In our First-Year Writing program, our contracts are 90% teaching and only 10% professional development, so considering how to practice antiracism in our classroom might feel like a powerful imposition on our time.
If we don’t address race and racism directly, the elephant remains in the room. Bonding and trust among students, and between students and professor, are limited or damaged. Racism may well be one of those topics of which it is said, “If we don’t talk about this thing, we don’t talk about anything.”
Racism and its anti are not separate topics that need to be crammed in. They are woven into the power structures we inhabit and our understanding of the world. They are inextricably linked to any discipline, but perhaps to writing most of all. For example, in “Is Everyone Really Equal?,” authors Sensoy and DiAngelo show how the recognition of white privilege is a part of developing critical thinking skills. For the hypothetical student who argues, “It’s all a matter of opinion,” they develop a hypothetical conversation in which an astronomy student argues that “Pluto is a planet” is a matter of opinion. We listen to credible authorities in the field of astronomy; Peggy McIntosh is an authority in the social sciences (5-6).
Yes, many of us have only 10% allotted to Professional Development (PD) in our contracts. But antiracist work is arguably the most important PD we could be doing (along with coping with the COVID crisis).
The anti-racist journey is about more than work. It’s personal, even spiritual, development — not just professional (Ruth King, “Mindful of Race”). It’s about who each of us wants to be and the role each of us wants to play in our society. Learning, adopting, and employing anti racist pedagogies is part of a practice that we may choose to engage with, and each of us will do so differently.
For ideas about how to introduce anti-racist pedagogy into the existing five-assignment arc of the First-Year Writing Program, please see this folder.