Is the English Language Racist?

There is something in the air at the University of Washington Tacoma. It feels uncertain. To many, this particular issue is puzzling because it is one  that involves a new kind of intersectionality that we have not yet thought about in the midst of our human rights era. Bringing this issue up will not only provide us with new insight concerning the language we use today, but also provide a space that we allow us to change the things we must in order to grow as a society.

What is currently happening on my campus is an issue involving a writing studies professor, Dr. Asao Inoue. He has written several award winning books and analyses on racism. He and others in various departments in the writing studies program at UWT all collaborated in making a statement that communicated the program’s commitment to inclusivity  “actively engaging in anti-racist practices”. This statement has been posted on a banner hung up on the department walls for about four months now.  The issue at hand is now being brought up is because of an interview that was published by Zakari Kaletka, in which Dr. Asao Inoue discussed the notion of the language we use being racist.

Since its initial publication, the Daily Caller has picked the article up and it has become viral. Inuoe spoke on how the idea hat the English language must be spoken or articulated in a specific kind of way can be inherently racist.  We have so many  dialects and culturally specific ways of speaking English; yet, far too often, only one kind is deemed correct.

Reflecting with Zakari on this issue has made me see that this incident is only one of many in the field of writing. This is a challenging problem for many universities, professors, and academia in general. Since the incident, Zakari has collaborated with many other students in the creation of a letter that further pushes the importance of inclusivity on campus. Zakari has been extremely vocal in his journey and talking to him has helped me stay hopeful about the writing community.

What is your opinion on this situation? Do you agree with Dr. Asao’s opinion?

Zakari: I do, his work is based on empirical studies and he has done analyses on racism and written some amazing award winning books.

What should we as students and people of the writing studies community do?

Zakari: We really need to engage with the ideas that Dr. Asao is saying. There are a lot of people in this discourse and we need to communicate more and have conversations about how we can practice what we preach. We cannot hold this one idea of a writer, there are many different writers in the writing community that have new perspectives and fresh voices. We need to produce writers that are critically engaged in these problems. The most important thing to do is to come together and speak up.

Sophie Kautz