Race in the Writing Center
Anyways, I have some questions I want to work out with the readers here. I attend a mostly white university (the student pop. is about 93% white). Most of the students come from similarly segregated schools, and for most, race is an issue that is never discussed or thought about. However, many profs here give composition students assignments dealing with race, and consequently we see their papers in the WC. My first question is this: Should writing center training include discussion of race and racism?
Personally, I think it should. (As a point of clarification, our tutors take a full-semester, full-credit course on WC work taught by our director, so I am working from the assumption that training has the time to address such issues). Race plays itself out in a variety of ways in university life. Maybe most importantly, I can see the ways universities serve as cultural gate-keepers by passing or flunking students based on their use of academic language - a form of English which is very exclusive. We see students who struggle with the comments made by profs, who are unable to acclimate or assimilate their voices, and as a result, interpret themselves as failures as students. Being able to recognize these structural forces helps me when I talk with students who are placing all of the blame on themselves.
But the more we discuss race and racism, the more clear and better defined our opinions become, and the more comfortable discussing race we become, the more likely we are to be vocal with our opinions. So my second question: Can race-related training interfere with students' ownership of their papers?
What I mean is, the more we work with specific issues in our training, the more likely we are to discuss them in tutorial sessions. So when we see papers dealing with race, and we are trained to discuss race, it gives us a one-up on the peer relationship, and perhaps we will be more likely to break down a student's thought-process/argument/thesis. Is this overstepping our boundaries, or is it good work, engaging the student and hopefully broadening his/her racial horizons?
There is a recent trend towards merging writing center work and anti-racist work - and I like this trend. A lot. But when does it become problematic, and how do we deal with that? Is it possible that if we make our centers explicitly anti-racist that we become ideological gate-keepers? In this case, would that be such a bad thing?