That's in its ideal form. However, the practice isn't perfect, and the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag is about women of color calling out their feminist "sisters" on their racial hypocrisy. Like how white feminists assume white culture is better, as in this image:
Mostly I read and RT-d, because, ya know, I'm white, so I kind of would have been missing the point otherwise. There comes a time when one should just shut up and listen.
After a while, I opened a new tab and finished my review of one of my favorite books, Partials by Dan Wells. I had to look up an image to go with the article, so I spent some time exploring the author's website...and saw something there that made me mad. I've been sitting on this blogpost for a while, waiting for a good time to write it -- and that combined with the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag just clinched it.
Book covers are white-washed. I think we all know this. Especially in YA, it seems, there is an improbable number of glamorous white teens staring back at us from the front of book covers. The industry is dominated by white people, and people tend to write about people like them, so there's a racial imbalance in YA fiction.
I knew all that, and it annoyed me before. But there's something else I didn't realize until recently. When white-washing happens, it's not just about putting a lot of white protagonists on covers. It also happens when the protagonist or major character is a PoC...and the cover makes them look whiter.
While on vacation, I picked up Doll Bones by Holly Black, a MG horror novel. Here's a look at the back cover:
See that girl on the right? Alice? Alice is Filipino, described as having "bronze skin" and braided hair. Take another look at her picture.
When I got to the part where she's described in the book, I actually had a "huh?" and a double-take moment. I flipped to the back cover. I guess, if you squint and look closer, you can see that Alice's skin is slightly more tan than Poppy's and Zach's.
Still, that picture and the word "bronze" just don't match up. It would be easy to mistake her for a tan white person, which is what I did when I picked up the book for the first time.
Here's another example. Partials is a YA post-apocalyptic novel by Dan Wells. Kira, the main character, is Indian and possibly biracial, since she never knew her mom. Moreover, Partials actually puts the Indian, dark-haired, dark-skinned Kira on the book cover. Yay, right?
Compare the original to the sequel, Fragments:
The book cover for the sequel fecking white-washed her. Her skin is lighter. Also, and more obviously -- her hair isn't black, the way it's described in the book and the way it is on the first damn cover. It's a "whiter" color of brown. She's not as pale as the guy next to her, but she still looks like a white person. Which I'm assuming is what they were going for.
This time my whyyyyy??? is even more frustrated than with Doll Bones. They had no problem with accurately depicting Kira's race on the first book cover! Why change it for the sequel?
Here's a very possible, depressing explanation: Dan Wells got complaints. Maybe from readers, maybe from publishers...but perhaps someone wanted to see a whiter-looking protagonist on the front cover. Or at least, a less-dark one.
Another possible, even more depressing explanation: In the sequel, Kira is pictured with a boy. A white boy. A white love interest, in fact. CLUTCH PEARLS. Perhaps they were OK with portraying an Indian protagonist alone on the cover...but didn't want to pair her with a white boy.
I used to think the solution to the white-washing problem was for people to write more diverse casts of characters. But that was rather naive of me. The white-washing problem goes beyond that. It seems that even if a main character is not white, they will likely be white-washed on the cover anyway.
All these thoughts coalesced in my brain today and came out as this post. What do you think?