“Introduction: Class Politics, 2013” by Steve Parks
“Instead, I would want to argue that while I tried to create arguments which would open up debates about our political responsibilities of our field, I was also a product of my time period – a period in which there was insufficient attention paid to how “our history” was multiple in origin, how a focus on published scholars, professional organizations, and committee reports would actually re-instantiate an absence which was being actively confronted outside the “official discourses” of our field.” (xxiv)
Here, Parks gets at a personal fear of mine regarding publishing any sort of study, the knowledge that my interpretation of information is constrained by the doxa of the time in which I am working. Increasingly I find myself frustrated by a lot of the research I see for the way it approaches text as simple content that circulates without much consideration for materiality, socio-cultural literacies, and scaling. This frustration has led to my own increased desire to produce work that is rigorous in how it uses sources, the extent of its claims, and the intended impact of my work. The result is at present a period of stagnancy that is making any work feel difficult since I see the bar as set so low for how we should be thinking of our research.
Chapter 2: “I Want To Be African” Tracing Black Radical Traditions with “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language” from Carmen Kynard’s Vernacular Insurrections
“The most important thing about walking a tightrope is gettin ovuh to the other side.” (262-263)
This quote is the balm to my feelings on the above park quote. Yesterday I was hanging out with some children, helping them do some beading for a few hours at an event. As time passed, I became increasingly distressed and nervous about how much I was struggling to help kids do things as simple as tie a not large enough to prevent beads from accidentally falling off string. There was one kid, Adam, who repeatedly attempted to string a gorgeous arrangement of beads on a bracelet, and repeatedly they fell on the floor just as he had finished placing the last bead. His patience with himself and the process of crafting floored me, and I was unable to replicate those feelings as a result of being so deeply self-critical. I was so caught up in being the person who could do things well enough to help others that I was unable to focus on the small tasks at hand at any given moment. I was too obsessed with looking like an expert than sharing in learning with the children. In an attempt to cross the tightrope with elegance, I fell to the ground because I was unwilling to use a balance pole for fear of looking like an incompetent adult.
“Chapter 5: The Students’ Rights to Their Own Language, 1972-1974” from Steve Parks’ Class Politics: The Movement for the Students’ Right to Their Own Language
“The image of the nonstandard-dialect speaker that emerges is of either a lazy individual who refuses to learn or an individual so damaged by his or her culture that he or she is unable to learn. In addition, he attaches any opinion that would claim a legitimate status for Black English to the anti-imperialist or class-war ideologues.” (169)
I picked this quote because I continue to feel that this is the barrier that prevents me from more regularly speaking in the dialect I was raised in. I was raised in schools where much like children who speak other languages in this study, we were discouraged from talking Belize Creole during class in order to better practice proper socially mobile ‘proper English.’ Additionally though, I think the barrier for me to speaking Creole in the United States has to do with its linguistic connection to AAVE, and a fear that (because of my phenotype and the general lack of awareness of Belizeans’ use of an English Creole) people may assume that I am simply coopting the linguistic tropes of black Americans. Therefore when I speak Creole in the United States, I am simultaneously concerned that white elites will consider me to be mentally incomptent and that fellow POC will view my speech patterns as an instantiation of using another group’s language to accumulate a specific type of social capital.
“Should Writers Use They Own English” by Vershawn Ashanti Young
“That be hegemony. Internalized oppression. Linguistic self-hate. But we should be mo flexible, mo acceptin of language diversity, language expansion, and creative language usage from ourselves and from others both in formal and informal settings.” (65)
I selected this quote because I loved how it was written. The short sentences that connect the paper’s linguistic response to Stanley Fish to broader ideologies of hegemony and oppression. There is a confidence in those short sentences that reveal a belief that what preceded these sentences was dope, which it was. I felt so much admiration for Young’s confidence throughout this piece, and the way that confidence isn’t built on righteousness, but on compassion, generosity, and skepticism of linguistic hegemony.
“Lessons from Research with Language-Minority Children” by Luis C. Moll and Norma Gonzalez
“We believe that the documentation of funds of knowledge, especially by teachers and students, provides the necessary theoretical and empirical base to continue this work. But, to be frank, we also lament that we have to spend so much of our careers documenting competence, when it should simply be assumed, suggesting that “language-minority” students have the intellectual capabilities of any other children, when it should Simply be acknowledged, and proposing instructional arrangements that capitalize fully on the many strengths they bring into classrooms, when it should simply be their right” (171)
I picked this quote because of the exasperation captured here by Moll and Gonzalez that was more vulnerable than scholars often let themselves be in writing. I truly appreciated the ability for these scholars to lament the need for them to justify the humane intellectual treatment of ‘language minority’ students. I fucking hate it that so much of POC scholars, queer scholars, disabled scholars, and global south scholars spend so much of our labor rationalizing why our ways of being and knowing are valid. We are capable of doing so much more cool shit, but keep being held back by elitist discourses that tell us we need to say why we deserve certain resources. Fuck that discourse. I am from the future, baby. Here, we are doing cool shit. Here, we do not believe in engaging in other people’s fuckery. Here we protect our communities and share labor. Fuck that discourse. I am already free, and we can be free together.
Question: How do we track the progress marginalized communities have made in the United States in linguistic/literacy scholarship while not falling into progress narratives that often don’t account for regression?