How the Slumflower exposes the limits of superficial identity politics
The drama has cost Chidera her management contract while Florence retains her book deal
Chidera Eggerue (The Slumflower) and Florence Given have had a public dispute which has caused furious debate about the publishing industry. It has been acknowledged that there is a problem with how the publishing industry valorises young female influencers, primed to spit them out eventually.
But we need to address this issue in terms of race. The situation has been described as a lose-lose one, but at the moment it seems like one person has lost more than the other. Chidera. And it’s not the first time this has happened.
When we trace the history of publishing in the UK, it becomes apparent that there has been the selective inclusion of non-white talent in terms of access to deals and opportunities.
Margaret Busby, the first black female publisher in the UK can testify to this legacy of non-white exclusion. She stated since then, it seems the publishing industry has not made much space for black people. A 2019 survey shows shockingly low numbers of non-white people in publishing – as low as 13 per cent. In an interview with The Guardian, she said: “I hope that people are examining their beliefs and thinking: ‘Where are the people from a different class background, ethnicity or a different part of the country?’ I think there are publishers who have been publishing diverse work, without making a song and dance about it. Taking books on because they’re good, not because they’re trying to fill some quota.”
Busby’s interview reveals the issue of how the publishing of non-white work is often done to fill quotas and make organisations look better rather on the merit and appreciation of the writers’ creativity.
With this recent drama of the influencers, Chidera has found herself without representation in the publishing industry while Florence Given’s book sales soar. Given’s popularity should not have to be compared with Chidera’s disenfranchisement but their drama makes this comparison unavoidable.
No matter what levels of culpability people take away from their debacle, it is a situation that has left another author on the cold fringes of the publishing industry.
Other than sharing her frustrations about a fractured publisher relationship and tensions with Florence, Chidera has shared her frustrations with being in the spotlight. In her own words, Chidera spoke of feeling an immense sense of pressure as an influencer: “There’s moral burnout where nothing you do is enough, nothing you say is enough and you’re seeing so many people just burn themselves out trying to do everything for everyone.”
She also captioned an Instagram post with the sentiment that she was targeted by cancel culture: “Black women have historically been the biggest targets for cancel culture and pussy policing.”
This statement is her perspective on the issue and whether it is accurate or not, the industry is one that appears hard for people like Chidera to get into. Nevertheless, the gap in evidence to back Chidera’s severe claims suggests a wish to use cancel culture to attack Given’s reputation. Despite her allegation’s references to racial injustice, it is clear that her copyright dispute is born out of her individual interests. In this way, Slumflower’s allegations show her willingness to use the appearance of identity politics as a means to an end.
Overall, the publishing industry’s track record of having minimal numbers of non-white publishing in the industry demonstrates the wider context of the Slumflower’s fallout. If non-white talent is nurtured on fragile terms, the industry’s lack of diversity will persist. What’s more, Slumflower’s use of the language of injustice to settle individual matters, undermines the industry’s existing inequality.
Featured image via @theslumflower on Instagram.