1. transitive verb
  2. 1:  to whiten with whitewash

  3. 2a:  to gloss over or cover up (such as vices or crimes) refused to whitewash the scandalb:  to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data

  4. 3:  to hold (an opponent) scoreless in a game or contest

Now this is not to say that biracial girls and guys don’t deserve to have their stories told. They do, but that means that speaking to their existence as real whole people. Do we get to see them navigate the world as a racially blended family? If you don’t think this is necessary, I would argue that characters of color rarely get to make it out of any YA book without addressing their race in some way. By making the character biracial there is an effort to appease all of the voices calling for more color without having to deal with the messy business of discrimination. And because the practice can be insidious, often taking place well before the book is printed and sold to the masses, we as consumers often don’t see it happening or are tipped off far too late.

There are signs of change in the marketplace. Dhonielle Clayton’s upcoming novel, The Belles is getting a large marketing push from her publisher and features a beautiful black girl on the cover. This is a departure from previous novels that featured girls of color. Many of them featured only text.

But if you’re looking for novels featuring black boys on the cover, I hoped you packed a lunch because you’re going to be on a long journey. Dear Martin by Nic Stone comes out in October and is highly anticipated, but if you’re looking for anything with a black boy with a black girl love interest that has mystery, fantasy, science fiction or historical elements you might die looking. That is the most glaring incidence of whitewashing there is, the purposeful removal of stories of color from the marketplace to perpetuate the idea of whiteness as mainstream and normal. Sounds harsh doesn’t it?

Maybe we’ve been too easy on the industry. Excuses have been that there aren’t writers of color out there, but that’s been proven to be untrue. There’s also the idea that quality stories aren’t out there, and yet they still publish I Woke Up Dead At The Mall. No shade to the author of that fun romp, but there is this narrative that writers of color have to be Tolstoy to deserve publishing. It’s just not true. It needs to change and it’s time that it happened. Join me for a twitterchat so we can gab about it or drop me a line in the comments. I’ll post a storify of the chat on my blog, later.

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