Anti-Racism and the Writing Classroom:

A workbook for FYW teachers.

I already value diversity and asset-based learning. Is this antiracist?

Diversity is not the same as anti-racism; indeed, Patricia Collins critiques college diversity initiatives (as in the category ‘people of color’), that can ironically flatten differences, serving as a convenient umbrella term that ignores the complexities among ethnic and racial groups. Nor does diversity by itself—the presumed respect for different people of different backgrounds and identities—necessarily acknowledge the varying axes of power of people differently placed. And while asset-based teaching may be framed in terms that support the learning of Black students, it is not necessarily anti-racist in approach. Being inclusive is a start, but it does not challenge racism.

That is to say, the assets we support in class may be class-based, and/or gender-based, and/or related to the positionality of multilingual learners, but this does not necessarily mean that we are teaching from an anti-racist perspective.  Another way to look at this is to consider the continuum discussed at a FYW faculty workshop and included in this workbook.  That is, both diversity and asset-based teaching may share characteristics with an anti-racist approach, but they are not necessarily congruent.  Anti-racist teaching is diversity plus; asset-based teaching plus.  It recognizes, as April Baker-Bell points out, that even when a Black person speaks perfect standard English, s/he may face instances of racial discrimination (her example of George Floyd’s perfectly grammatically “correct” plea of “I can’t breathe”). It recognizes that some multilingual learners may have advantages due to their race that their Black counterparts do not.  Anti-racism recognizes the complexity of identities, while acknowledging and working against the specific sufferings and power differentials related to race.

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