […]”’, has annihilated the English Language, and decimated the spine of the sovereign state of publishing. Your love of the ‘“poorly educated”’, and pure as the driven snow, more than ‘“a black… low quality person”’, has allowed the ‘“infestation”’, that is ‘Agent Golden Shower’, to rain down and flood the land of the book and wash away ‘“[…] the home of the brave”’. Did you not watch the trailers prior to Tuesday, 8th November, 2016? The antagonist is not always the other fellow in blackface.
So, like my ancestors from a host of ‘“[…] shithole countries”’, who always come to your aid at a time of need, I would urge you to rewrite the script of your oldest narrative and forge a new literary empire by watching the interview conducted by Ms Grace Shutti, a journalist at The Guardian, titled ‘Call this inclusive? Why only 4% of kids' book heroes are BAME’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9YWQZLHHF8, and heeding the words of the white boy in the short film.
In response to Ms Shutti’s statement, ‘“[…] So you guys think that it’s important that you have characters that you can see yourselves in when you’re reading books […]”’, the white boy’s interjection spoke volumes: ‘“[…] It just makes you feel...it just makes you feel good.”’
For his second declaration, the white boy was astute in equal measure. He delivered another powerful message that I wish all white publishers could grasp. In reference to the black girl seated next to him, who had opined that black characters in books made her feel that ‘“[…] anything is possible”’, the white boy chimed: ‘“[…] Well if I read that kind of book as well, like, with loads of different coloured people, stuff like that, I just feel everything is possible as well.”’
Critics drunk on scepticism may brush aside such assurances from a white child; however, the underlying subtext of what the white boy said is not lost on me either. The opinions he expressed only serve to illuminate the fact that white publishers are making a deliberate choice to deny black characters entry to their literary empires on baseless grounds steeped in a tradition of artificially inflated intelligence. Consequently, the question must be asked, why do white publishers not want Black and Minority Ethnic children to ‘“[…] feel good”’ about themselves? A foundation built on the premise that an education lies in the realms of books cannot be supported by pillars of the community who are ‘“[…] like a really smart person”’. White publishers must choose – either you are ‘“a very stable genius”’, or you are a fraud of a ‘trump’.
Harris C. et al (2019). Time for Change Black and minority ethnic representation in the children’s literature sector November 2019. Arts Council England.
(2019). REFLECTING REALITIES Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature 2018. Centre For Literacy In Primary Education.
Shutti G. et al (2019). Call this inclusive? Why only 4% of kids' book heroes are BAME. Guardian News & Media Limited.
Guardian staff (2019). Trump suggests 'nuking hurricanes' to stop them hitting America – report. Guardian News & Media Limited.
The words of Donald J. Trump which are too few, yet still too many.
The title of this article is borrowed from ‘Notes On A Scandal’, a novel by Ms Zoë Heller, as well as the film adaptation of the book by Mr. Patrick Marber, which share the same title.