advocacy beyond media

It’s my first post in months. The first post I’ve been able to complete through the exhaustion of the stress of this semester of uni, and I want y’all to know that I’ve finally had enough.

I suppose I should say hello but I don’t particularly care much about greetings and platitudes today because this post is very much a call out post.

The book community is a vast place with people from different ethnicities, religions, races and from different parts of the world. One of the prides of this community or people in it, is this diversity and the seeming sense of social awareness but like I said seeming because for a community that supposedly cares for the advancement of society through media representation, diversity and inclusion, the book community does not in fact care about people from marginalised backgrounds as much as they care for their cookie points on seeming to care.

This for many people of such backgrounds is a known fact, but this post is about some fairly recent occasions.

This week (or more accurately before this week because this week is just the culmination of these issues), there has been an explosion of issues around this world.

In India, we have the COVID-19 crisis with thousands of new cases and hundreds of people dying daily. Health care facilities and personnel are performing overcapacity. Resources, ventilation, oxygen tanks and vaccines are widely unavailable and people continue to contract the disease and die from it daily at an alarming rate. This is a similar case in Nepal.

In Palestine, the oppression of the settler state of Israel, which is ethnically cleansing Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlers, continues. On February 10, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court upheld an October 2020 Jerusalem Magistrate Court decision, requiring a number of Sheikh Jarrah residents to vacate properties they are living in by May 2, 2021 (later on postponed to May 6 2021). In the past week, there’s been increased violence and brutality from Israelis and the Israeli government to the inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah ranging from verbal and physical assault to outright murder.

In Colombia, for over a week now Colombians have been protesting the new and outrageous tax reform to be implemented in a global pandemic. This is even more inappropriate given that over 40% of Colombians live below the poverty line. Following the onset of peaceful protests, there has been increased police brutality leading to 56 confirmed disappearances, 1,181 confirmed injured, 27 homicides and 9 confirmed sexual assaults and rape cases by police*.

*As of May 4th, 2021.

All of these are major and prominent issues occurring right now. No doubt there are more issues occurring at the moment (for example the COVID-19 crisis in Brazil, do look it up and raise awareness), but these particular ones listed are hard to miss and but still it’s too difficult for people in the book community to care.

Let’s go back to the book community and media advocacy. A lot of readers in the online book community pride themselves in reading ‘diversely’. I put this in quotes because the diversity in question can be well…questionable.

We pride ourselves in being woke, socially aware and advocating for diverse voices and people of colour. 

And yes, doing all that is important but fiction mirrors reality and advocacy and activism doesn’t stop at reading a few books by Black authors during Black History Month or having a favourite Asian author or having your token favourite POC. All that without any action or care for the lives and situations of real life and actual people of the marginalisation of characters and authors you say you love is nothing but performative. 

It shows a kind of disconnect from reality to claim you care about certain characters and ignore the pain of the people these characters are molded after or share a similar experience with.

Anti colonialism seems to be a trend with the book community lately. I don’t mean to diminish decolonisation and anti colonialism because as a person who’s from a former colony (in which the colonial state has some extent of power over us still), these themes are important to me. These are themes I stand for but it seems for a number of people in the book community, it’s only acceptable in fiction.

How can you say you’re for decolonisation or love books with anti colonial themes and ignore Palestine? You support books about anti colonialism and yet keep silent while Israel continues its genocide and displacement of Palestinians. 

Israel is a settler colonial state that has been systematically wiping out Palestinians for decades. A real life oppressor from which the books you say you love is modelled but when Palestinians need help, you’re silent.

This isn’t the first instance of the book community ignoring Palestinian voices. Since I joined this community, it’s been an observable fact that humanitarian crises in the Global South and most particularly in the Middle East are ignored. Palestine is even a more peculiar case because even if Global Southerners try, do our best and force you (in Global North) to listen to us with Palestine its much harder to get a fraction of support.

It clearly shows that you do not see Palestinians and Global Southerners as humans. It is very obvious that the book community does not see Palestinians specifically as humans.

While I would like to digress and talk more about the pattern of centering the West in humanitarian crises and ignoring the Global South, that’s a topic for another day. At this moment, I need everyone to remember that Palestinian rights are human rights; and Israel has been committing multiple human rights violations for decades.

It’s AAPI Heritage Month and you know what that means, we’re going to have huge TBR lists of books by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors, and even Asian authors. Recommendation lists will be aplenty, but yet you can hardly find people who care about what’s happening in Palestine and India.

Yesterday, there was wide outrage in book twitter and the Shadow and Bone fandom about the fact that the stunt double for Amita Suman was in fact white and was in Brownface in the series. Now we should talk about brownface and representation in media given the history of American media, but it’s laughable and very much annoying to get so much outrage in hours about this when it took almost a week to get the attention of people in these communities to care about the COVID-19 crisis in Nepal’s neighbouring country, India and also in Nepal itself.

You would care more about an actress in brownface than actual Brown people dying. How can you say you care about an actress when it takes literally begging and even guilting to get you to care about people who look like her, are from the same region and even country (in Nepal’s case) as she is?

Latinx Heritage Month is coming up in a few months but yet hardly anyone is concerned about the lives of the people of Colombia or what’s happening now.

Last year in the book community, defining performative activism and calling it out was a huge thing and for good reason, but it seems this community is quick to ignore its own advice and that this advice is only good for certain people.

It’s not surprising but still heartbreaking to see people in this community be selective about their causes, be selective of who they deem worthy or human enough. No one is asking you to do so much or to go out of your way, we literally just asking for a retweet, a shout out, an acknowledgement that yes, I see and I’m here for you.

But it seems you don’t see us humans too. We’re just characters that exist for you to enjoy in your books and TV shows. Your acknowledgment of existence is limited only to fiction. Your support of marginalised people is limited to support of media that gives us the bare minimum of representation.

Outside of your terms (representation in media), our existence stops and so does your advocacy. And it rings quite clear that you do not care or advocate for us, you’re only concerned about you and your look.


If you’d like amplify or donate to issues going on around the world, here are a few tweets about them and ways to help.

India

Fanna shares resources about what is going on in India, donation links and fundraisers. There are many ways to help India on here ranging from donations for medical resources, relief for families, fundraisers and giveaways to win some cool stuff in exchange for a donation

Palestine

Jia shares reliable charities and organisations that you can donate to in order to materially help Palestinians.

A ramadan fundraiser for families in Gaza for Muslims, non Muslims are more than welcome to also help out.

Colombia

Fran shares a thread with extensive information on what’s going on in Colombia and some ways to help. There’s a link to a thread about issues occurring in Mexico

Brazil

This person shares information on the situation in Brazil and links to donations.

I’ll post more information regarding Nepal and how to help later.


I want to end this post with a general reminder to the book community that your advocacy does not stop at critiquing media representation, if it does then it’s empty and performative. And remember that people in the Global South are just people like you and deserve basic human rights.


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10 thoughts on “advocacy beyond media

  1. Thank you for writing this, Em. I absolutely agree; the book community needs to understand that being vocal about representation in books or publishing will always be important but being vocal about the very same POC whose representation is discussed —when they’re in the global south, facing crises— is how real concern reflects.

    P.S. Thank you so much for sharing the donation links and resource thread for Covid relief in India.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is one of the major reasons I drew back from Book twitter. The way it approaches minorities is so fetishizing , it’s disgusting to see peoplz treat us more as an aesthetic rather than real people. Thank you for writing this 💕

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thank you for writing this. It feels like we say the same things over and over again. In the moment it might get a bunch of retweets or acknowledgements, but people move on almost immediately. Not too long ago I made a post about the performative activism in the book community myself; the fact people need to keep writing these big call outs, with different issues that are ignored each time, speaks of the state of book twitter and how toxic it really is. It’s sickening. I know how draining these types of posts are, but from the response in interactions I see on Twitter, I have hope your words might reach some people for the better.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yesterday, there was wide outrage in book twitter and the Shadow and Bone fandom about the fact that the stunt double for Amita Suman was in fact white and was in Brownface in the series. Now we should talk about brownface and representation in media given the history of American media, but it’s laughable and very much annoying to get so much outrage in hours about this when it took almost a week to get the attention of people in these communities to care about the COVID-19 crisis in Nepal’s neighbouring country, India and also in Nepal itself.

    SCREAMING. EXACTLY THIS.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Em! Thank you for writing this post! I do wish that booktwt has its priorities straight. I personally am still struggling with donor fatigue bec of wave of disasters and killings in our country, but I do hope that simply RTing helps.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for speaking up on this issue so eloquently. The issue of Palestinians is something that very few people talk about. And book twitter has always disaapointed me; those with influence only speak up on things when they are “trending”.

    Like

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