Why We Still Need Books by White Men

Why We Still Need Books by White Men

white men writing

Welcome to the reboot of the “Behind the Books” blog of InterVarsity Press! The blog has a long and storied history but has lain dormant in recent years—until now. We are excited that a new team of voices here at IVP are eager to welcome you behind the scenes of how we do what we do across all aspects of the publishing process, within editorial, sales, marketing, publicity, creative, and more. If you love books and you have always wanted to get to know more about what makes IVP tick, then please do follow and subscribe so you won’t miss a post.

I’m excited to lead off this reboot focusing on one of the most unique aspects of IVP: our longstanding commitment to multiethnic publishing. Although it seems that many more publishers are featuring books on the topic of race or race-related issues, this is far from a fad for us. The call to celebrate diversity has been a foundational value for us as an organization since our earliest stages and will continue to be a cornerstone mission driving the books we contribute to the church and the world. We have had so many authors of color write for us over the decades that it is difficult to list them all, although you can see recent examples on our new website page devoted to multiethnic publishing.

The Myth of Equality by Ken WytsmaIf you scan that page, you might notice that we also have included books by white authors in the list. “But wait,” you might be wondering, if you are an astute user of social media. “Aren’t you the same person who recently wrote that piece about ‘white-centered discipleship hurting us all’? How can you say you are committed to multiethnic publishing but still feature white authors in that space?”

One of the white authors whose book is listed on our multiethnicity page, Ken Wytsma, tells a story in his book The Myth of Equality of a time when an African-American pastor invited him to lunch with some of his white copastors. When a disagreement about race between the black pastor and one of the white pastors emerged, Ken realized why his black friend had invited him.

“There were things that I, as an educated white man, could say about white privilege and blind spots that he never could,” Ken writes.

The reality is that when it comes to issues of race and privilege, sometimes it is easier for those who are white to hear truth from others who are white. This is a difficult reality, but one that we need to acknowledge. Clearly, this does not mean that we will only publish white authors in the area of race and racial reconciliation (or that we will only publish white authors if they write on these topics!). And we firmly believe that every reader is served well from reading a diverse range of voices (including both ethnic and gender diversity).

White Awake by Daniel Hill

But at the same time, if we truly want to see change happen in the church, then we do also need to pursue white authors who can address these issues in ways that white readers can understand. Both in the case of The Myth of Equality (recently released in June) and our forthcoming book White Awake (releasing Sept. 19) by Chicago pastor Daniel Hill, neither author was looking to benefit from writing on the topic of race. If anything, both authors were initially reluctant to accept my request to write books in this area, because neither wanted to be seen as leveraging his privilege for this purpose.

But I, as a woman of color, am keenly aware that until more white leaders are willing to stand for racial equity and disciple others in the area of cultural sensitivity, the church will remain highly segregated and rife with inequities and misunderstandings. As Daniel writes in White Awake,

“The system of race that we’ve created in America is fraught with sin, and it has played a powerful role in shaping the sense of identity of every human being who has lived here. . . . Our old self has been profoundly shaped by race, and we can’t grow into the new and redeemed self without naming the presence of that sin.”

These are exactly the kinds of perspectives that we need more white leaders to name and stand behind. So I am thrilled that both Ken and Daniel ultimately said yes to tackle these tricky topics. And both have pledged the proceeds of their books to causes that will advance a mission we believe in, which is to equip the church to be leaders in the pursuit of racial reconciliation and justice. We are proud to include these titles in our lineup of books furthering our value of multiethnicity.

Beyond Colorblind by Sarah ShinBut please have no fear that we will only publish white men on these kinds of issues! We also actively pursue women of all backgrounds in our publishing program. For proof, you need look no further than our November release of Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin. As fellow Korean-American woman myself, I am thrilled that Sarah will become the first Korean-American female solo author in IVP’s history. It may be 2017, but there are still barriers that can be broken, and IVP will continue to keep breaking them, racial and otherwise, in our publishing program.

2 Replies to “Why We Still Need Books by White Men”

  1. Hi Helen, I appreciate your perspective here and mostly agree. I too feel there are things that white people will only hear from other white people. I guess my concern is that you cite two books by white men here but only one by a person of color. Does this mean that book by white men will still be represented disproportionately?

    1. Karen, no doubt in any Christian publisher’s non-fiction author lineup, white men figure prominently. But I think IVP’s record stands for itself in terms of our intentionality for diversity both in terms of gender and ethnicity. Organizationally, we are supportive of women in leadership as well, and this is also reflected in the kinds of books we publish by women. We will continue to be proactive to publish women and people of color as well as white men who have things to say that we feel the church needs to hear. I hope that helps clarify our position and our aspirations. Thanks for your comment!