English Language Arts
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ELATE Statement on State-Sanctioned Anti-Black Racism and Violence: A Commitment to Antiracist Instruction in English Language Arts
June 12, 2020
English Language Arts Teacher Educators (ELATE), a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English, is comprised of compassionate university teacher educators, graduate students, and middle and high school English teachers who are collectively outraged by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, all victims of the policing of Black bodies. We are collectively reeling in the aftermath of these tragedies, and we fully affirm the lives of all Black people and support the Black Lives Matter movement.
We, members of the ELATE Executive Committee, write to demand justice and commit to taking action to create immediate and lasting change. We recognize that the white supremacist foundation upon which the United States of America, and its education system, was built over the past 400 years continues to inflict murder and violence on Black people and act in oppressive ways toward anyone representing differences. Our passion is centered on words and ideas and languages, the seemingly innocuous elements of ordinary life that nonetheless can and do kill people through othering, oppression, and covert/overt racist acts.
In an effort to counter anti-Blackness, we demand that antiracist instruction be integrated into ELA courses and into ELA teacher preparation in schools throughout the country. The policing, silencing, shaming, erasure, and physical violence that youth, Black youth in particular, experience in America’s schools have been and continue to be unacceptable; our schools must change now. Therefore, we must work diligently and with ever more energy to recognize how our collective pasts are rooted in anti-Black racism. As we come to recognize how our pasts are informing the present, we become more effective and compassionate advocates, allies, and practitioners. We become better equipped to advocate for, imagine, and build critical, affirming, and equitable futures in ELA education and throughout America’s schools.
We posit that all teachers and teacher educators have work to do to become antiracist and that embodying this commitment must remain our collective goal. To echo author Ijeoma Oluo’s (July 2019) Twitter post, we affirm “anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism where you find it, including within yourself […] and it’s the only way forward.” The tenets of antiracism which appear in the new standards for English teacher preparation are a basic expectation of all teachers, including those preparing for the classroom.
ELA teachers have myriad opportunities to impact learners—positively and negatively—through their curricular choices, classroom interactions, and implicit biases. Each day, teachers in ELA classrooms across the country make choices that either maintain the status quo of racism or work actively to dismantle it. None of those classrooms are neutral spaces. Teachers who are committed to antiracist pedagogies and practices that uproot anti-Blackness and white supremacy instruct in ways that develop the critical consciousness of all learners. What, specifically, might those antiracist pedagogies and practices look like in an ELA classroom? We offer the following actions as starting points:
- Study and incorporate the “Herstory” of Black Lives Matter into our classrooms.
- Decenter colonial and anti-Black literacy teaching, practice, and language use in all ELA classrooms.
- Reject deficit perspectives used to pathologize the literacy abilities, practices, and participation of Black students.
- Critically incorporate the histories, literate legacies, languages, and texts of Black people in ELA teaching and learning for all students.
- Enact pedagogies and practices that support the development of critical consciousness of all students.
- Cultivate spaces that affirm Black youth inside schools in order to transform the anti-Black racist ways that they have experienced American schooling.
- Provide literacy instruction that invites Black students to celebrate and critically engage their cultures, communities, and lived experiences.
While we are overwhelmed by the sheer number of similar statements, ranging from professional organizations to universities to businesses and corporations, and believe that most are written with the best intentions, we are also aware and remain vigilant to the notion that some are simply performative statements and that the commitment to these ideas will wane. Evidence for or against this notion will present itself in the coming weeks and months in the form of actions. We, the English Language Arts Teacher Educators, will be watching, and we invite anyone and everyone to watch us as well, to hold us accountable to centering antiracist instruction in how we exist and how we work for the preparation of ELA teachers and teacher educators.
Dismantling anti-Black racism in ourselves, our classrooms, our profession, and our country will take all of our efforts and our unwavering commitment. We, the undersigned ELATE Executive Committee members, fully endorse this statement and hereby pledge to enact it.
2019–2020 ELATE Executive Committee
Christian Z. Goering, Chair, University of Arkansas
Latrise P. Johnson, Vice-Chair, University of Alabama
Tamara T. Butler, Michigan State University
Todd Destigter, University of Illinois, Chicago
Antero Garcia, Stanford University
Amanda Haertling Thein, University of Iowa
Tara Star Johnson, Purdue University
Stacia L. Long, The University of Georgia
Nicole Mirra, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Luke Rodesiler, Purdue University Fort Wayne
Leslie S. Rush, University of Wyoming
Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, Westfield State University
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Teachers College, Columbia University
Nicole Sieben, The State University of New York (SUNY) Old Westbury
Allison Skerrett, The University of Texas at Austin