With increasingly widespread conversations about racism, a global pandemic and political polarization, how can publishing play an integral role in challenging discrimination?
As part of the Protestant Church-Owned Publishing Association annual conference 2021, Dr Theon Hill (Associate Professor of Communication, Wheaton College) gave an inspiring and rallying opening address about the importance of both religious and secular publishing at this time of division and hatred.
If books carry significant power to influence and educate people, then the publishers behind the printed words are similarly important. Publishers determine which stories are amplified and which are excluded, making it crucial that the body of publishers is diverse. Yet, as Dr Hill explained, to ensure diversity in published books and the industry itself, we cannot simply make racial minorities fit into the current framework. Instead, we must interrogate the culture that prohibited minorities from succeeding and change it.
Dr Hill referred to Ida B. Wells, a journalist and early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Wells intertwined her career with her social justice mission and used her journalism to enact social change, notably by documenting lynching in the 1890s. Dr Hill encourages publishers not to be solely driven by marketing forces but become catalysts for productive change through their work and provide a platform for the important stories of today. This starts with accounting for industry and social problems and changing outdated structures.
Dr Hill aptly used the late Toni Morrison’s words to encourage listeners: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work”.
He also recommended reading Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry to understand more about the important issues raised in his talk.