Monday, August 7, 2017

Letter to CCCC Members about the NAACP Travel Advisory and CCCC Statement on It

Dear friends and colleagues,

As of this morning, I have seen the good feedback and discussions that several CCCC members have posted in various places on FB and on the G'form I set up to gather your ideas for 4C18 in response to the NAACP's Missouri Travel Advisory. Much of the discussion has been frustration around the CCCC's statement on the travel advisory's lack of concern over people of color's safety, especially black members, in Missouri, that this is yet another version of the way white supremacy works. It prioritizes monetary loss or gain over the very real bodies and lives of people of color. I hear this. From a personal standpoint, I agree. I am one of those bodies. I know, first-hand how traveling in particular spaces can be unsafe, make one feel anxious and unsure about everything. None of this shit is fair. I know, really. I care deeply about our black members and the black communities in Missouri, and painfully realize that any decision we make about our convention site will not change the risks black people take every day. It hurts me physically to write that sentence.

I also feel I need to apologize for a part of the CCCCs statement because of some of the discussion around it already, even though I know it was a statement from the organization at large and not just from me. CCCC has a protocol for responding to such issues in a timely manner, and in that quick process, I was not attentive enough in my choice of language in the official statement. While the statement was reviewed by all the officers and the Executive Committee (EC), as well as NCTE personnel, I feel I need to apologize for the first line in the second paragraph, which says, "We cannot move our national convention." This is not true. We can. I am sorry about this statement. It is misleading. What it should have said was that the conference cannot be moved or cancelled without a vote by the EC to do so. To have a vote by the EC takes time, if that is the direction the EC wishes to go. That EC meeting will happen in the next two weeks. 

Please know that I am still listening carefully and taking notes on your feedback. I appreciate all of it. I have not decided fully all that I feel I can do as Program Chair, and of course, any decisions about cancelling or changing the way the conference is delivered is a decision that can only be made by the CCCC EC. Officers, such as me, only enforce policy, not make it. As I understand things, canceling our annual convention or delivering it in some other way are policy changes. Of course, I do have a say in this decision, but like other executive officers, I do not get to make such decisions on my own. But let me assure you that my first priority in such decisions is to engage in social justice as a practice, and if that means not to have a conference -- even the one I'm chairing -- I will vote to cancel the conference and accept the financial costs to the organization in order to protect black lives and demonstrate to Kansas City and the state of Missouri that they need to change their shit. Black lives are more important than even the existence of our organization. But how does canceling one of the two main things we exist for do social justice work for those in and around Missouri, for all of us? Will it send the message we want, or simply harm us financially? Are there any states currently that do not have just as many social justice problems? Is it possible to relocate the convention without putting CCCC into fiscal jeopardy, risking its very existence? The cost we would pay for cancelling or moving the convention is very high, so high it risks our financial stability. But this is mostly an ethical question, not a financial one. 

Having said all that, I don't want to make any hasty decisions, so I apologize if I've not been decisive enough or quick enough. I am deeply conflicted about what finally to do for my part. I love our convention and the people I get to see every year in the flesh. Chairing Cs is a dream come true, one I take very seriously. I have so much planned for KC. I want everyone, but especially our members of color, LGBTQ, and Muslim members to be safe, to know that their professional convention is taking all the measures it can to protect them and make their travel to and time at the convention safe and rewarding. But I don't think Cs can guarantee safety for anyone when they travel or leave the convention site. We don't control such things. I also worry that if we boycott states like Missouri, we not only abandon members in such places, but we have in effect decided not to do work there, not to try to change those places for the better by our presence, by our language, by our laboring. In doing so, we harm those places, if we think we are agents of social justice. We cannot do our work if we do not go to places that need us to work. And yet, in this case, this is asking our black members especially to take on an extra risk, more risk than the rest of us. This is not fair to ask. And yet still, our black members always take this extra risk every day just living in the U.S. at this historical moment. How can we avoid asking some of our members to risk themselves, knowing that many others do not have to consider such risks, or may take much smaller risks, and some have the privilege of never needing to worry about such risks at all?

I also personally feel obligated to do something in this case, even if some members may feel that it is outside the bounds of what CCCC is about or does. I’m trying to think through how my own personal and ethical stance intersect with my duties as CCCC Program Chair. I do know that we are all connected, and laws, practices, and local aggressions against people of color in the state of Missouri are connected to all of our work and lives, even if we live far away from that place. I do know that Missouri is not alone in its racism and white supremacy, which is one reason why the local Missouri chapter of the NAACP in St. Louis opposes the national organization's position since it suggests that Missouri is unique in its racism. I do know that these issues are real and serious. I do know that this decision is one about people first and only secondarily about a conference. I feel very strongly that #BlackLivesMatter and that CCCC's response will reveal exactly how much the organization really believes that #BlackLivesMatter, and how much money matters. 

I hope you'll have some faith in our organization, the process CCCC's has to make changes and decisions, and in the good leaders who make up our EC, at least for a bit longer -- I know, we are always being asked to wait and I am tried of waiting (yet again) too, but this wait is only a few weeks. The officers had a 90 minute meeting this morning to discuss just this and what we can do. We decided this issue was something that the EC should discuss and vote on. That will happen in the next two weeks. I hope you know that we are trying to be compassionate toward everyone without overly risking the lives of any of our members or the organization's financial solvency. I personally take very seriously my duties as an officer of the organization, one that has been built with care for many decades by good people before me. I try to think first of people, not the organization, but I temper that priority with all the good that such an organization can do, and does for us. We are always stronger together and more potent when we are present as a diverse union. Should we be present for change in order that change may happen in Kansas City? What would such a diverse union of presence actually look like in KC? How would it be any different from previous conventions? If we convene in KC, we cannot just go. Given SB43 and all the historical violence toward blacks in the state, I do not think that going is enough. But I don't know what is.

Please submit all your ideas that you'd like the EC and executive officers to consider in the G'form ( by Sept 1, but we likely will have to act sooner than that, given many other factors controlling the conference and our legal obligations. So please offer what you can sooner than later. I will refrain from entering many FB or Twitter discussions about details, as I want mostly to listen. Once the responses stop coming in (if it is before the Sept 1 closing date of the form), and the EC has had time to discuss and make some decisions from your input, then I will send out a message that lays out our plans for 4C18 that addresses this situation or the decision of the EC, and what you can do to help us. Expect that message shortly after the Sept 1 closing date of the G'form, but it could be sooner.  

We have no good or clear choices to make. Please know that the officers are all deeply distressed about this situation because it affects our valued black members the most. I fear we will let you down. I appreciate your compassion and patience.

Peace to you all,


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Demographic Information Issue in the Proposal System

Recently, it came to my attention that the system we use to gather proposals for the CCCC convention sent demographic information back to those who registered by email. This was information that proposers provided when they submitted their online proposals. If the proposer used their institutional email, technically this may give that institution access to the proposer’s personal information, which they may not wish to share with that institution.

Once this information was brought to our attention, NCTE quickly initiated changes to prevent the proposal system from sending the demographic information as part of the submission confirmation email. As of about 2:00 pm on Monday, May 08, the system stopped doing this. Again, this will NOT happen from this point forward. We are very sorry to those this may have affected.

I’d like to explain why we are trying to collect this information and what we’ll do with it. Because of how NCTE and CCCC information is structured, we cannot just find out who attends CCCC or proposes panels and presentations. But this kind of information in the aggregate is important in helping us understand where we can be more inclusive and equitable in our practices.

Thus, I feel it is important to begin collecting demographic data because without it, we cannot know how convention attendees identify themselves, and what groups attend, propose, and present. As the 2018 Program Chair, I’d like to know this information. While many of us may have a sense of who is not coming or is denied a spot on the program each year, as a convention and organization that looks to make sound, ethical decisions that affect all its members, we must make such decisions based on evidence gathered, not impressions or anecdotes from those in our limited circles of colleagues. This evidence starts by understanding who is proposing and who is attending. So we’re asking for this demographic information this year as a start, and hopefully we can continue the practice in safe, ethical ways. We’ll get better at it as we continue to do so.

And so you know, you’ll also be asked for the same demographic information when you register for the conference, and I’ll promise that this problem will not occur at that time.

I and the rest of the executive officers appreciate your understanding and help in these matters. The purposes of this data is ONLY to help us understand where our weak spots are so that we can be a more inclusive and diverse convention and organization.

Asao B. Inoue
2018 CCCC Program Chair

Monday, March 27, 2017

Changes for #4C18 in Kansas City

This post is meant to help those who plans on proposing a panel, workshop, poster session, or individual presentation for the 2018 Conference on College Composition and Communication (#4C18), which will be in Kansas City, MO. There some important changes this coming year.

You can find the CFP online and be sure to look carefully at it, as well as the criteria reviewers will use to rate proposals. Below I'll highlight a few new things that can affect the way you write your proposals this year. There are differences from past years' conferences.

No Clusters, but Hashtags

There are no clusters, instead, we have hashtags, which I’m hoping will be used in a variety of ways on social media. The hashtags are a bit broader. Up to 3 hashtags can be associated with any proposal, but all proposals must have at least 1 hashtag. These hashtags will be used to organize the conference program in a similar fashion as the old clusters, but because I won’t use the hashtags to funnel proposals to particular reviewers, proposers should write their proposals for a general Cs audience. I would like to encourage others from different parts of our field and conference to find interest and engagement in other topics and sessions than those clusters they have often kept themselves in over the years. As you'll see below, there are other ways I'm trying to encourage this.
Asao B. Inoue, 2018 CCCC Program Chair

So no matter the topic of your proposal, each proposal should address the five main criteria listed on the guidelines page: (1) how the proposal is situated in the field, (2) its main focus, (3) what is innovative or new, (4) how it is audience oriented and/or transformative to a wide Cs audience, and (5) how it adds new or underrepresented voices or texture to the discussion. The hashtags we will use are:
  • Pedagogy (#pedagogy)
  • Basic Writing (#BW)
  • Assessment (#Assess)
  • Rhetoric (#Rhetoric)
  • History (#History)
  • Technology (#Tech)
  • Language (#Language)
  • Professional Technical Writing (#PTW)
  • Writing Program Administration (#WPA)
  • Theory (#Theory)
  • Public, Civic, and Community writing (#community
  • Creative Writing (#creativewriting)
For the most part, this will be a merit based system that relies on the best proposals to get through, knowing that I will make sure that the best of each hashtag is also accepted. This means there will be some sessions on each of the above hashtags. I haven’t decided what those numbers are yet, because I don’t know how many proposals will be submitted within each hashtag.

To Mention the Theme or Not . . .

Notice that the first four criteria are mostly the same in orientation as years past, with a few slight details changed that may appear to make it sound like all proposals must be geared toward only “languaging” and/or “laboring” themes. This is not the case. For instance, the second item says,
Is the proposal focused on the scene of laboring and/or languaging to occur during the session/presentation? What will happen and who will do what during the time allotted?
While certainly there can be proposals that offer direct discussion on laboring and languaging in the context of rhetoric and composition, all proposals do not need to do this. In fact, it is not a good idea to just play with the words "languaging," "laboring," and "transforming" in your proposals. Please do NOT do this.

What the strongest proposals will focus attention on is what will happen in the session, what work or labor will occur, what languaging will happen, and by whom? This obviously is less of a requirement for poster sessions. I want to encourage all of us to think of ourselves as coming together to labor with and around language so I want our proposals to attempt to pay attention to our “conferencing” as embodied languaging labor no matter the topics we come to discuss or engage in, and you don't have to use this language to propose it, but it will be clear. If, however, a proposal does not mention what will happen in the session, but speak only to its topics or subjects, with no regard to what people do and say in the session, this is okay, but is not preferred. Those proposals will be rated lower than ones that do. Keep in mind that a proposal can speak to the languaging and laboring in the session in just a few lines. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of time or space in the proposal. I am, however, hopeful, that some of us will offer ingenious and transformative ways to experience a session by thinking carefully about this criterion.

Making Space for New and Underrepresented Voices/Textures

The final criterion states: 
Does the proposal address how it adds a new or underrepresented voice(s) or texture to the conversation in which the presentation(s) are engaging?
This can be fulfilled in a number of ways and simple references in proposals. For instance, if the proposer thinks that they are a part of an underrepresented group at the conference in past years, they might call attention to this fact in whatever ways seem appropriate. This criterion can also be met by the proposal identifying the voices it is using in its discussions to help add a new or underrepresented voice or texture to the conversation. The point is, the most successful proposals will clearly identify how they add new or underrepresented voices or texture, and if needed, explain how those voices/textures are new or underrepresented. Proposals that should be rated lower will not pay attention to this dimension, and say nothing or very little about how it adds new or underrepresented voices or texture to the conversation in some way.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks and months. Oh, and I can't leave this post without showing off our new logo, which will begin appearing in materials this year.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Day 3 of #4C17 . . .

Well, yesterday, day 3 of 4C17 was a very busy, but wonderful day. I had more packed sessions. I saw some former students, and of course, I received my book award.

My first session was a small one with Lisa Ede and a number of others, a cultivate session on mentoring. It was a stimulating and informal, just the way I like things. As I sat in our circle talking with the group and listening to people's ideas about mentoring, I couldn't help but realize how wonderfully collaborative, engaged, and filled with goodwill most of the folks in our field are. It made me feel a very fortunate to have found the field of Rhetoric and Composition to work in and for, and Lisa herself has no small part in me finding my way to Rhetoric and Composition. She was an early mentor herself to me at Oregon State.

Meredith, Piper, Kelly, and me
Next, I chaired a super-full session on mindfulness with Emily Beals (a former student of mine), Donna Strickland, Christie Wenger, and Jennifer Consilio. I really love it when folks incorporate mindful and contemplative practices in their sessions, and they did this nicely. Jennifer led us in a short practice and connected it to her classroom practices. Emily had an engaging discussion about her own mindful assessment practices.

For lunch, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with two of my former students from Fresno State, Emily Beals and Meredith Stone (formerly Bulinski). Meredith brought her beautiful baby girl, Piper, who was incredibly cute. I pretty sure I fell in love.

I got some great ideas from several folks at my meet the chair booth in the action hub. Tori White from UC Davis offered me a great idea, escape rooms to gameify our Cs next year. I love this!

My own cultivate session on social justice at Cs was also packed and I got lots of great ideas collected, which I'll need to go through and think about. I have to thank my co-facilitators:
  • Frankie Condon
  • Elaine Richardson
  • Stephanie Kerschbaum
  • Vershawn A. Young
  • Damian Baca 
  • Qwo-Li Driskoll
At the awards ceremony, I broke down and got all tearful. I couldn't even thank the people I wanted to. I had such nice things to say to them too. Alas, my work is just too personal to me and too connected to the beautiful students I get to learn with every year, so at times like that, I'm just tearful and emotional. So, here's who I wanted to thank and something like what I wanted to say:
Thank you to Jonathan Buell and his committee for their work and selection. Thank you to Mike Palmquist and Sue Mcleod's guidance at the WAC Clearinghouse. They were wonderful to work with. Thank you to the reviewers and their good feedback that helped finalize the ms. Thank you, of course, to Victor Villanueva and Bill Condon, both of whom have helped me be the scholar and writer I am today. A special thanks to Chris Anderson, my first mentor at OSU and his careful and honest reading of the entire ms at an earlier stage. His feedback was essential. And of course, thank you to my dear wife Kelly, who creates the loving conditions in my life so that I can do such work. I'm very lucky, honored, and humbled to get the award.
We ended the day with a great dinner at Hubers with a past student, Mason Pellegrini and  Stephanie Kang, who are both at U of New Mexico. We were joined by Bill Condon and Mike Palmquist. We had a great time, and I was able to give Bill his retirement gift, THE Georgia Bulldog Yard Gnome (aka Uga Gnome).


Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 2 of #4C17 . . .

Yesterday was a great day. Linda's keynote was wonderful. She reminded me of a great web site for teaching writing, Spurious Correlations. And she offered a great term that I'll use, Educational Intelligence Complex (EIC).

I got a chance to sit down for lunch with Victor. He and I are very similar in temperament, so every time we sit down, we have a great time. And we can't stop laughing and kidding. I am so lucky to have had him as my mentor. I can remember the first time I ever talked to him. It was a phone call to ask about the program at WSU. This was when I was deciding what PhD program to go to. Within 10 minutes of our 30 minute conversation, I knew that he was the man I needed to work with. He would show me how to do this thing, and I was right. He was and he has. I'm deeply and wonderfully indebted to Victor.

I was a respondent in B.08, a panel on socially just pedagogy done by three wonderful, young scholar-teachers, Carolyn Salazar Nunez, Danielle Bacigalupo, and Raquel Corona. It was a packed ballroom, and Carolyn, Danielle, and Raquel did a great job. I know, their students benefit so much from their thoughtful work. I was so honored to respond to their work that came out of my book. And of course, my dear friend, LuMing Mao was our chair, and he was his usual kind and warm self.

My own session, E.08 on the political economy of composition and the writing classroom, was equally packed. Bruce Horner and Tony Scott were my fellow panelists. There were some really smart questions too, one I'll be thinking about for a while had to do with how we might account for surplus value (something I didn't account for in my initial thinking of value and worth circulated in the classroom). Another had to do with loss in the cycle of production. Great questions.

The day ended with having a nice dinner with Bob Broad, his wife Julie, and their son, Dylan. I always love spending time with Bob. He is such a deeply thoughtful, kind, and thoroughly enjoyable man, the kind of man I still strive to be like. Our dinner was in a nice restaurant called The Noble Rot. Don't ask what that means or refers to. I don't know. I do know that the company was the best part of a very enjoyable meal. On our way out, we also bumped into Peter Elbow, who is still chugging along. Who doesn't love Peter?


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 1 - 4C17

Well, it's the first day of the conference and yesterday, the pre-conference day, was very good. Linda Adler-Kasner did a wonderful job managing our time in the EC meeting. With a full agenda, we finished 25 minutes early! And we got a lot of business done, some of which folks will hear about at the Town Hall on Saturday. So if you want to hear about some exciting news about Cs, come to the town hall meeting on Saturday morning!

Charlotte Hogg, Kelly Inoue, and Me
Yesterday ended by going out to dinner with Charlotte Hogg (TCU). Charlotte and I were both MA students together at Oregon State back in the early-mid 90s. We haven't had the good fortune to see much of each other over the years, but we have occasionally been lucky enough to get together. And like the other times, last night was just a wonderful way to end a good day, with an old, good friend. It felt like we never left each other.

We ate at Altabira City Tavern, which is on the 6th floor of the Hotel Eastlund. The food was good, the clam chowder was great, and the beer was so-so. I'm picky when it comes to beer. Their beer list looked good originally, but they were all thin tasting. I tried a flight of four:
The Commons Brewery – Urban Farmhouse Ale
Portland, OR | 5.3% | 32 IBUs | 16 oz     6 
Two Kilts Brewing Company – Scottish Ale
Sherwood, OR | 6.5% | 15 IBUs | 16 oz     6
Zoiglhaus Brewing Company – Zoiglator-Dopplebock
Portland, OR | 7.9% | 23 IBUs | 16 oz     6
Feckin Irish Brewing Company Irish Oatmeal Porter – Nitro
Oregon City, OR | 5.8% ABV | 32 IBUs | 16 oz     6
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Belgian beers and German beers, but they's got to be authentic. So you can imagine that I would be excited to try the farmhouse ale and the dopplebock. The better of the two was the dopplebock, but I was shocked at how thin, and one dimensional both the farmhouse ale and the scottish ale was. All the beers tasted like their brewers had an idea of these kinds of beers that was fixated on one aspect of the beer, and forgot about the complexity of them, the richness of what these beers could have been. Still, I got the dopplebock to drink, and it was drinkable. But the company was much better.

More later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bout ta Start . . . Stay Tuned

Well, I'm up and ready for my first day of 4C17, which is actually the pre-conference workshop day. I have an all-day Executive Committee meeting to attend, so I can't join any of the really great workshops offered this year. Portland is a city I know pretty well, as I lived in Oregon for some years back in college and just after. It is a wonderful city and has lots to offer visitors.

I won't lie. As I begin doing conference things already, my mind moves to next year's conference, the one I'll be running in Kansas City. I'm trying to stay right here, but I can't help think about things I'd like to do next year. But I shall put those ideas aside to enjoy all the hard work that Carolyn and many others have put into this conference.

BTW, if you are staying on the West side of the river (opposite side from the convention center), you can use your complimentary Max (light rail) passes to get to the convention center. It's about a 15 minute ride from Pioneer Square stops (seven stops). Take the Red line that heads to the airport.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heading to #4C17 in Portland

I'm going to try an experiment this year. I'll be blogging my experience at #4C17 in Portland. I'm going to try to do at least one post per day, likely in the evening after the day's events are over. I won't make it to many sessions this year, as I'm schedule is very full, but I thought this might be a good way to reflect on things, slow down my experience, be present more.

My wife and I are about to leave Gig Harbor and drive down to Portland. More soon . . .

Monday, February 27, 2017

Is Grammar Racist? A Response

After all the negative press in the far right-media and blog sphere recently over my writing center's antiracism and social justice statement at the University of Washington, Tacoma, a center I direct, I thought I'd offer a personal response to some of the most frequent misunderstandings and questions about the statement and my own teaching and work. These are my views and not necessarily those of the university or the writing center.

The Crapstorm 

The hoopla began when my university did a story on me and the center's antiracism statement on Feb 17. It took about three days for the crapstorm to hit the far-right media. Many of the articles open with some kind of statement that suggests the center and I, or the university more generally, promote the idea that English grammar is racist. Here's a few:

Of course, there were many others, most cite or reprint the original Shimshock article or one of the early articles, most of which take from Shimshock.

On Feb 23, I got together with the Advancement office of the university and Jill Purdy, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, to write a response. We did and it was published late on that day. A few days later, KIRO 7 news (a local Seattle TV station) did a short story on it, and the Olympian and the Tacoma News-Tribune did stories on the statement as well, all of which tried to offer our side and intentions for the statement, which hadn't been represented very well in the previous stories online.

My personal favorite references are Emily Zanotti of Heat Street calling me a "writing guru" and Chris Manahan of Information Liberation calling me an "anti-white hate preacher." I may have to put those on my CV.

And then, Nate Hoffelder contacted me and asked for some clarification. After our communications, he wrote a more balanced piece on Feb 26 on his blog, The Digital Reader.

Is Grammar Racist? 

And so, it leads me to this question, the most often one invoked by the far-right media, and for good reason. Our statement begins with our beliefs about U.S. society and language:
The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society.
Words like "racism" and "antiracist" are trigger words for many white people. They conjure up guilt and assumptions about individual blame. The words seem to speak of white people behaving badly, or being prejudice, or racially biased. As the rest of the statement explains, these are not the definitions we use for this term. Racism is structural. It is in systems and how those systems use grammar and language against some people, while privileging white people and those who have taken on white, middle class ways with language. I'll put aside the complex issues around race as a social construct, and the equally complex ideas about race as a lived experience and whiteness as an invisible set of privileges. Race is not real but it is a lived experience. People are racialized, as are our languages and other social practices. Race tends to be a system of hierarchy.

UWT Antiracism Statement
UWT Antiracism Statement
Now, when I say "white middle class English language," I don't mean that any version of English is inherent to a particular group of people. That is, I don't mean that whites inherently speak a version of English, while Blacks inherently speak another. I mean that language travels with people -- it's the only way language can exist. People use language and learn it from each other, so it is historical and social in nature. At its most basic level, English as a language is a set of linguistic and discursive structures that follow groups of people. This process is historical. Thus "proper" "correct" English is associated with a particular group of people who use it in ways accepted as proper or correct.

Generally speaking, white U.S. citizens historically have used English in ways different from, say, Black Americans, or Latinxs. There are always exceptions, but we're speaking about the trends and patterns, not exceptions. Whites have also historically held most of the positions of power in all the major areas of life, including business, commerce, and education. So white middle class people have dictated what is acceptable English in those spaces in the U.S. Thus white, middle class English has become what most assume to be "proper" English, when really it's just the way those who have power communicate, out of necessity. Ain't nothing wrong with white, middle class English, except when it is considered and used as the ONLY way to communicate properly.

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with the dominant white, middle class English. It is not racist in and of itself, but using it to judge others, to punish or withhold opportunities and privileges, is racist because of the history and politics of the English language. Here's how I explained it to Nate Hoffelder for his blog when he asked for clarification and examples of racist grammar:
We are not saying that dominant “standards” of grammar and English are racist, so there aren’t examples to offer in the regular sense. What we are saying is that how standards of grammar and dominant Englishes are used in classrooms and other spaces in the U.S. are often racist because they are USED AGAINST groups of people. These groups fall too often into racial formations or groups – language travels with people and historically people have been racialized and have formed racialized communities. 
So, if you have a standard, and it privileges a particular racial group of people, say a white, middle class group, and unfairly penalizes other groups, such as Black Americans, and you use that standard to bestow and deny privileges and opportunities, then the use of that standard of English is racist. The racism is in how the standard and its grammar are being USED. So racism is structural. It is structured in how we have to judge and use a particular dominant, white English, because, of course, the dominant Englishes that we use in academia and civic spaces are clear and appropriate to those operating in those spaces, but who exactly are in those spaces, and who has controlled everything up to this point? White racial formations, white groups of U.S. citizens.
The simple answer to the question is: no, English grammar is not racist, but the systems in education and civic society that use a particular version of English grammar against people who don't use that grammar is racist. I don't blame anyone for racist grammar practices, which are really judgment practices. I blame the histories and structures that push us to use a particular English against most of the people in the U.S. -- heck, most of the people who use some form of English in the world.

What this means for teaching writing and writing center practices is that students must be aware of the structures of judgment that oppress them if they are going to be able to make good decisions as communicators. Knowing the way structures of English grammar and discourse (the logics and ways of making knowledge embedded in our language) can be racist when used against some who use different versions of English than the dominant one is vital knowledge in making sound, effective, and ethical decisions as a communicator.

Let me repeat: Understanding where so called proper English comes from and who has used it historically in the U.S. is important to making good and ethical decisions. Good communicators make decisions about their words; they don't follow orders. So it is not a good teaching practice to tell students what to do, or simply and only "correct" their grammar. Knowing the structural reasons why one's language is judged as ineffective or unclear, for instance, can help that person understand that they are not illiterate or dumb. It can help them make their own decisions about their language practices. They can see that they simply use a different code. And if they want to use the dominant code, there are consequences and trade-offs.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Gonna Be More Active On This

Okay, so I haven't been doing this blog for a while, like a year, but I've decided to try to keep up with it again. My goal is to do one blog post a week. So, expect to see postings coming on this blog soon. Maybe in the next day or so.