Project Schedule 2021-2022

March 26

Reading/Listening Texts

1. Martinez (2020) Counterstory 

-Browse through pages 1-9 to get a clearer picture of the context of counterstory, kinds of counterstory you can write, and some definitions (Do NOT read every word)

-Read pages 15-18 very carefully to refresh on how Critical Race Theory (CRT) nforms the writing of counterstory + how critical narrative is a key method of writing counterstory (I’ve highlighted in blue where to start on page 15 and where to stop on page 18)

-Read page 23 very carefully, noting what Martinez says about who can write counterstory + how white counterstory/critical narrative differs from counterstory written by racialized and marginalized writers 

2. Condon, Faison, and Green (2021) Writing center research and Critical Race Theory (CRT) 

-Read pages 36-38 very carefully to learn more about how CRT and storytelling work in writing center contexts 

3. Diab, Ferrel, & Godbee (2017) Making commitments to racial justice actionable 

-Return to and browse pages 19-26 (we read this last semester) to learn about the challenges and pitfalls of writing critical narrative (I’ve highlighted in blue where to start on page 19 and where to stop on page 26; do NOT read every word)

MARCH 12

STARTING OFF:

Y’all did a brilliant job with Dr. Lockett. You proved that while you might feel overwhelmed, underprepared, or maybe even unqualified to speak about writing center work and theory, you in fact can and do speak. You speak with knowledge and confidence and know-how. In articulating your experiences during our session, you drew on theories (some of which we read in this Project, and some of which come from other realms of your own study and practice) to interpret your own work and practices — and your own positions of power and those of the writing centers in which you work. You framed your interpretations and analyses through critical self-reflection, bringing to bear on these dimensions of writing center work your own funds of individual and community knowledge and literacies. You didn’t just offer information or banal responses to Dr. Lockett’s questions. You looked at yourselves and clients as human and grappled with the dynamics, dialectics, and complexities involved in making decisions about what do, when, where, how and why in consultations and beyond. Now, for next steps in the work!

First, complete this survey by no later than Thursday, March 10, at 5pm.

Next, follow the steps in the plan document below. Click here to access the Google Doc itself, if the PDF isn’t accessible:

FEBRUARY 26

STARTING OFF:

Our next session and discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Alexandria Lockett. Dr. Lockett is an Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest historically Black college for women in the United States. Her experience with writing and communication includes a special emphasis on access and inclusion. In particular, she has worked with diverse demographics of college writers representing various genders, ethnicities, nationalities, physical dis/abilities, academic disciplines, and programs—at both the undergraduate and graduate levels—in the capacities of tutor, consultant, mentor, editor, career assistant, administrator, and instructor. Through this work, she is committed to bringing low-income people (especially the historically underserved and legally disenfranchised) into contact with the literacies they need to effectively reduce economic barriers that inhibit them from attaining their fullest potential. Dr. Lockett’s research and development projects integrate her interests in race, surveillance, and digital labor into her areas of applied expertise in technical/professional writing, teaching with technology, and writing administration. To read more about Dr. Lockett and to explore her work, visit her website at http://www.alexandrialockett.com. Welcome, Dr. Lockett!

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING PREPARATION

– Pedagogue (podcast) (2021) “Episode 60: Alexandria Lockett

– Alexandria Lockett. (2019). Why I call it the academic ghetto: A critical examination of race, place, and writing centers

PREP ACTIVITY:

Step 1: Read the partial summary below:

Lockett (2019) asserts that “a session about grammar may need to also include serious dialogue about a client’s racial attitudes when arguments unintentionally exhibit or reinforce white supremacist attitudes” (p. 27). She points out, too, that clients’ own expectations can detract from their learning in the writing center, “especially in cases where they may decide to decline services from non-white or non- American tutors because they automatically dismiss the very idea that they could speak or write ‘better English’ than their white colleagues” (p. 27). She goes on:

Students’ expectations of who ought to be mentoring them and teaching them affects language learning since the very definition of ‘professional writing’ and ‘scholarly writing’ signifies expression that will likely incorporate many assumptions about how to perform and elevate whiteness…[R]esearch might argue that writing centers need to be “safe spaces.” The ‘safe spaces’ arguments reveal that the work of tutoring English writing, in such contexts, is clearly understood to advance standardized English and particular conventions of academic communication. We need to realize how [writing centers] function as academic ghettos, especially to those who must live and labor in that space as those who institutions have historically isolated. The work of getting someone to talk and write like “educated (white) folks” is an act of violence because it functions on the basis that patriarchal white supremacist manners of expression are superior to those of unassimilated non-white people. “Good English,” then, is provided paramount linguistic value solely on the basis of the transferability of its socio-economic viability.

Step 2: Think about the quotation above. Write a response to these questions in your WP site:

In a writing consultation, how would you raise awareness of this context and these circumstances with a writer, especially someone whose expectations seem centered on reproducing standardized English uncritically? What can you do if the writer refuses to engage with you on these important issues? How can you avoid treating standardized English as the gold standard for academic work and at the same time effectively explain the benefit to the writer of talking about standard language ideologies, linguistic racism, and the performance and elevation of whiteness accompanying the use of standardized English in the academy?

Step 3: Dr. Lockett’s research and practice as an educator focuses on digital archival research and labor, including issues of representation and surveillance in digital multimodal spaces and practices. She works extensively with Wikipedia as one among many sites for learning about public audiences and the intersections across race, disability, nationality, gender, and institutional discourses like those of academic disciplines. Take a gander at the following Wikipedia pages covering writing center work and one on racial bias on Wikipedia. In your WP site, speculate on how these Wiki entries represent writing centers, writing center staff, and writing center work (tutoring/consulting) to vast public audiences of Wikipedia. Are these representations accurate? How do they align (or not) with work we’ve already read from Faison (2018), Lockett (2019), Faison and Traviño (2017), Lerner (2009), and Lunsford (1991)? How does the entry on racial bias offer a starting point for critiquing writing center representation on Wikipedia?

Writing center

Peer tutor

Writing fellow

Racial bias

Step 4: One way to get more familiar with critiquing representation and meaning-making online is to take a close look at social media. Browse through the following list of social media sites and accounts, all of which are conducted by organizations and individuals of color. Click on a few. Wander around in the accounts. Then, choose one or two to explore more deeply–finally settling on one in particular. Respond in your WP site to the questions below:

– What multimodal practices do you see your chosen account DELIBERATELY engaging in? How does it engage in them? Describe (best done in a series of notes to self on your own WP site).

– Further,  how does this account manipulate visuals, video, language, text, and use many other dimensions of design and communication to a) appeal to very linguistically and culturally diverse audiences (PLURAL) and b) take a very clear social justice orientation? Prepare to describe and explain. 

List of social media sites:

Instagram

The Nap Ministry

Baltimore History

Baltimore Ceasefire

Black Yield Baltimore  

Baltimore Community Fridge  

Baltimore Trans Alliance

Latinas Baltimore  

Taco Literacy

Sylvanaqua Farms

IllumiNative

Native American Lifelines

Twitter

Fair Fight

B’more City Health (Baltimore City Health Department)

Scan the Police Baltimore

Bmore Doc

Writing for Black Lives

Rebecca Nagle

Clean Air Baltimore Coalition

Baltimore Legal Action Team

Endangered Languages Project

The Okra Project

United Farm Workers

Unicorn Riot

Step 6: On this Google doc, drop at least two questions you would like to ask Dr. Lockett about her work and writing center practice. Submit these questions no later than Wednesday, February 23, at 5pm.

FEBRUARY 12

STARTING OFF: Last session, Dr. Sara Alvarez led us on a journey through poetry, theory, and praxis to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship among language, writing, writing center work, identity, racism, multilingualism, and translingualism.

Image: A screenshot of a Tweet by educational linguist Nelson Flores. The text reads: "3 orientations: 1. Monolingual: linguistic heterogeneity is a problem that must be overcome; 2. Multilingual: linguistic heterogeneity is found in language practices that mix different codes; 3. Translingual: language is inherently heterogeneous including supposed standard forms."

She emphasized how we writing center folx are uniquely positioned to join, learn from, and reinforce networks of care–some of which already exist and others that we can play a role in creating within and beyond universities to support writers. In fact, if we think about it, the Baltimore Writing Center Project could be one site within this network, one that reaches both into and beyond our schools.

Image: Depicts a white woman in a business suit, smartly holding her glasses before her in one hand and a holding a pencil in the posture of a writer (editor?) in the other. Text on one side of her says: "I don't judge people based on race, creed, colour, or gender. I judge people based on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure."

Dr. Alvarez reminded us that a key dimension of belonging in networks of care involves “laboring toward justice.” But how? What does this process look like? Doing this work teaches us that answers to these questions are complex, but we know that our approaches must emerge not only in response to the many, ever-changing processes of identification writers (dis)engage in/with but also in direct response to their writing practices, which reflect the increasing practice of writing as mass literacy across the world, across languages and beyond the boundaries of nations, conflicts, cities, countrysides, traditions, and conventions.

Image: A screenshot of Callie's notes, in which she manipulates text through Word features, imagery, humor, and multiple varieties of English across multiple disciplinary and social discourses.

What does it mean to be literate, to practice literacy/literacies as global, multilingual, transcultural, transnational, digital, and non-digital, and multimodal in these times? What do these literacy and writing practices demand of us graduate students and professionals in writing centers? How do we build relationships within networks of care that push back against additive approaches to language learning and interrogate the “white listening subject” (Flores & Rosa, 2015) as an institutional position/positionality that deliberately paves the way for some racialized writers to arrive and succeed while inhibiting others? How do we writing center types challenge the standard language and monolingualist ideologies (look back at our reading by Gee for more on ideologies) that animate and entrench the habits of white language (Inoue, 2015; 2016, 2020) and white mainstream English (Baker-Bell, 2017, 2020) in discourses and practices of and policies shaped by anti-Black linguistic racism–and all linguistic racisms? What if writers refuse to return to us, refuse relationships with us if unless we uncritically “teach” them standard white mainstream English(es) through practices like editing, proofreading, and other corrective/directive approaches to our work? What are the implications for writing centers as centers of community and community-engaged justice work within networks of care in and beyond the university?

These are some of the questions we’re constantly wrestling with in our practice, and they shape the direction we’re going in the Project. We aim to “funk up” (Condon, Green, & Faison, 2020) our work, to break from the autopilot status quo thinking and behaviors that forever beckon us to just edit the writer’s paper, just tell them what they ought to do, just give some grammar-book blah blah “answer,” just get through the day–a subject positionality no doubt driven by exhaustion but more importantly socially, institutionally, and structurally designed, perpetuated, and maintained through every dimension of our world by white supremacy. Doing so means critically addressing the ways we are complicit in white language supremacy, specifically, and how we can go all-out multimodal, translingual, antiracist, feminist, disabilities studies, queer studies, ALL OF THEM THINGS to do writing center work differently and challenge our own and others’ assumptions about the teaching and learning and doing of writing through networks of care that refuse to continue hiding the rhetorics, discourses, and ideologies of white language supremacy. No more hidden racist rubrics, agendas, and condescending justifications for clarity, flow, grammar, blah, blah, blah. Time to use more than the “master’s tools.” Time to use our own tools. The ones we forge from relationships, from language and writing in actual practice across difference, and from labor that speaks back LOUD to the ways additive and appropriateness discourses ignore writers’ racial positioning in society. No more “at the end of the day” … we all gotta give in and give up and just fall in line with standard language ideologies. Why? Look at this again, y’all. Below. There ain’t no justice, no success through white mainstream literacies, no better other place, without linguistic justice–APRIL BAKER-BELL AGAIN:

To respond, we will be aiming toward a few things for the rest of the Project, as we noted earlier in sessions and way back in October when we started:

1) an individual (or small-group, collaborative) counterstory or critical narrative reflecting on your experiences with the content of the Project and your work as a writing center consultant and professional-in-training in your coursework and clinical or field work.

2) a community-engaged, collaborative text. At first, we envisioned an initial draft of a white paper exploring the possibility of creating a Baltimore community writing center. But after some reflection, David, Elaine, and I realized that pandemic and political circumstances have reduced our opportunities to facilitate getting everyone connected with the community members and issues of concern to them. Dr. Sara Alvarez, our visiting guest scholar for January 29, suggested that we all write a multimodal (e.g., video, visuals, written text, audio, etc.) collaboratively that, like a letter, addresses future consultants and the issues, beliefs, theories, and practices that we (all of us) feel these future folks need to know about–from our own perspectives (including critiques of these things).

So, in the end, your work will engage our community of writing center practitioners and will reflect your own, distinct perspectives arising from your student and professional experiences and personal views. This interprofessional work is key to helping our writing center address and adjust approaches to the ongoing challenges of our antiracism and anti-oppression efforts. But even more, this work will allow you to engage with this writing center stuff from your own academic, professional, and personal vantage points while playing a main, active role in building a network of care that stretches across time and space and perspective. So, we’re moving through way more than just writing center contexts. David, Elaine, and I hope that this will give y’all more freedom to critically engage writing center work from outside the writing center bubble and feel proud of the work you’re doing while creating texts that you can take with you, possibly publish, or use in your professional portfolios as you search for work or other academic pursuits after completing your program.

NOTE: We’ll be working on a collaborative writing prompt (e.g., an UN/assignment) in our session together to help guide us through the writing of both of these pieces.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING PREPARATION

– Barrett (2022) To hold the grief & the growth1: On Crip ecologies [First read Elaine’s summary of the first part of the essay. Then, read the original essay starting from the part of the essay that begins with “THE SPEED OF IT IS A LIE … YOU are SO Brave. (Time: 5:45 min)” until the end of the essay.]

In their article “To Hold the Grief and the Growth: On Crip Ecologies,” Kay Ulanday Barrett, a self-described transgender, person of color, disabled person, argues that the term “disabled” is “mired with stigma, especially for Black and brown people. It’s weaponized to shrink credibility and desirability.” The stigmatized term suggests to some that disabled people should simply live in gratitude that they are allowed to participate and be included in the lives of the “normies/ableds”. Ulanday Barrett also critiques those who only see disabled people as victims of trauma and place their “catastrophe…on display for consumption”…while “little accountability is discussed around the ableism that causes obstacles for disabled people in the first place”. The author beautifully describes their journey towards counterstory through “crip ecologies, crip time, crip engenuity, and crip spirit”:

I think that it’s not just about connecting to my own body and my own self, it’s beyond me as a singular person and spirit. One of the first principles of disability justice, as Patricia Berne evokes, is intersectionality. Intersectionality and interdependence is that fusion of where you are with birth, with climate, with your community. For me as a person of color, as a Filipinx person, I cannot help but consider how migration stories link to place, to poetics, to who gets to take up space in the natural world, in the imaginary world, to how future is created. This level of discernment embodies cripness and spoonieness and expands us to think about something beyond what is in front of us. 

Crip ecologies, crip time, crip ingenuity, crip spirit radically aim to question root systems that keep our imaginations limited and starved. How can we channel joy within our own skins before there is the stethoscope, the specialist’s jackhammered interrogation, before all the stigma we battle? I am not asking to look beyond it, because these constraints in our beings are here and ever-present. I am asking, as poets, as curious people who want liberation, how do we revel in the grief and also the growth we experience? In what ways does this unpack how we are taught to perceive place and nature? 

Hold on to these words as you consider your own counterstory and how you find liberation in your body and sense of personhood. How do you reconcile with the stories you’ve been told…the stories that have shaped your way of being in the world up to this point in your life? 

– Faison (2018) Black bodies, Black Language: Exploring the use of Black Language as a tool of survival in the writing center

– Lunsford (1991) Collaboration, control, and the idea of a writing center [Skim and practice close reading especially on the sections where she discusses collaboration and the three different kinds of writing centers]

– Lerner (2009) The secret origins of writing centers from The Idea of a Writing Laboratory

– Faison & Traviño (2017) Race, retention, language, and literacy: The hidden curriculum of the writing center

PREP ACTIVITY:

Step 1: In her book Hidden Literacies, scholar Margaret Voss (1996) defines literacy as not monolithic or monocultural or monolingual, but rather plural–as in, literacies. She emphasizes how we learn to practice discourses that help us be seen or perceived as certain kinds of people doing certain kinds of things/work (e.g., a doctor doctoring; a basketball player playing basketball; a writing center consultant consulting, etc). We don’t just learn these things through reading and writing at school. In fact, by the time we start school, we’ve already learned many of the basics of literacies already through modeling and apprenticeship–two processes that are very much part of (or should be) of graduate-level education, especially in health sciences and human services education. But especially today, these literacies and the modeling and apprenticing that accompany them are interprofessional (see the Interprofessional Education Core Competencies), multimodal, and translingual. To do languaging and writing then, in these spaces and under these circumstances, requires a broad and flexible approach to communication in general, despite the rather unreasonable and ideological demand by the academy for us to reproduce monolithic standardized English texts that follow unchanging, monolingual, and monocultural language use and rhetorical conventions.

Take for example Callie’s notes on “Chapter 20: the Kidney” from her coursework as a pathologist assistant-in-training. Read through her notes. What do you notice about the ways she demonstrates what Dr. Alvarez showed us about multimodality and translingualism as writing practices of mass literacy today? For help, look back a what she wrote up for us in her Google Doc agenda. For example, on multimodality, Dr. Alvarez wrote:

People who embody multilingualism as an everyday happening, manifest this dynamic practice in multiple ways, and one form to cultivate and amplify this practice is to engage in multimodality (Gonzales, 2015).”

On your individual WP site, record your observations of Callie’s multimodal practices. How does she manipulate the text, the settings of Word, the vocabulary and phrasing of the medical world in general and pathology specifically alongside the social discourses, literacies, and ways of talking and writing she’s learned to use? Why is she writing notes this way? Speculate.

Step 2: If writing increasingly defines mass literacy today, as Dr. Alvarez and many scholars demonstrate, and if mass literacy is multimodal and translingual and involves, first and foremost, a laboring toward justice, what can we do in writing centers to highlight these dimensions and dynamics, instead of just defaulting in inaccurate, outdated notions of standardized white mainstream English as the ONLY way to write and produce knowledge?

Well, Dr. Alvarez suggests that we pay attention to a few important things and engage in certain, intentional practices:

– to inquire more about how people who come to the center labor toward their “writing practice”

– to get to know where writers labor, and how they have labored before (Brooks, 2020)

– to develop ongoing relationships, so that we work as an extension in their networks of care (Vieira, 2021)

Go back to the readings and WP blogging you’ve done during the Project. Return to what moves you, what disturbs you, what interests and inspires you, and what motivates you. Draw from these utterances, passages, video and podcast segments, and visual arguments to “attend to the how and in what context and lived experience” (Lee, Alvarez, Wan, 2021, p. 1258) you–yourself–have done the labor of multilingual, translingual, and multimodal writing. How have our Project resources, conversations, and writing activities impacted your understanding of your own literacies and languaging practices? What in this Project has highlighted, maybe for the first time for you, the ways your multilingual and multimodal practices “dynamically intersect, manifest, and co-construct identity and your communities’ ways of knowing”? Answer these questions in your WP site, and then speculate how these developing insights might (already be) shaping your practice as a writing center consultant and your work as a student.

Step 3: Begin preparing for your work on the collaborative document addressed to future consultants who will participate in the BWCP. Review this guide to group/collaborative authorship projects and browse this peer accountability assessment document that offers one possible approach to keeping one another on track with this collaborative project. Come prepared to discuss your thoughts: things about these documents we might want to incorporate in our collaborative work in the Project, concerns about the approaches in the documents, questions of clarification on the approaches suggested by the documents, etc. You don’t have to write anything up on this step in our WP site, but it could be helpful to write some brief notes and questions, so you have those at the ready during our session.

JANUARY 29

STARTING OFF: In our last few sessions, we’ve encountered so many concepts and practices, each with their own complexities and many which overlap, contest one another, and otherwise offer crucial dimensions not only of writing center work but our interprofessional training as administrators, para-educators, and undergrad and grad students. Below are some of the concepts and practices we’ve looked at. If any of these seem new to you, go back to the previous sessions’ readings/watchings/listenings and look the concepts and practices up. Consider how you’re entering this research and these discourses as a writer and a peer writing consultant or tutor. As you look through this list, ask yourself how (if) you’re thinking about your experience as a professional-in-training differently as you deepen your learning in our Project:

translanguaging

codeswitching

Black Language

African American Vernacular English (AAVE)

appropriateness discourses

additive approaches to language and writing education

white listening subject

monolingualism

language standardization

standard language ideology

socially constructed grammar

linguistic vs socially constructed grammaticality

expert vs. popular models of language

language varieties vs. dialects

linguistic continua

anti-Black linguistic racism

respectability language pedagogies

antiracist Black Language pedagogy

raciolinguistic ideologies

linguistic hegemony

whiteness/blackness/epidermalization

linguistic double consciousness

multilingualism

multilingual writing center work

To further enrich our conversation about these concepts and practices, Dr. Sara Alvarez will join our session on January 29!

Dr. Alvarez is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition in the Department of English at Queens College, City University of New York. Her research interests intersect the fields of critical applied linguistics, urban and bilingual education, and immigration geopolitics. Through ethnography-based investigation and community engagement, she looks to how immigrant youth negotiate and transform writing practices, languages, and national borders. She’s currently working on a book project which examines the multilingual and academic writing practices of self-outed undocumented young adults in the U.S. South and New York City. To learn more about Dr. Alvarez, check out her faculty webpage here.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING PREPARATION

Otheguy, Garcia, & Reid (2015) Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics [as summarized by Mike Mena, 2020, on YouTube]

Baker-Bell (2017) I can switch my language but I can’t switch my skin

Flores & Rosa (2015) Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education

Alvarez (2018) Multilingual writers in college contexts

Collection of selected videos below (As you watch the videos, record in your individual WordPress site words that come to mind. Any words at all that the videos bring to mind)

– Agustina (Tina) Harris (2021) The minority priority: A teaching philosophy

– Jessica Calvo (2021) Writing about writing: Black in Brooklyn

– Rosalynn Ye (2021) East Asian & American culture integration: Navigating language barriers

PREP ACTIVITY:

Step 1: Go back to your first few posts on your individual WordPress site (from way back in October and November). Look at the questions you were asking and the terms you chose from Condon and Young (2017). What have you learned about these terms since the start of the program? How have your questions changed or what leads do you have for understanding possible responses to those original questions? What reading, listening, watching, and moments of conversation (in sessions and outside of them) has changed your thinking and questioning? Post your answers on your individual WordPress site. You can use written text, audio, visuals like memes, or any multimodal approaches you think will most accurately and effectively express your thinking and feeling.

Step 2: Think back to this question posed in the prep work for January 15: 

“What’s the difference between code switching and translanguaging? How and why is this difference important in our work with writers? How does switching codes lead to academic, professional, and life success in a racialized and racializing world where the language use of minoritized and racialized speakers and writers is constructed by many institutions and individuals (e.g., white listening subjects) as deficient–even WHEN these writers and speakers communicate in so-called ‘good’ standardized Englishes?” 

Then, read the excerpts from three different writers here. Lastly, in your individual WordPress site, reflect on each writer’s intended audience, genre, and positionality and how certain rhetorical choices can be seen through the lens of the writer’s or languager’s process of identification and communication with their audiences. How does these excerpts define “language” or otherwise answer or even complicate the questions, What is Language? What is English?

Step 3: On this Google Doc, post 2-3 questions you have for Dr. Alvarez regarding intersections among multilingualism, writing, community, and writing center work. NOTE: Post questions by no later than Wednesday, January 29, at 3pm.

JANUARY 15

STARTING OFF:

Our conversation on December 18 with Dr. Brooks raised some important questions:

– Do consultants’/tutors’ backgrounds (e.g., professional, cultural, linguistic, intersectional, etc.) matter in terms of professional development (e.g., training you receive for doing the work)?

– How much time should writing center folks spend on critically identifying and exploring their beliefs around monolingualism?

Late 19th or early 20th century image stereotyping immigrants as white and indexing the learning of the English language to patriotism with the statement "Speak the Language of Your Flag."
O’Brien (2020)

– How do we deliberately do multilingual writing center work most effectively and still build trust with all writers and their faculty and programs?

– How do we balance the longstanding urge to make our centers appear “comfortable” and “welcoming” while engaging in “additive approaches” to language and writing education in our consultation practices and in our policies?

– What problems with additive approaches to language and writing education do Flores & Rosa (2015) point out in their two pieces below? How are additive approaches related to “appropriateness discourses” and the harm they cause?

– In a multilingual world, where the vast majority of English speakers use it as a primary but not first language, who are the audiences for the academic and non-academic work written by the writers we serve? How are these audiences different from the predominately white, middle-class, cis, straight, and monolingual audience imagined by the U.S. university and schooling in general?

– At the end of the day, how do we know what writers “need” and how do we therefore define the “help” we provide when every dimension of our work shapes and is shaped by status quo formations of racial inequality and inequity?

– What’s the difference between code switching and codemeshing? How and why is this difference important in our work with writers? How does switching codes lead to academic, professional, and life success in a racialized and racializing world where the language use of minoritized and racialized speakers and writers are considered deficient–even WHEN they speak and write in so-called “good” standardized Englishes?

– How do we writing center folks affirm the language practices of racialized and minortized writers while avoiding casting these practices as less than standardized Englishes expected by the university? How can we support the learning of white mainstream English (WME) (Inoue, 2015; Baker-Bell, 2020) while centering the language practices of all writers, especially those folks whose writing reflects the global, multilingual Englishes of the 21st Century?

– Is Black Language (Baker-Bell, 2020) static and rule-bound only? Or does is shift and change? What problems does this dynamic nature raise for the arguments of the speakers in the documentary in favor of Ebonics as a monolithic language? How do we writing center folks avoid the same pitfalls?

– Whose language is Black Language? When does its public use constitute cultural appropriation and extend the logics of enslavement?

– Whose language is Spanish? Chinese? Hindi? Cherokee? Lakota? Spanglish? Chinglish? Manglish? Or any racialized and minoritized systematic use of language? What important considerations about these varieties does Lippi-Green’s “Linguistic Facts of Life” raise about their use in the academy?

None of these questions has a single or an easy answer. But to begin considering how we might approach them, read/watch/and listen to the stuff below. Then, complete the prep activity to get started thinking about these ideas, issues, and considerations.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING PREPARATION

– Horner & Weber. (2018). “What is a language?” 

– April Baker-Bell (2020). “What’s anti-Blackness got to do with it?” (Read as much as possible, but read judiciously, focusing on bolded terms, examples, and especially pp. 34-36. We’ll discuss this reading in greater depth on January 29)

– Gee (2015). “Ideology” 

– Flores & Rosa (2015) The raciolinguistic catch-22 from the Blog of Harvard Education Publishing

– Mena (2019) “Flores and Rosa – ‘Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies… ‘ (2015)” [YouTube video] Note: read the actual article here (only if you want to)

– Green (2012) “The linguistic facts of life” and “Standard language mythEnglish with an Accent

– NPR Codeswitch (2018) “Talk American” [podcast]

PREP ACTIVITY:

Step 1: Read the following contextualization and summary of Lockett (2019): 

Lockett (2019) asserts that “a session about grammar may need to also include serious dialogue about a client’s racial attitudes when arguments unintentionally exhibit or reinforce white supremacist attitudes” (p. 27). She points out, too, that clients’ own expectations can detract from their learning in the writing center, “especially in cases where they may decide to decline services from non-white or non- American tutors because they automatically dismiss the very idea that they could speak or write ‘better English’ than their white colleagues” (p. 27). She goes on: 

Students’ expectations of who ought to be mentoring them and teaching them affects language learning since the very definition of ‘professional writing’ and ‘scholarly writing’ signifies expression that will likely incorporate many assumptions about how to perform and elevate whiteness…[R]esearch might argue that writing centers need to be ‘safe spaces.’ The ‘safe spaces’ arguments reveal that the work of tutoring English writing, in such contexts, is clearly understood to advance standardized English and particular conventions of academic communication. We need to realize how [writing centers] function as academic ghettos, especially to those who must live and labor in that space as those who institutions have historically isolated. The work of getting someone to talk and write like “educated (white) folks” is an act of violence because it functions on the basis that patriarchal white supremacist manners of expression are superior to those of unassimilated non-white people. ‘Good English,’ then, is provided paramount linguistic value solely on the basis of the transferability of its socio-economic viability.

Step 2: Consider these questions:

– How do Gee’s (2015) “bad English theory” and “linguist’s theory” relate to Lockett’s (2019) argument above? 

– What do you think Deion Broxton, the interviewee on the Code Switch podcast, would contribute to a conversation with Gee, Lockett, Lippi-Green, and Flores and Rosa? What about linguist John Kenyon? Dr. Okim Kang?

Write a short dialogue in which these experts and professionals play characters who talk (or argue) about the ways so-called standardized Englishes are given value over and above other varieties of English and languages in certain spaces in the US, such as broadcasting, media, social media, the university classroom, and the university writing center.

Step 3: Now, insert yourself as a character in your dialogue. Respond to the experts and professionals. Talk back to, (dis)agree with, explain, question, etc. what they say. Bring your own experience as a writing center consultant into the conversation. What unique experiences and insights can you offer these folks and this conversation?

Step 4: On your individual blog. Reread your previous posts and make a list of 2-3 questions that emerge about the work you/we have done up to this point in the Baltimore Writing Center Project. From last semester’s discussions, what questions continue to linger for you? What have we not addressed that you’re interested in learning more about?

Step 5: Read the questions posted by your colleagues in their individual blogs. “Like” their questions and contribute a few comments of encouragement or further questions that these posts spark for you. 

DECEMBER 18

STARTING OFF: [Audio recording]

Concluding the counterstories of Alejandra, Martinez (2016) brings home the message for writing center folks like us who claim we want to do antiracist and antioppression work:

“It is then the responsibility of the Writing Center, not to liberate underserved students, but to recognize its own complicity within the colonial functioning of the academy, to reflect on these colonial tendencies, and to build resistance and space with underserved students through coalitional practices that centralize the narratives of marginalized students as crucial to best serving their needs in this space.”

But how do we “recognize [our] own complicity in the colonial functioning of the academy” and reflect critically as Martinez recommends? How do we build “coalitional practices that centralize the narratives of marginalized” writers in the writing center? Well, there are more ways than we can count. For sure, when we ask “What can we do?” about white supremacy and racism in the writing center and beyond, we have to resist taking much comfort in confessional performance. Admitting that writing centers have and continue to circulate whiteness and uphold white language supremacy by emphasizing standardized English as the only way at the end of the day to succeed in the academy only performs “a fantasy of transcendence, a kind of easy way out of accountability for the differing, yet intimately connected, historical realities and lived experiences of people of color and whites under unjust and unequal racial orders—for racism” (p. 15).

Beyond confessing our complicity, we have to examine “how [our] pedagogical practices uphold white supremacy and anti-Black racism” (Baker-Bell, 2017, p. 102). In other words, we’re called to pay close attention to the uses of language, especially since our practice depends on talking with clients about the social justice implications of problematic ideologies circulating in academia about language use and writer-languagers of color whom we serve. We all recognize that our work does not aim ‘improve the human condition’ (UMB’s [missionary] mission statement), as though our writing centers function as “storehouses” (Lunsford, 2011) of “correct” or “proper” writing knowledge to be imposed upon writers. We act from a very different epistemological position that demands we hold ourselves answerable to the lived experiences, voices, languages, and knowledges of minoritized and racialized communities.

Doing so means actively, constantly critiquing and adjusting our practices. In the words of Asao Inoue (2019), former chairperson of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, we ”language so that we stop killing each other“:

“I’m not saying we have to change our perspectives, soften our hearts. Our hearts are not the problem. In fact, I’m actually saying the opposite, that we cannot change our biases in judging so easily, and that your perspectives that you’ve cultivated over your lifetime are not the key to making a more just society, classroom, pedagogy, or grading practice. The key is changing the structures, cutting the steel bars, altering the ecology, in which your biases function in your classrooms and communities. I’m saying, we must change the way power moves through White racial biases, through standards of English that make White language supremacy. We must stop justifying White standards of writing as a necessary evil. Evil in any form is never necessary. We must stop saying that we have to teach this dominant English because it’s what students need to succeed tomorrow. They only need it because we keep teaching it!

To examine ways to “change the way power moves” through our centers and disrupt assumptions of white language supremacy, we’re learning more about Black rhetorical traditions and their presences in writing centers. Guiding us will be Dr. Earl Brooks, Assistant Professor of English at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He’ll be talking with us about and interacting with us on the topic of African-American language and rhetoric. To prepare for the conversation, work through the materials and activities below.

READING/WATCHING PREPARATION:

– Gilyard & Banks (2018) College-writing instructions and African-American rhetoric & Historical overview of African-American rhetoric & Rhetorical theory from On African-American Rhetoric

– Wilson (2011) Bias in the writing center: Tutor perceptions of African-American Language (pp. 177-191)

– Smitherman (1986) From Africa to the New World and into the Space Age: An introduction and history of Black English structure (pp. 1-17) from Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The language of Black America

Jamila Lyiscott (2014) Three ways to speak English [Ted Talk; poetry performance]

PREP ACTIVITY:

Step 1: Practice some mindful writing. Begin with the phrase “I am articulate,” thinking about Jamila Lysicott’s talk and the implications of telling someone they are articulate, and write a poem or freewrite. What does this phrase mean exactly? What does it mean to you?

Step 2: Be mindful of the labor that goes into the preparation of having a guest speaker: the readings, the conversations, the considerations of what is best for the group. What are some of your expectations when presenting to a group? How do you want people to show up for you? Write down your thoughts (they can be bullet points, poetry, freewrite, etc…) and consider how you want to show up for Dr. Brooks when he joins us on the 18th.

Step 3: To raise awareness of your own assumptions about your own and writing center clients’ language practices, answer each question below with “No” or “Yes.” Black Language (BL), according to Baker-Bell (2017), is an umbrella term that refers to the many forms and variations of language use and language repertoires of the global African diaspora, including but not only African-American rhetoric and Englishes. NOTE: no need to record your answers anywhere; just complete this questionnaire in your mind:

– Do you believe that Standard Written English (SWE) is the “standard,” “official,” “normal,” “appropriate,” or “respectful” way of communicating?

– Do you communicate to clients that Standard Written English (SWE) is the “standard,” “official,” “normal,” “appropriate,” or “respectful” way of communicating?

– Do you believe that Black Language (BL) is “slang,” “informal,” “inappropriate,” “erroneous,” or an “uneducated” way of communicating in the academy and in disciplinary circles?

– Do you communicate to clients that Black Language (BL) is “slang,” “informal,” “inappropriate,” “erroneous,” or an “uneducated” way of communicating in the academy and in disciplinary circles?

– Do you believe that Black Language (BL) should be restricted to informal situations and standard English should be used in academic situations (e.g., when writing journal articles or completing course writing assignments)?

– Do you communicate to clients that Black Language (BL) should be restricted to informal situations and standard English should be used in academic situations (e.g., when writing journal articles or completing course writing assignments)?

– Are you open to discussions with clients about strategies for their using BL to push against conventions and establish identity and voice in their writing?

– Do you discuss with clients the intersections among race, language, and writing in consultations?

NOTE: Adapted from April Baker-Bell (2017)

Step 4: Respond in your individual WordPress site to the following prompts posed by Dr. Brooks in preparation for our conversation with him:

– Find a passage from the reading you have questions about or don’t understand and then list your questions.

– Find a passage from the reading that you find to be particularly provocative or interesting and provide an explanation

– Find a passage that speaks to your personal experiences and provide an explanation

– Find a passage that you believe will impact your perspective on the teaching of writing/composition and provide an explanation.

Step 5: On this shared Google Doc, post 2-3 questions you have for Dr. Brooks regarding any of the reading and content for this session. These questions can be copied and pasted from your work above in Step 4 or completely new questions. Post your questions no later than Wednesday, December 15, at 12pm Noon.

DECEMBER 4

STARTING OFF:

Our last session returned again and again to the challenges of working with writers, classmates, colleagues, friends, and family members resistant to discussions about race, racism, colonialism, and white supremacy. Your posts on our shared Padlet point to important issues around both these difficult conversations and self-understanding. For example, one post asks: “How to challenge preconceptions that people have? What if they’re never challenged? How to grow in your own ideology if you’re surrounded by people who think exactly the same as you do?” These questions raise the possibility that we, as people and consultants, are constructed by our histories and ways of thinking and speaking. Once again, these dimensions of our lives function as longstanding repositories of metaphors and stories that govern our talk and behavior. Critically unpacking these things can lead to a range of responses from us and from those with whom we initiate these conversations: denial, anger, guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness, despair, etc. As your Padlet posts suggest, addressing these conditions and responses depends on listening, deep and rhetorical listening, on our part to the voices and stories of individuals and communities of color, especially and primarily those of women of color and people of color across many axes of difference. This necessity also points to the importance of intersectional and feminist understandings of race, racism, whiteness, and white supremacy.

As we continue to reel from the recent exoneration of Kyle Rittenhouse in a centuries-long legacy of whiteness as a false marker of innocence, goodness, and/or ignorance (hooks, 2015; Leonardo, 2009), let’s consider what can be done. Below you’ll see/hear/watch work by leading scholars and teachers of color drawing from intersectional feminist and race-critical traditions. You’ll find Martinez’s counterstories, a set of narratives from her composite character Alejandra; Leonardo’s poignant analysis of white supremacy, white investment, and white privilege and how they’re linked to structural domination; Alemán’s concise definitions of critical race theory (CRT) and counterstorytelling; Crenshaw’s podcast on intersectionality and CRT featuring a panel of educators, professionals, students, and community members whose efforts at antiracism in and out of school have elicited push back from some and been embraced by others; Adichie’s, Blaque’s, and Crenshaw and Dobson’s explanations of the current urgency of feminist, womanist, and intersectional work.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING PREPARATION

How do we ‘do’ race-critical, antiracist work? What is ‘the truth’ in this work? Where’s storytelling fit in here? What thinking informs this work? What is the ‘counter’ in counterstory?

– Martinez (2016) Alejandra writes a book: A critical race counterstory about writing, identity, and being Chicanx in the academy

– Leonardo (2009) The color of supremacy from Race, whiteness, and education

– Alemán (2017) Critical race theoretical framework (p. 75-76) and Counterstorytelling (p. 76-77)

– Crenshaw (2020) [Podcast] Episode 42: Educators ungagged: Teaching truth in the era of racial backlash

– Adiche (2013) [Video] We should all be feminists

– Crenshaw & Dobson (2016) [Video] The urgency of intersectionality

– Collins (1996) WHAT’S IN A NAME? Womanism, Black Feminism, and beyond

– Blaque (2019) [Video] What Is: Womanism?

PREP ACTIVITY

Step 1: At the end of Crenshaw’s (2020) podcast, a diverse panel of speakers identify what listeners can do to support race-critical and intersectional work in schools, communities, and sites across society. Drawing on their recommendations, as well as the research and counterstories in Leonardo (2009), Martinez (2020), Adichie (2013), Collins (1996), and Crenshaw and Dobson (2016), make a list in your individual WordPress site of no fewer than 5 actions you can take to address the questions listed above in the “Starting Off” section. Give your actions context, explaining and describing them in terms of your life as a person, student, and writing center consultant. Think of “actions” that provide alternatives to rushing off into the world to merely ‘do’ something or anything. Importantly, avoid thinking of action as merely self-education on whiteness, racism, and white supremacy. Think instead broadly and respond to the voices you’ve read/listened to/watched above. Consider these questions as you write out your list: How can you prepare to act? What actions could/would you take? Which ones feel off limits to you? Why? How can acting also include various channels and means of supporting race-critical community work and leaders? In what situations would you anticipate doubt about how and when to act?

Step 2: As we consider the importance of identity in how we see the world, consider how the names we give thing and ideas help us create meaning. After reading and watching the prep materials, create a list of your own definitions (however you currently understand these terms) of the following terms: intersectionality, feminism, Black feminism, and Womanism. Once you create your definitions, select one quote from Collins’s (1996) “What’s in a Name?” that you would like to discuss further with the group and post it on your WordPress site.

Step 3: After engaging with the materials, I (David) am still left thinking about identity. Since we are moving more actively into counterstory, begin to think about your own narrative, your own identity and how it is composed through the varied lens of social construction. Using the concepts on this intersectionality wheel, describe as many aspects of your identity that you are comfortable with sharing (race, gender, able-disable, class, sexual orientation, job role, age, etc.). Free write metaphors and stories, anecdotes and poems, that draw on these identifications to complete this phrase: “I AM _______” Try to answer the questions, “Just exactly who and what am I? What do I represent to other people? What do I WANT to represent to other people? Why? How? What should other people know about me to understand my ‘identity’?” Think about what ‘identity’ really is. Is it a fixed state of being? A completely socially constructed perspective and expression of a unified ‘self’ or one that is never whole and always fractured and changing? How does any group of individuals ever maintain a stable, fixed collective ‘identity’ if the people in these groups are so diverse and constantly (re)inventing themselves and the ways they think about themselves and the group? Draw on the readings for this session to answer these questions in your free writing.

NOVEMBER 20

STARTING OFF:

Our conversations in the first two sessions and your individual WordPress writing show much interest in several important themes (read material at links only if you wish to learn more):

Power: What is power? In what dimensions of our lives does it operate (e.g., social, cultural, academic, individual, collective, private, personal, etc.)? How is power created, and who controls it? How does it control us individually and collectively within communities?

Embodiment/Presence/Mindfulness: What is “the body”? How does it function as both a metaphor (e.g., a body of scholarship, a body of water, governing body, community as body) and a gateway to being in the world (e.g., a person’s individual body)? How do we conduct a “body scan” (Johnson), and why would we do so with clients we work with? What does it mean to embody an idea or ideology (e.g., to embody writing center practice, to embody whiteness or blackness, to embody antiracism, etc.)? How is mindfulness, as a set of practices such as the “body scan,” related (or not) to embodiment? How are embodiment, mindfulness, and power related? Whose bodies, physical and metaphorical, have traditionally been welcomed in the university and in our writing centers? Whose bodies have not? Whose bodies are valued and how in U.S. society and whose have been devalued and undervalued? Why? Consider the recent mass media coverage of 22-year-old, white Gabby Petito’s case in contrast with rarely reported cases involving missing and murdered Black women, trans Black people, and Indigenous women and Two Spirit people.

Equity/Labor: What’s the difference between diversity, inclusion, equity, and equality? What is labor, at least in terms of writing and writing assessment? How do we think of labor in antiracist and anti-oppression work? How can institutions and writing centers stop demanding racialized and marginalized people do the lion’s share of antiracist and anti-oppression work?

White Guilt/Shame: Why do white people feel guilt and/or shame, or other strong emotions when confronted by the harm we perpetuate though whiteness? What harm do such feelings perpetuate? How? What is whiteness? How does it work? How is it related to “dysconscious racism” (Condon & Young)?

Damage-Centered vs. Desire-Based Perspectives: As the image Holly highlighted from Twitter in her WordPress site says, “Our stories are more than our struggles.” How do we do antiracist writing center work–or any work for that matter–by framing struggle through desire-based rather than damage-centered perspectives?

READING/WATCHING PREPARATION

Whose stories get told? How? Who makes the call?

– Dunbar-Ortiz (2015) An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States: Chapter 2: Culture of conquest (pp. 32-39)

– hooks (2015) Representing whiteness in the Black imagination 

– Lakoff & Johnson (1980) Metaphors We Live By (pp. 1-6 and 229-237) (Read sparingly what you have time for)

– Tuck (2009) “Suspending damage: A letter to communities” (Read sparingly what you have time for)

– Niemann & Carter-Bishop (2017) Microagressions in the Classroom

– Blanco (1998) “América

PREP ACTIVITY

STEP 1: [Click here for audio] hooks (2015) explains how whiteness (or as Condon and Young, 2017, call it “whiteliness,” p. 14-15) operates through assumptions of invisibility. She then argues:

“Socialized to believe the fantasy, that whiteness represents goodness and all that is benign and non-threatening, many white people assume this is the way black people conceptualize whiteness. They do not imagine that the way whiteness makes its presence felt in black life, most often as terrorizing imposition, a power that wounds, hurts, tortures, is a reality that disrupts the fantasy of whiteness as representing goodness” (p. 31).

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) offer some further insight about how such meaning gets made. They explain that our “conceptual system” depends on metaphor, a way of “understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (p. 5). We talk about things in certain ways because that is how we think about them. We conceptualize them through comparisons and contrasts with other things or experiences. And these ways of talking and thinking govern our everyday behaviors and lives, shaping understanding of ourselves as individuals and as belonging or not to groups and social categories. Further, because in human experience all “understanding emerges from interaction, from constant negotiation with the environment and other people” (p. 230) through our bodies, we “cannot function within an environment without changing it or being changed by it” (p. 230). To that end, “a metaphor in a political or economic system, by virtue of what it hides, can lead to human degradation” (emphasis mine, p. 236).

hooks (2015) points out that the metaphors linking whiteness to notions of “goodness,” blamelessness, or innocence within U.S. (and global) social, political, economic, and educational systems attempt to normalize, and therefore hide, the damage of racism, especially anti-Black racism. She goes on: “Black people still feet the terror, still associate it with whiteness, but are rarely able to articulate the varied ways we are terrorized because it is easy to silence by accusations of reverse racism or by suggesting that black folks who talk about the ways we are terrorized by whites are merely evoking victimization to demand special treatment” (p. 33).

This is a serious problem. It emerges in workplaces, classrooms, public spaces like parks and street corners, everywhere, forming the backbone of racializing stereotypes, microagressions, and discriminatory policies and practices that parade as “the norm” and silence racialized and minoritized people who vehemently oppose such “terror.”

So how do we writing center folks respond? Niemann and Carter-Bishop’s (2017) film Microagressions in the Classroom presents the stories of students whose lived experiences reflect how microagressions emerge from assumptions about whiteness as invisible, harmless, normative, and natural. Notice, too, how the film makes a point to show the intersectional realities of this specific form of racial formation, including identifications across many axes of difference, not just that of race. In the latter part of the film, white professors talk about how they disrupt microagressions in the classroom. None of them openly names and critiques whiteness, as hooks (2015) does. In fact, many of the comments from students focus on liberal multiculturalist notions of sameness–how people are more alike than different–acceptance, belonging, and inclusion.

While these dimensions of wellbeing and justice are important, they can also skip over the history and causes of microagressive behaviors and thus end up actually only addressing individual instances of harm and thereby potentially reinforcing and perpetuating the problem by ignoring structural and systemic manifestations of racism and white supremacy culture. Condon and Young (2017) put it this way: “[This approach] frames racism as the product of individual actions that deviate from the normal, non-racist actions of most of us or from the sensitive practice of suppressing our racism. The injustice of conditions of racism within which students of color are forced to study go unremarked. Instead, injustice is characterized by the failure of colleges and universities to prepare (white?) students to succeed in the global marketplace by not teaching them to be sensitive in their representations of difference” (emphasis mine, p. 6).

Find an artifact in your surrounding physical or digital environment that illustrates this problem. Where do you see this kind of metaphorical racecraft happening? Where do you see whiteness parading as “normal” and therefore attempting to hide racism or cast it as an “individual” problem perpetrated by marginal or otherwise “insensitive” people, such as the Klu Klux Klan or neoNazi or alt-right groups, rather than a structural and systemic one? Your artifact can be conversations you’ve overheard, Twitter threads, TikTok vids, Facebook posts, or Instagram stories. Or you can choose story headlines in online news sources, movies/movie scenes, songs/song titles, social media posts, classroom or work policies, etc. Unfortunately, there are seemingly endless possibilities.

Once you’ve chosen your artifact, post it in your individual WordPress blog. You can use screenshots, pictures, and/or written or audio descriptive text. Whatever works for you. Then, drawing on what you’ve read for this session …

1. Describe and analyze the artifact: What actions, characters, and ideas does it depict? How does it do so? How would Lakoff and Johnson describe the artifact in terms of metaphor?

2. Interpret the artifact: Explain how the artifact seems to metaphorically define or characterize whiteness (e.g., whiteness as somehow “good” (or innocent or even superior), how that artifact attempts to parade whiteness as “normal,” or how the artifact casts white supremacy and racism as an “individual” problem perpetrated by “insensitive” people on the margins of society.

3. Critique the artifact: How would hooks (2015) respond to it from the perspective of the Black imagination? What would Neimann and Carter-Bishop say about it in terms of microagressions? How might Dunbar-Oritz (2015) use history to explain and interrogate it?

STEP 2: [Click here for audio] The speaker in Blanco’s (1998) “América” is looking back on his and his family’s personal experience with the social structural configurations of an America without the accent mark on the “e” (the accent mark in his title transposes phonetic accentuation from Spanish onto the English word “America”). Despite being conditioned by and assimilated into white mainstream English-speaking notions of U.S. history and culture, the speaker’s family resists a full loss of their identifications with their Cuban roots. The poem, itself, refuses assimilation by exposing the generic, whitewashed images and metaphors that parade as “normal” among so many of us in this country (e.g., “purple mountain’s majesty” as a stand in for belief in white American territorial expansion and superiority; the Thanksgiving turkey as quintessentially “American” yet so uncomfortably a stranger and out-of-place in this Cuban-Américan family; the “masses yearning to be free” as a hollow epitaph for the very immigrants grappling in real time with the artifacts of the weird gringo holidays and history; etc.).

Notice how the pork refuses to go. The way Tío Berto frames the cranberry sauce inescapably in Spanish as “esa mierda roja” (that red shit). How the merengue and rum and coffee take center stage after the ornaments of white America have been only tolerated and put away. In many ways, Blanco depicts himself and his family as very much alive within and expanding through their cultural traditions and identifications. They are trafficking in new metaphors superimposed on the traditional and familiar. They are not shown as “broken, emptied, or flattened” (Tuck, 2009, p. 414) within a “damage-centered frame” (Tuck, 2009, p. 413). The poem does not mine the family for “data” and abandon it, as so much art and research often does to communities of color. Instead, the poem “captures desire instead of damage” (p. 416), focusing on “the not yet and, at times, the not anymore […] [as well as] longing about a present that is enriched by both the past and the future” (p. 417). Blanco’s images and metaphors show a family crafting themselves from what is there, disallowing whiteness utter control over the metaphors and experiences of the family and asserting a Cuban identification that “hankers for the desired and at the same time […] learns to desire” (p. 418). Desire, in this poem, is “multiplicitous and assembled from prior experiences” (p. 418).

This family also gives us something as writing center folks. It clearly illustrates how desire, according to Tuck (2009) “fleshes out that which has been hidden or what happens behind our backs. Desire, because it is an assemblage of experiences, ideas, and ideologies, both subversive and dominant, necessarily complicates our understanding of human agency, complicity, and resistance” (p. 420). Like Blanco’s poem, our work cannot avoid the complexities of desire–our own as individuals, as well as that of the institutions and politics we navigate and that of the writers we work with. Tuck puts it this way:

“In a damage framework, one might surmise that, even when faced with options, youth are pliant to the consumerist status quo. However, in a desire-based framework that draws on the idea of complex personhood, we see that “all people remember and forget, are beset by contradiction, and recognize and misrecognize themselves and others” (Gordon, 1997, p. 4). We can desire to be critically conscious and desire the new Jordans (expensive tennis shoes) [or in terms of Blanco’s poem the gringo-American turkey and the Cuban pork], even if those desires are conflicting” (p. 420).

Answer this question: Where and how–in what ways, in what behaviors–does your own “complex personhood” emerge in three (3) aspects of your life:

1. Your personal circumstances (e.g., among family, friends, and socially more generally)

2. Your roles as a student, especially in your specific undergrad major or your graduate-professional discipline

3. Your roles as a writing center consultant within institutions built by and for white, cisgender, and straight men.

Answer this question: How can your own antiracist commitments and writing center work shift toward focusing on “survivance” (Tuck, 2009, p. 422-423).

October 30

Starting off:

Listen to the introduction here.

View the full-text transcript here.

Reading/watching preparation:

For real: what is a story? What is storytelling?

– Diab, Ferrel, Godbee, & Simpkins (2013) “Making commitments to racial justice actionable” 

– Condon and Young (Eds.) (2017) “Introduction: Part III” (pp. 11-16 ONLY)

– Johnson (2018) “Mindful tutors, embodied writers…tutor’s supportive roles” 

Return to the following from last discussion …

– Baldwin (1962) “A letter to my nephew

– Lorde (1981) “Uses of anger

– Tomorrow (2014) “Officer friendly: He’s just a good guy with a gun

– King (2003) “‘You’ll never believe what happened’ is always a great way to start” 

– Adichie (2009) “The danger of a single story” 

– Finney (2011) “Dancing with Strom” and “2011 National Book Award acceptance speech

– Smith (2017) “dear white america

Prep Activity:

STEP 1: Reflect on your experience with the Baldwin, Lorde, and Adichie texts, as well as the “Starting Off” section above. Think about the feelings these views evoke in you. Now look at this feelings wheel online. Notice the nuances labelled by the wheel. Drawing from the nuanced emotions of the wheel, write about the specific emotions that emerge in your reaction Baldwin, Lorde, and Adichie, as well as the “Starting Off” section. Answer these three questions: What aspects of these texts make you feel this way? Why? How do these emotions affect your understanding and evaluation of these texts?

STEP 2: Now pay close attention to the King (2003) essay. He says a lot about storytelling: the importance of cultural perspective in narrative; the ways stories guide human behavior and project collective futures; the power and responsibility accompanying storytelling, and the nature and purpose of the storyteller. In your individual WordPress site, answer these questions: (How) does Adichie’s (2009) warning of a single story apply (or not) to King’s claims about story and storytelling? Do stories control us, or do we controls stories? How is this relevant to writing center practices and policies?

STEP 3: Listen to the introduction to this activity here. Following along with the full-text transcript here. After reading/listening to the introduction to this activity, choose ONLY one of the two (2) options (e.g., A or B) below:

Option A: Write a letter to yourself in your individual WordPress site. Choose at least 3 quotes from the readings for this session as starting points, or “talking points,” for identifying the nuanced emotions you associate with racism and white supremacy and for advising yourself on how to use your anger, become a storyteller for change, and practice mindfulness and antiracism in your writing center practice and/or work as a student or professional. Use one or two of the terms defined by Condon and Young (2017). You don’t have to just write text. You can create images, pictures, memes, gifs, videos, any and all multimodal texts. You’re welcome to record your letter on video and upload it. Or you can use audio. Whatever you desire. Run with your imagination.

Option B: Drawing on strategies demonstrated in Tomorrow (2014), create a short comic strip or TikTok story that illustrates how to use anger, become a storyteller for change, and practice mindfulness and antiracism in writing center practice and/or work as a student or professional. Make sure to directly or indirectly refer to at least 3 of our readings, as well as one or two terms defined by Condon and Young (2017). Post your creation on your individual WordPress site. If you choose to use TikTok, provide a link to your TikTok in some written text on your site.