Commitment to Anti-Racism
A significant portion of what follows was drafted collaboratively by consultants and the administrative team of the Writing Nook, the English Department-based writing center that preceded the university-wide Writing Center. The statement was first drafted in the spring of 2020. It has been updated to reflect the current mission and vision of the Writing Center. More historical information about this statement and commitment is found below.
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism:
As our mission and vision make clear, we are committed to creating an anti-racist Writing Center. This is in line with UMB’s mission and vision and with its role as an urban institution and Boston’s only public university. We are working daily towards this goal and continue to engage in collaborative learning and unlearning in this area through our practices, research, and assessment to create a more just culture of writing across UMB and at our writing center.
In Race, Culture, and Identities in Second Language Education, scholars Ryuko Kubota and Angel Lin define racism “as both discourse and social practice which construct and perpetuate unequal relations of power through inferiorization, a process in which the Other is rendered inferior to the Self” (6). In other words, race and racism are socially constructed and then maintained through how we interact with one another and the kinds of language that we use. Sometimes, racism isn’t clear or obviously harmful; racism can be embedded in seemingly innocent words, phrases, and practices.
While we hope our values are evident through our actions, we must make clear the following:
- The Writing Center and its staff acknowledge the existence of race and racism and the ways in which these concepts manifest through linguistic discrimination and other ideologies. We strive—internally as a staff and with our students—to find ways to challenge racism in language and writing education.
- In line with the advocacy work of the Linguistic Society of America* and the predominant views in linguistics and language studies:
- We reject the view that academic, Standardized English is superior to other forms of language. We acknowledge the value of other forms of expression, and do not believe any language or variation of a language to be superior to any others.
- We know all languages and language variations are made up of systems of grammar and other rules, and that all languages and language variations can be used to communicate and express all kinds of complex ideas. We value the many languages, dialects, and other forms of communication our students and tutors bring with them.
- We also recognize the ongoing reality that adapting language to fit new situations is something that all students (and all people) must do. That said, we recognize the justified frustration students may have as they navigate the world of language and linguistic discrimination, and we strive to give students multiple tools to address this issue.
As a Writing Center, we understand the need to examine our own role in contributing to the kinds of racism that may appear in language and language and writing education. It is our goal, as consultants and as people, to better understand the ways in which each of us, and our Writing Center as a part of the university, could do more to counteract all forms of racism and discrimination. As such, we’re currently:
- Examining our recruitment and hiring processes, rethinking and revising those aspects which could lead to a more racially and linguistically diverse consultant staff,
- Adapting our processes of self-assessment and consultant training to offer more opportunities to reflect on race, racism, and their effects on us as individuals and on the institutions and communities we operate within,
- Committing to a regular pattern of self-assessment to ensure that we’re doing all that we can to combat the effects of systemic racism,
- Providing programming that meets the specific needs of the most marginalized writers we served, including BIPOC students and faculty, and
- Researching how we can best support and create just structures for BIPOC students and faculty.
In all of these areas, we have recognized opportunities for us to grow as a Writing Center, and the need for us to strengthen our commitments to anti-racism. We value the students, consultants, and staff putting their energy and time into the advancement of our goals to serve all students to the best of our abilities.
History of Our Commitment to Anti-Racism:
The Writing Center’s initial Anti-Racism Statement was created for the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) English Department’s Writing Nook, one of the predecessors of the UMB Writing Center. It was collaboratively written primarily by the graduate assistant, Dani English, and the Writing Nook director, Dan Messier, with input from the undergraduate and graduate consultants working for the Writing Nook in Fall 2020-Spring 2021.
In the transition period of Spring 2020, when the University, like many others, went online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, director Dan Messier and incoming graduate assistant, Dani English (who had already been working with the Writing Nook as an undergraduate student) began compiling online resources for consultants to use with writers. In seeking out this information, Messier and English noted the increasing presence of Anti-Racism Statements and notices of support for the Black Lives Matter movement from other writing centers across the United States. It is critical to note that this coincided with the resurgence the Black Lives Matter movement in response to anti-Black violence during this time period (including the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020), as well as ongoing criticism from UMB students about local police.
As part of their work as a graduate assistant for the coming year, English proposed crafting an anti-racism statement for the Writing Nook that would be published online. Over the next several months, English and Messier met to discuss the review of other writing centers' statements, related readings they were encountering, and the changes to be made to the Writing Nook. While some of the changes could be implemented immediately, such as shifting the “Seminar for Tutors” syllabus to encourage discussion of race, racism, and linguistic diversity more throughout the semester, others necessitated slow culture shifts. Additionally, Messier and English brought the consultants of the Writing Nook into the process and asked for their experiences, their suggestions, and their efforts towards these changes.
In spring 2022, Writing Center Co-Directors Dr. Florianne (Bo) Jimenez and Dr. María Carvajal Regidor made updates and revisions to the original anti-racism statement to bring it more in line with the Writing Center’s mission and vision and their academic expertise. We recommit daily to making our writing center anti-racist and more socially, linguistically, and racially just, and we continue to learn from the lived experiences and knowledges that our consultants bring to work in these areas.