The Writing Program Administration Listserv, or WPA-L, is an invaluable resource for disciplinary news, opportunities, advice and research. It’s also a kind of community for the many writing scholars who work in temporary academic positions off the tenure track.
So an anonymous post referencing the Ku Klux Klan has jarred Listserv subscribers — some of whom now want the list to be formally moderated, or moved altogether. Many have left the list. Other subscribers say this most recent post is only an overt example of the everyday racism that happens on the Listserv.
Others still oppose moderation of the list and insist on the online community’s ability to continue to informally moderate itself — disposing of hate speech when and where it happens.
The anonymous troll’s KKK-inspired post was sparked by online discussions about this month’s Conference on College Composition and Communication convention in Pittsburgh — specifically an address by Asao Inoue, professor of interdisciplinary arts and sciences and director of University Writing and the Writing Center at the University of Washington at Tacoma.
Inoue in his speech talked about the “market of white language preferences in schools” and “freedom from white language supremacy.”
He argued that by using a “single standard to grade your students’ languaging, you engage in racism. You actively promote white language supremacy, which is the handmaiden to white bias in the world.” That kind of bias, he also argued, is the very kind that “kills black men on the streets by the hands of the police through profiling and good ol’ fashion [sic] prejudice.”
Considerate discussions, including praise and criticism of the talk, followed on the Listserv. But then someone identifying him or herself as the “Grand Scholar Wizard” — a clear reference to “Grand Wizard,” or KKK leader — weighed in.
Inoue said Wednesday that he’s asking teachers and others, when it comes to judging language, “not to give up a personal standard but to be compassionate to others — that is a harder thing to do.”