Anti-Racism and the Writing Classroom:

A workbook for FYW teachers.

I can’t practice antiracism because I’m white & Only people of color can talk/do antiracism

Since racism is pervasive, and implicated throughout social and political institutions, it permeates everyone’s lives.  Though Black people are most harmed by racism and racist acts, white people are implicated, too. We cannot be neutral and sit still. To do nothing is, as Beverly Tatum puts it in her image of the airport walkway, to be moving nonetheless.  We cannot stand still and be engaged in anti-racist work, because our silence implicates us.  How we do this work may differ from how a Black person does it, and it will most certainly involve ongoing self-questioning and reflection of how we are implicated in racist (and other oppressive) systems.  White people know about racism and anti-racism because they benefit from it and are part of the system that reinforces it. People of color should not bear the burden of anti-racist work; it has to be shared by all. It is hard enough for people of color to survive racist systems– asking them to take responsibility for reforming those systems is to make the prisoner responsible for improving the conditions of their confinement. 

That being said, we may choose to start small.  Attend an anti-racist workshop; participate in one of the university’s ongoing anti-racist dialogues; go through Eve Cuevas’s reflection exercises here that ask us to reflect deeply on our own positionalities and assumptions, both as a teacher and as a human being.  Consider and name our own complex and varying relationship to institutions of power, inclusion, and exclusion.  Do the work in community, and share observations and proposed pedagogical moves and changes.  The work is extraordinarily difficult, and we may have moments that go awry, less well than planned, and despite all our efforts.  Share these moments with others, so that we can talk through them.  Accept that we are all learners in this process, and that this is an ongoing process.

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