BlogBook - Introduction to the Project
Entry 1 (Sunday, Feb 21, 2021)During 2020, I wrote a book for high school English Language Arts (ELA) teachers. Its title is, What It Means To Be An Antiracist Teacher: Cultivating Antiracist Orientations in The Literacy Classroom. I was asked by a publisher to write such a book because they’d seen a Zoom keynote I did for “Mosaic 2020: The Unofficial AP Literature and Language Slow conference,” which was co-developed by a friend and colleague, Brandon Abdon. I thought writing a book based on the keynote was a good idea for that audience.
In the middle of writing the book, I realized I wasn’t sure that I had the audience right -- that is, I’ve never written a book for a high school teacher audience. So I feared that I was really writing to a college writing teacher audience, a First-Year Writing (FYW) teacher audience. I think what ended up happening is that I wrote for both audiences. I think the book offers something for all language and literacy teachers whether they teach in high school or college, and maybe even junior high schools. Still I have doubts as to how meaningful and useful the book is in parts.
I’ve also been working with my alma mater’s foundation (OSU Foundation), which I’ve discussed in a previous post. The bottom line is: This year (2021) I have a new book coming out, Above The Well: An Antiracist Literacy Argument From A Boy Of Color, published through a joint effort with WAC Clearinghouse, and either or both Utah State University Press and the University Press of Colorado. I’ve never taken royalties for my previous books for a number of reasons, but I decided to charge for this book. All the royalties that WAC Clearinghouse and I would have received will go directly to an endowment, the Asao B. Inoue Antiracist Teaching Endowment at OSU, which is described in the post referenced above. After a period, the book will then be free, as my others are.
I bring this up because in thinking about the present BlogBook, What It Means To Be An Antiracist Teacher, I realized that what I really want is to engage teachers -- as many as possible -- with what it means to be an antiracist teacher, and not sell books. In fact, going through a normal publisher to offer a book reduces the access to the book’s ideas and avoids the important engagement a community of teachers all striving to be antiracist might have.
I also want this blogbook to grow that antiracist teaching endowment so it can do good antiracist work in the world. My goal for this blogbook over the coming 4-5 months is to serialize for free here on my blog, and engage folks with conversations about its contents slowly (just like that AP slow conference). Being an antiracist teacher ain’t easy, and it ain’t about finding the 10 best antiracist things to do in your classroom. And it sure ain’t about selling books. It’s about daily rituals, about habits we cultivate slowly over our lifetimes, about engaging with each other as teachers and citizens. It’s about cultivating antiracist orientations to the world together.
Serializing the BlogBook also will allow me to rethink and revise parts in dialogue with everyone who is willing to engage. I hope this will ultimately make the final version more useful and meaningful for more people. Ultimately, I’ll offer it for free on my blog or somehow in some open sourced form once I’ve fully serialized it on the blog.
Along the way, I’m hoping many, many readers will also donate money to the Asao B. Inoue Antiracist Teaching Endowment. My goal is to get $500,000 in the endowment within three years. I realize this is a lofty and high goal. I’ll be continuing to look for other ways to feed the endowment over the next few years.
What I’m Planning to Cover
The blogbook currently has four big chapters with numerous sections inside each, and is about 88,185 words in length. The chapters are:
What Is Race and Racism?
What Is White Language Supremacy?
What Is The Problem With Most Standards and Curricula?
What Does An Antiracist ELA Classroom Look Like?
Throughout the book, I have numerous reflective prompts that engage readers with the material and their own histories, habits, and teaching practices. I’ve labelled these mindful reflective prompts, “brave work.” They are meant to pause readers in order to think more personally and deeply about the material, and notice how the ideas make them feel in their bodies. I’ll keep them in the blogbook. I really hope folks will take them seriously and use them as brave, inner work they will do and share with the rest of us.
There are lots of footnotes that help show where I’ve gotten materials and information, and I’m not sure how I’ll reproduce those, if I even can. I will try to do that.
What I’m NOT Planning to Cover
I have resisted very consciously the impulse to provide lesson plans, activities, or other so-called “practical” things in the book. This was suggested by two different publishers I talked with about the book, which is a staple of this genre of teacher-book. While I do offer some illustrations of things, this book is not about HOW to be an antiracist language teacher. It’s about WHAT IT MEANS to be one. Working carefully and bravely through what it means to be antiracist leads a teacher to flexible and more powerful antiracist orientations. I firmly believe that good antiracist teachers are constantly learning and crafting their orientations to their teaching, the materials and curricula in front of them, their students, the school, learning outcomes, and even to themselves, and their own training and habits of language and judgement.
During the course of our engagement with this blogbook, I expect some readers to fall into the habit of needing the practical, as if that is the best measure of good, antiracist work of this kind. I don’t want to say that the practical isn’t important. Of course it is. I will say that as teachers we have too often sacrificed WHAT IT MEANS to do our work for just HOW TO DO IT, which has left us vulnerable to the hegemonic, to White language supremacy in language and literacy classrooms. What it means to be an antiracist teacher is just as important to how to be one if we want to dismantle racism in our society, schools, courses, and academic disciplines.
This blogbook is offered for free in order to engage language and literacy teachers of all levels in antiracist work and dialogue. The hope is that it will help raise enough money to do more substantial and ongoing antiracist work by funding the Asao and Kelly Inoue Antiracist Teaching Endowment, housed at Oregon State University. Please consider donating as much as you can to the endowment. Thank you for your help and engagement.