An “antiracist” poster in a college writing center insists American grammar is “racist” and an “unjust language structure,” promising to prioritize rhetoric over “grammatical ‘correctness.’”
The poster, written by the director, staff, and tutors of the University of Washington, Tacoma’s Writing Center, states “racism is the normal condition of things,” declaring that it permeates rules, systems, expectations, in courses, school and society.
“Linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” proclaims the writing center’s statement. “Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”
In the introduction to its “commitment” section, the Tacoma Writing Center pledges to “listen and look carefully and compassionately for ways we may unintentionally perpetuate racism or social injustice, actively engaging in antiracist practices” before making nine specific promises to students.
“We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” announces the poster. “We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”
In an article accompanying the poster, the University of Washington, Tacoma revealed Friday that Dr. Asao Inoue, director of the writing center, is behind the new push for social justice.
On his Tacoma faculty page, Inoue states that he does “research that investigates racism in writing assignments.” Meanwhile, the professor’s Twitter presence indicates no love for President Donald Trump:
There are no surprises about P. Trump. Hate is what he ran on. https://t.co/PgvOUQG8am
— Asao B. Inoue (@AsaoBInoue) January 29, 2017
“[The statement] is a great example of how we are striving to act against racism,” said Dr. Jill Purdy, Tacoma’s vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs. “Language is the bridge between ideas and action, so how we use words has a lot of influence on what we think and do.”
The Tacoma Writing Center’s prioritization of social justice over grammar resembles previous concerted efforts to legitimize incorrect speech, such as Ebonics, “inventive spelling,” and “whole language.”
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