Writing Centers and the New Racism
A Call for Sustainable Dialogue and Change
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Utah State University Press
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Many of us involved in writing centers are drawn to this work because of the opportunities for collaboration it affords. True to that spirit, this project could not have been possible without the tremendous contributions and teamwork of many passionate people. Thank you to the authors who contributed to this collection. We are forever humbled by your belief in this book, your challenging...
Introduction: A Call to Action
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At the 2005 joint conference of the International Writing Centers Association and the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, Victor Villanueva (2006) challenged the writing center community to examine the language, rhetoric, and material reality of racism that shapes our work. In his exegesis of the “new racism,” which “embeds racism within a set of other...
Part 1: Foundational Theories on Racism, Rhetoric, Language, and Pedagogy
1. The Rhetorics of Racism: A Historical Sketch
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I want to make a convoluted claim. The claim is that though there has always been a distinction that contemporary eyes might view as racism, racism is relatively new. There have always been ways of distinguishing the usses from the thems and of ranking the usses as superior to the thems, but racism in the ways we tend to think of the concept hasn’t always been the means whereby that discrimination...
2. The “Standard English” Fairy Tale: A Rhetorical Analysis of Racist Pedagogies and Commonplace Assumptions about Language Diversity
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In a recent first-year seminar on language diversity in contemporary America, I began the term by having students read the first chapter in Rosina Lippi-Green’s (1997) English with an Accent, in which the author presents five “linguistic facts of life” for novice linguists to consider. I chose this text precisely to help the students in the course begin our discussions with a common set of...
3. Should Writers Use They Own English?
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Cultural critic Stanley Fish (2009d) come talkin bout—in his three-piece New York Times “What Should Colleges Teach?” suit—there only one way to speak and write to get ahead in the world, that writin teachers should “clear [they] mind of the orthodoxies that have taken hold in the composition world.” He say don’t no student have a right to they own language if that language make them...
Part 2: Toward an Antiracist Praxis for Writing Centers
4. Retheorizing Writing Center Work to Transform a System of Advantage Based on Race
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Fifteen years ago, the writing center I direct was staffed by knowledgeable, articulate, respectful, helpful, and friendly white people. Every February, we participated in NCTE’s African American Read-In. That was the only day of the year when people of color were a significant presence in the writing center. We decided to sponsor new varieties of read-ins, namely a Native American Read-In,...
5. Bold: The Everyday Writing Center and the Production of New Knowledge in Antiracist Theory and Practice
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“We’ll need to prioritize hiring consultants of color for fall,” Anne says to Davia. All four new consultants who are about to begin work in the writing center are white. “Do you really think about that?” she asks with her Jamaican lilt. “Yes, I do,” Anne says. “Don’t you think it’s important that we think about it?” “I guess,” she replies. She shrugs. “I don’t know. My country is one color.”
6. Beyond the “Week Twelve Approach”: Toward a Critical Pedagogy for Antiracist Tutor Education
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This chapter is grounded in two primary assumptions. The first is that writing centers are always already raced. By this we mean that the work of and in writing centers is always implicated in the institutional racism that shapes all our work in higher education. This is true, we argue, whether or not we resist, acknowledge, or even observe racism in our writing centers. In 2005, one of many...
7. Organizing for Antiracism in Writing Centers: Principles for Enacting Social Change
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Despite an interest in antiracism, those of us in writing centers often have difficulty imagining ways to make broad social change within powerful institutions. The emphasis on individualized instruction can leave us mired in feelings that systematic change lies beyond our power as writers, instructors, researchers, and administrators. Much potential exists, however, for enacting social...
Part 3: Research, Critical Case Studies and the Messiness of Practice
8. Bias in the Writing Center: Tutor Perceptions of African American Language
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In The Study of Literature, George Watson (1968) notes that “Tibetan tea, which is partly composed of rancid butter, is revolting to Western tastes if considered as tea but acceptable if considered as soup” (73). Watson uses this example as commentary on the influence of reader expectation upon reader reaction. It is also an apt corollary to my discussion of African American Language (AAL)...
9. Diversity as Topography: The Benefits and Challenges of Cross Racial Interaction in the Writing Center
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In November of 2006, the executive board of the International Writing Centers Association approved a statement in which it announced a major diversity initiative. This statement opens with an acknowledgement of writing centers as “inherently multicultural and multi-lingual sites that welcome and accommodate diversity.” It strikes us that one goal of this collection is to consider the ways...
10. Racial Literacy and the Writing Center
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James held high hopes for his first semester in college. He desperately wanted to believe that the diversity marketed to him as a high-school senior would in fact be the norm across the university campus. He was excited about the diverse enrollment in his racial literacy course: African American, black, white, biracial, multiracial, Hispanic, Native American, and Filipino. Taylor remarked that she...
11. Breaking the Silence on Racism through Agency within a Conflicted Field
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In attempting to foster diversity in my writing center, I, perhaps like many other well-intentioned white writing center directors and tutors, have found it difficult to leave behind the imprint of my First Worldism (Butler 2004, 46). Such an imprint can follow us in our writing center work whether we attempt to avoid racial inequities through remaining race neutral, believing that race need not...
Part 4: Stories of Lived Experience
12. “The Quality of Light”: Using Narrative in a Peer Tutoring Class
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I brought Audre Lorde’s (1996) quote above into my Writing Fellows: Theory and Practice of Peer Tutoring class in the middle of the semester in order to diffuse what was an increasingly tense classroom atmosphere. We had been talking about race/racism, gender/sexism, and sexuality, and a certain portion of the class felt alienated by the discussion. In fact, alienated is not quite the right word: part...
13. Caught in a Firestorm: A Harsh Lesson Learned Teaching AAVE
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Note found under my office door November 21, 2002: If you would like to know what or better yet, how a black person writes, then maybe you should focus your time and efforts into something a little more worthwhile than a guide or checklist to critique them on. Who are you to tell a certain people what is acceptable for them to write, think, or express themselves as? You are merely a tutor. Nothing...
14. On the Edges: Black Maleness, Degrees of Racism, and Community on the Boundaries of the Writing Center
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I’m an untenured junior faculty member, and I am building a writing center. Right now, I spend a significant amount of time sitting in the room that will become our writing center (we call it the “Writer’s Studio”) in the basement of my department’s newly renovated edifice. The lights are off most of the time. The room looks less empty that way, less harsh. Even in its unfinished,...
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About the Authors [Includes Back Cover]
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011
Edition: 1st Edition