UPDATE -- CWPA Response to My Call for A Boycott
On April 18, 2021, I posted on this blog about why I was leaving and the CWPA and asked for a loving and compassionate boycott of the CWPA until it could demonstrate structural changes that addressed its racism and White supremacy culture. As of today, that post has been accessed 11,850 times (less than a week). Three days later, the WPA Journal and its publisher, David Blakesley, both offered a statement and letter of support of the boycott and the demand for the CWPA to make antiracist changes. Six days after I posted, the CWPA's Executive Board released a formal statement (dated 4/23/2021).
As of this writing, the petition for boycotting the CWPA has 702 signatories on it. That is over double the total membership of the CWPA. Thank you to all who signed that petition. It made a difference.
While I do not plan on responding to the elements of the CWPA's formal statement, I do want to offer a few words to those doing this kind of social justice work -- that is, helping or urging organizations, schools, departments, and programs make structural antiracist change. Let me start by summarizing what I hear in the EB's statement, so that we are clear about what the substance of their statement says and what changes they are committed to doing toward making CWPA more antiracist and anti-White supremacist.
They also admit that their actions and responses to the mostly BIPOC task force participated in White supremacy culture and devalued or ignored the expertise of the TF members. This TF was co-chaired by Beth Brunk-Chavez and me. Its members are:
- Vershawn A. Young
- Tanita Saenkhum
- Melvin Beavers
- Iris Ruiz
- Neisha-Anne Green
All of these apologies, which I read as unequivocal and without qualifications, are a necessary first step in such antiracist changes from such organizations. I am appreciative to the EB for their bravery in do this, but it is just a first step. They are, of course, just words and not yet words that craft their standard operating procedures, bylaws, policies, or decisions. But any such changes should start with an admitting to wrong-doing. For this, I appreciate the statement.
The statement then delineates a few things they plan to do in order to make the necessary structural antiracist and anti-White supremacist changes. They are listed in brief below. I take the language from their statement.
- "Executive Board will suspend normal operations to devote the Council’s resources toward recognizing and interrupting how White supremacy functions" in the organization
- Consultant-Evaluator Service will halt its operations and "conducted a similar review and incorporated antiracist principles into its policies, procedures, review guidelines, ethics statement, self-study materials, and training for Consultant-Evaluator panelists"
- The WPA Journal will "engage in a critical interrogation and revision of every aspect of the journal's operation"
- "CWPA will suspend the next cycle of awards and grants" in order to conduct a "comprehensive organizational audit of selection criteria and procedures"
- "CWPA President and Vice President will replace the 2021 annual conference with listening sessions and events that will allow CWPA to learn from our members and other colleagues"
As the organization moves forward, I want to offer a word of hope and caution. I am very hopeful. This move is significant, for sure, but it will not work if those who go into the work of interrogating the CWPA go into that work thinking that it will be a tinkering with stuff, fixing some problems, plugging some holes, or patching up things. Doing antiracist and anti-White supremacist work in an organization is about dismantling the structures and policies that those in the org have held dearly, such as their Outcomes Statement.
So I await a call to do the work. I yearn for an antiracist space to prosper in professionally. I ain't yet found one. What I do know is that to have one means I and other BIPOC need to be a part, a deep part, of its making. That's why I'm ready to do the labor. But I think, I need some personal commitments from EB members to be brave and humble and compassionate and willing to sit in their Whitely discomfort as we do the work together.