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ANTI-RACIST ACTIVISM: TEACHING RHETORIC AND WRITING

"Going there": Peer Writing Consultants' Perspectives on the New Racism and Peer Writing Pedagogies

 

Introduction: A Reader's Guide

This article represents our process, as a group, of coming to terms with our experiences with racism, both situational and systemic, in our writing center. The search began by telling stories, about ourselves and about our experiences in the writing center, on our campus, and in our communities. We tried on different languages for their potentials to help us both understand the stories and to help us imagine new possibilities for working for racial justice and against systemic racism. The coming to terms, it turns out, was just as much a search for terms. How do we talk about the racism that we encounter – both individualized and systemic – and what language do we use in describing our responses to such racism? Even further, how does this language shape our actions and reactions in response to racism? [MORE]


Our [Silenced] History: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

In 1949, Ada Lois Sipuel was admitted to the University of Oklahoma Law School and became the first African American to graduate in 1951. She was only admitted after the U.S. Supreme Court heard her case and decided against the Oklahoma Board of Regents. In an attempt to celebrate this, the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden on the OU campus was dedicated soon after Fisher’s death in October of 1995 (Hall). The plaque in the garden mentions nothing about the treatment Fisher endured during her time here at the University of Oklahoma: "colored" seating, separated by chains from her classmates, forced to enter the cafeteria through a back door only to sit once again in segregated seating, etc. No, the plaque says only that whatever the treatment was, Fisher handled it "with such composure and dignity, with such patience and courage, and with [a] complete absence of bitterness of any kind." [MORE]


Sooners

The University of Oklahoma has a very conflicted history when it comes to its relationship with Native Americans. Its nickname, "Sooners," is derived from the Oklahoma land runs of the 1889, during which white settlers moving westward could claim land. However, for many Native people in the state of Oklahoma, "Sooners" still invokes memories passed down through generations of white settlers who literally ran in and claimed the land previously promised to the Native groups by the federal government. [MORE]


First-Year Composition and the Problem of Colorblind Curricula

Each semester as I received essays on our topic of educational equality, I found there were a couple of things being avoided in the student work. Students were often not willing to discuss the role that race played in determining social class.

When I came to work at the Writing Center, other consultants, many of whom are writing this article with me, were noticing similar gaps in student papers. This was pretty troubling to all of us, and it still is as we write this. Why would students avoid such an important factor in determining the quality of education for K – 12 students. [MORE]


Power and Cultural Capital in Writing Center Consulting

Although it seems like the norm to create a safe space within the bounds of the writing center, there is an issue of ethical obligation when the consultant is confronted with certain scenarios. By this, I mean that when the safe atmosphere of the space can be compromised, how far can the consultant reach before they have violated the line of professionalism, morality, or personal views of the writer? Moreover, does this compel the consultant to speak out more/less than how they would usually see fit. The key term of responsibility seems to be in constant flux when anti-racism is a theme in the writing center. [MORE]


Conflict Between "Professionalism" and Activism

Too often discussions of how to address racism, particularly in a learning environment, are cluttered and derailed with claims to politeness and professionalism. It is not professional, we claim, to make students uncomfortable. It is too personal, we say, to bring up issues that are based on our identities. And being personal, and political, it has no place in the work environment. [MORE]


On Consultant Responsibility

As consultants, we find ourselves in a fairly unique position. I see myself as a peer to all who enter the writing center for help and advice, yet I don't think any one of us can deny that there is at least a minor sense of power differential between consultants and writers. While some consultants find that it is their moral duty to bring attention to someone's racism, others may find that an attempt to change people's mindsets in a professional environment may be overstepping their bounds. [MORE]


Subversion

In story after story we have told each other over the course of writing this article we have circled back and forth in re-imagining the potentials and possibilities for these situations.

We could often see two immediate options – assimilation or separation – but we sometimes struggled to imagine third ways to break open situations for change. [MORE]


Racial Microaggressions and the New Racism

This is race at work in our writing center everyday. It's the everyday racism that Geller, Eodice, Condon, Carroll and Boquet (2007) write about. It's the "new racism" that Villanueva (2005) and Young (2010) describe. As Villanueva (2005) explains, "the new racism embeds racism within a set of other categories—language, religion, culture, civilizations pluralized and writ large, a set of master tropes (or the master's tropes)" (p. 16). In so doing, it silences, elides, polices talk about racism and work toward the new equality. [MORE]


"Going There": A Conversation Between Consultants

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Writing as a Vehicle for Learning & Activism

We are aware that there is more than one way to teach. Gentle and interested peer, devil¹s advocate, Socratic questioner, offended audience member. We have many roles we can play, and it is disingenuous to assume that when race appears, all of these roles disappear, and we can only make more silence.

The noise won¹t bring the house down. [MORE]


On Family and Abuse

Elizabeth Boquet (2002), in her book Noise from the Writing Center, and especially her chapter "Tutoring as (Hard) 'Labor': The Writing Clinic, The Writing Laboratory, The Writing Center," explores the implications of conceptions of tutoring, and writing center work in general, as women's work. She reconsiders metaphors like that of the midwife and "the cleaning lady" (p. 19, 16), and I can't help but think of the connections between women's work in the labor force and women's work in homes, in families. [MORE]


A Response to the New Racism (a poem)


Author Profiles: Legion of "Going There"



References

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Complete APA Citation

Zhang, Phil, St. Amand, Jessie, Quaynor, J, Haltiwanger, Talisha, Chambers, Evan, Canino, Geneva, & Ozias, Moira. (2013, August 7). "Going there": Peer writing consultants' perspectives on the new racism and peer writing pedagogies. Across the Disciplines, 10(3). Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/atd/race/oziasetal.cfm