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‘The black writer is the least marketable in this country’ – Khaya Dlanga responds to Rod MacKenzie

To Quote MyselfKhaya Dlanga has written a response to a recent piece by Rod MacKenzie titled “Can a white man tell Khaya Dlanga how to write a memoir?”

The article, published on the Mail & Guardian Thought Leader website, refers to Dlanga’s To Quote Myself, which was released in a new, updated edition this year.

MacKenzie asks: “why should the rise of yet another young man in the advertising world that could be anywhere on the globe [...] be of any interest, indeed, be publishable? Is it simply because Khaya is ‘black’ and therefore more marketable? Should a whitey be suggesting how Khaya should write his own memoir?”

In his response, “Telling black people how to tell their stories is a way of gate-keeping storytelling”, Dlanga says MacKenzie wrote what he thought were “some good points here and there and some fair criticisms”.

“Yet,” he adds, “there is thinly veiled racism that he can’t even pick up in his commentary. It was polite racism. Which is the worst kind.”

Dlanga continues: “It was precisely because I am a black writer telling his own black experience that I am not marketable.”

Read on:

It is miraculous that [To Quote Myself] made it on the bestseller list to begin with. But guess what? It was the only book on that list by a living black writer. That is disgusting. We are in a majority black country yet there was only one book on the list. Just one. And worse, it was dead last on that list. I felt like the Some of My Best Friends Are Black of books. Look how generous and nice we are, we allowed a black, oops, a black person in the club.

Rod MacKenzie must tell us how that makes me or any black writer more marketable. I am very curious. The black writer is the least marketable in this country. The system is stacked against them. If black writers were more marketable, why aren’t they on bestseller lists? Why are there so few published? Rob forgets his privilege.

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