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Professors say proper grammar is racist, perpetuates whiteness
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Professors say proper grammar is racist, perpetuates whiteness

Towson University recently hosted a virtual "Antiracist Pedagogy Symposium," according to Campus Reform, which "criticized university writing curriculum and programs for being racist and perpetuating whiteness."

What's the background here?

The program, which featured an array of speakers, was sponsored by the school's Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, the Faculty Academic Center of Excellence, Center for Student Diversity, the school's department of English, and more.

In addition to educating attendees about first-year writing and graduate school writing, the forum also addressed "linguistic justice."

"As the country begins its long-awaited reckoning with institutional racism, colleges and universities have been engaging deeply in the ethical dilemma of our time: How do our institutional structures and practices contribute to the problem of silencing, marginalizing, minoritizing, and otherwise harming black and indigenous students of color?" the event page reads. "What do we need to change to create not just a passively inclusive atmosphere for student, but an actively anti-racist one?"

What else?

The virtual event, which took place on June 17, featured April Baker-Bell — an associate professor of language, literacy, and English education at Michigan State University — who stated that standard English usage and teaching perpetuates the idea that "black language" is inferior to standard grammar.

Baker-Bell noted that dangerous teacher attitudes include "assumptions that black students are somehow linguistically, morally, and intellectually inferior because they communicate in black language."

"The way black language is devalued in schools reflects how black lives are devalued in the world," Baker-Bell said, "[and] the anti-black linguistic racism that is used to diminish black language and black students in classrooms is not separate from the rampant and deliberate anti-black racism and violence inflicted upon black people in society."

Also present was Cristina Sánchez-Martín, English professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who said that she is working hard to undo "whiteness" in her students' writing.

“The repeated references to 'correct grammar' and 'standard language' reinforce master narratives of English only as white and monolingualism and a deficit view of multilingualism," Sánchez-Martín insisted during the symposium.

Speakers also included Dr. Carmen Kynard, Lillian Radford chair in rhetoric and composition and professor of English at Texas Christian University; Dr. Khirsten Scott, an assistant professor of English in the composition program at the University of Pittsburgh and co-founder of Digital Black Life and Culture; and Reverend Dr. Zandra L. Jordan, director of the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking at Stanford University.

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