Using and teaching what has long been considered proper English language and grammar is actually “racist,” according to at least two professors attending a virtual seminar at Towson University in Maryland said recently.
“The way Black language is devalued in schools reflects how Black lives are devalued in the world . . . [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,” language professor and author April Baker-Bell said during the virtual webinar on ant-racist teaching June 17.
Baker-Bell is an associate professor of language, literacy, and English education at Michigan State University and the author of “Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy.”
According to the school’s website, the book describes how Black students “navigate and negotiate their linguistic and racial identities across multiple contexts,” and discusses what Black language teaching is like within the Black community.
“Teacher attitudes include assumptions that Black students are somehow linguistically, morally, and intellectually inferior because they communicate in Black language,” Bell said in a Campus Reform article on the webinar.
According to Towson University’s description of the event, “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? What do we need to change to create not just a passively inclusive atmosphere for students, but an actively anti-racist one?”
Another professor, Cristina Sanchez-Martin said that teaching “correct” English grammar reinforce the “whiteness” of the language while dismissing other ethnicities.
“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 said.
Sanchez-Martin is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and completed her PhD in 2018 with a dissertation entitled “Teaching Writing through Transformation: Linguistically Diverse Writing Teachers’ Enactments of Transnational Writing and Linguistic Diversity.”
Other speakers included Texas Christian University English Professor Carmen Kynard, University of Pittsburgh Assistant English Professor Khirsten Scott, and Stanford University Hume Center for Writing and Speaking Director Zandra L. Jordan, according to the university.
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