White Silence is Violence: And It’s Violence in the Book Community Too

[Quick note: I am white. Any mentions of “us,” “our,” “we,” etc. is me speaking to other white people. And the purpose of this blog post is to speak to white readers in the book community on white silence. I’ve also provided some anti-racism resources, ways to support Black Lives Matter, and action steps at the end of this post.]


Our response should not be “it’s hard to find the words.”

Our response should not be “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to start.”

We should have so many words. 

Because we have so much to do.

Because we have so many places to start. 

And, white reader friends, we should not be silent in the spaces we occupy—whether that’s on book blogs, booktube, book Twitter, bookstagram, wherever. 

Because white silence is violence.

Because silence is not anti-racism. And if what we say and do is not anti-racist, what we say and do is racist.

So many Black readers in our community have asked us to use our voices, use our platforms.

Ignoring them, refusing to speak up, is betrayal.

I will not be silent—online, in the book community, at my jobs, with my friends, with my family. And to my white reader friends (and any white person reading this post), do not be silent either.

Show up imperfectly.

To not be silent, we have to show up. We have to show up imperfectly.

If you’re anxious and socially anxious like me, I know any small imperfection is anxiety inducing, especially in social situations. But too much is at stake. We should not be prioritizing comfort over demanding justice.

We should prioritize showing up imperfectly.

Because no matter where we are in being anti-racist, we are imperfect in doing so.

We are learning. We will forever be unlearning taught racial microaggressions in our conscious and subconscious, and we will forever be learning to be anti-racist and better allies to accomplices to co-conspirators.

And that’s white privilege.

It’s white privilege learning how racism is embedded in our society, our institutions and structures that benefit us, instead of experiencing the oppression and discrimination of these structures.   

We must learn because it’s our job to dismantle, demolish racism in our book community and everywhere.

Speaking of learning, here’s a reminder to say you’ve read or heard that the representation in a book is good in your reviews:

As we show up, now and forever, I want to share a few things not to do that I keep hearing about on social media from Black readers.

1. For the love of God, do not ask Black readers for book recommendations to educate you.

You’re asking them for emotional labor while they’re experiencing trauma.

And on that note:

View this post on Instagram

Important advice from Erica Joy ☝🏿☝🏼#ShowUp 👉🏿👉🏼 Read on for advice from @wholeheartedcoaching: An actionable item POC and white people can take right now is to check in on their Black friends. However, we have to be mindful that each time we reach out we could possibly be retraumatizing that person. So here are some things to think of before you “check in”: ⠀ 1. Keep your message short and loving: “I am sending you so much love right now. Know that I am always here to talk.” ⠀ DO NOT make this about your feelings: “I’m so sad/angry/frustrated.” This is not about you. If they open up the conversation to share feelings then do so. But again, THIS IS NOT ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL. ⠀ DO NOT write fear based or sensational messages: “OMG I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Are you ok?!?” Messages like this only heighten the ever present worry and fear that they’re experiencing. Also, they make think you’re referring to a new event and will in turn check social media or the news (which maybe they’re trying not to do). ⠀ 2. If you do not know this person or have not been in touch with them for a while, DO NOT try and create a sense of intimacy that isn’t there. ⠀ This is not the time to DM every Black person you follow on Instagram or met in college. Instead, maybe send them some money (Venmo $5), a gift, or seamless them their favorite meal. Think of a loving non-intrusive act that they do not need to reciprocate. And check in on the Black people you are close with in real life. And if the only Black people you know are people you follow on Instagram, then you are part of the problem. ⠀ 3. NEVER EXPECT A RESPONSE BACK This is key. Again this is not about you. Send them your love and thoughts and have no expectations that you will hear back from this person. They don’t owe you an answer.

A post shared by From Privilege to Progress (@privtoprog) on

Books on racism, police brutality, have existed. Resources for anti-racism are not new. 

Reaching out for books and resources that you could Google, that you already have access to, is asking Black readers to do the work for you.

And we have the work to do.

(Please find resources below.)

2. Don’t pose at being an ally.

Posing and performance activism. 

We’ve heard those words a lot regarding this week’s #BlackOutTuesday on Instagram.

So how do we know we’re not posing? That we’re not performing but living activism?

I recently watched this video from Privilege to Progress, where they answered this question in a live conversation on Instagram:

Basically, we know we aren’t performing when we’re doing. When our actions online coincide with our actions offline.

Did you post a black square on your bookstagram and donate? Did you post and sign petitions? And text and call?

If you didn’t, then it was performance activism.

And that means, from here on out, you have to show up. Show up with you mind, your time, your energy, and your money. In our book community and everywhere.

(Again, please find some ways to take action below.)

3. Know who you’re supporting in the publishing industry.

Know the bookstores, the publishers, the authors you support. Check out their social media presence. Review their websites.

Because there’s anti-racism work to be done in the publishing industry.

View this post on Instagram

We believe it is important in this moment for all of us in the publishing industry to specifically acknowledge how anti-Blackness within our industry has contributed to the ongoing oppression of Black people. The publishing industry continues to uphold a system of institutional racism that oppresses, tokenizes, and shuts out Black people, who make up more than 13% of the US population but only 5% of the publishing workforce (and just 1% of Editorial!). Our industry has denied Black readers the opportunity to see themselves in books, and has put Black people at risk by continually centering White voices. We stand in solidarity with Black authors, illustrators, educators, librarians, readers, and publishing professionals. We commit to uplifting Black voices, stories, and creators through our work, and we hope our industry peers will do the same. It is our job and the job of every publisher in our industry to not only shed light on the pervasiveness of systemic racism and anti-blackness within our industry, but to actively dismantle it. [Authorship statistics in the above infographic reflect the percentage of Black children's book creators in 2018, as reported by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. No comprehensive authorship statistics on the adult publishing side exist, as far as we are aware. All other data was pulled from the Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0, released in 2019 from Lee & Low Books.]

A post shared by Lee and Low Books (@leeandlow) on

One of the book sellers we no longer support is Book Outlet.

We should no longer purchase from their website. We should unfollow them online. Unsubscribe from their emails.

If you haven’t heard about this yet on Twitter or on YouTube, they have a “Vlogger Friends” program in which they partner with booktubers. They denied Black booktubers from joining their program, tweeting that they are only bringing on booktubers with a “family-friendly appearance.”

Read: they are only bringing on white booktubers. Read: racist response.

Mika Auguste and NayaReadsandSmiles both talked more about this in recent videos on their booktube channels:

I need to do this research too. And continue to do this research.

We must do this research in order to dismantle the racial injustices and discrimination in the publishing industry.

Continue to educate yourself and share your resources.

Here are some of mine, and I hope some are new to you:

  1. Enroll in this FREE anti-racism training. It’s also important to note that this training is facilitated by a white person within the organization. Because, as they state, “Racism is a construct created by white people for the benefit of white people, it is the responsibility of white people to educate others and dismantle this system.”
  2. Take the Racial Bias Test.
  3. Take the White Fragility Test.
  4. Review these anti-racism resources for white people.
  5. Check out the scaffolded anti-racist resources.
  6. Check out these resources for calling out racist family members:
    1. Tips for engaging in conversation with family about the BLM movement.
    2. Here is a gift to white people who insist they know what Martin Luther King Jr. would have said.
  7. Go to From Privilege to Progress. They are teaching this work. Follow them.
  8. Check out the It’s time to pull up campaign by Mia Brabham, soon-to-be-published author of Notes to Self: A Collection of Thoughts.
  9. Stop Asking People Of Color To Explain Racism–Pick Up One Of These Books Instead. The title of this article says it all.
  10. Attend the live Facebook conversation with the author of White Rage Carol Anderson and her editor Nancy Miller.
  11. Participate in the Blackout Buddy Read, hosted by Books with Shae, happening now from June 5 – 19, 2020.  Follow the Blackout Buddy Read Twitter Account. Watch the announcement video below as well!

Take and continue to take action. Now and always.

Here are some ways you can take action to support Black Lives Matter and amplify Black voices in our book community. 

  1. View these cards for petitions to sign, places to donate, and more:
    1. blmsites.carrd.co
    2. blacklivesmatters.carrd.co
    3. blackliveswillalwaysmatter.carrd.co
    4. blmstanguide.carrd.co
    5. saytheirnames.carrd.co
    6. useyourvoice.carrd.co
  2. Watch to donate. Ad revenue from these videos will be donated to organizations in support of Black Lives Matter.
  3. Split a donation between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers.
  4. Buy books from Black-owned bookstores. Follow them online, and let other readers know about their stores.
  5. Read books by Black authors. Follow them online, and hype their work.
  6. Subscribe to Black booktubers‘ channels, and engage with their content
  7. Follow Black readers online, and again, engage with their content.

Also, I bolded “engage with their content” because Black booktubers have continued to voice that we show up when it’s “trendy” and leave when it’s “business as usual,” as Jesse from Bowties & Books talks about in the video they posted today:

And of course there are more action steps to take.

We must do anti-racist work every day, in ourselves and in our communities and in our world.  

We must not be silent.

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