Over the decade of playing World of Warcraft ™ I’ve run across a few allusions to other works in literature, music, and the arts. For fun (!) I thought I’d do some research into how many allusions appear in Azeroth.
In a region called Bastion, which is full of angels and paragons, (it’s a little creepy, quite frankly), one of the NPC dialogues is “clear skies, full hearts, can’t lose” which I immediately recognized as a Friday Night Lights line, though I haven’t seen a single episode. I’m not a football person. How did I know it was from that show? Because popular culture exacts a toll. One of my colleagues used it on T-shirts or something for students. We know things in the moment because it’s collectively shared or shoved. I think of the groundlings in Shakespeare’s audience chatting around the village wells sharing one-liners and bawdy jokes from the plays. It was entertainment. And I realized most stories and series I watch are based on Bible stories. No one can convince me that Better Call Saul isn’t grounded in Cain and Abel. And I’m not even a Christian church person.
And I need to think more about this. Recently, #DisruptTexts was attacked. That aggression will not stand, man. I’m thinking of the disingenuous argument that people won’t know where ideas, references or allusions come from unless we muddle through language that’s over 500 years old. Yes, novels that continue to be taught do provide a cultural reference point. But whose culture? What reference point? Yeah, you know who. Allow me some time to ponder this, and work with some amazing women I know.
I read another tweet from the founder of #ProjectLit, Jarred Amato, about The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. In two occasions he’s used this text as his go-to for discussing how we should abandon old, irrelevant texts in our classrooms. And I get it, I really do. Post #22 speaks to the canon. But here is a another secret of upholding systemic racism in our schools, classrooms, and libraries: some “white canon, colonized” books take up oxygen we could be using to read others’ beautiful works. And–and here’s the catch–we can still use them as historical texts as examples of themes, context, and ideas. And he’s also right.
Whole lotta white gaze going on here
Students do not need to read The Scarlet Letter (or any other “classic” text) to become successful readers & writers. Crazy how many adults think they do. #ProjectLITchat
The issue is we English teachers get stuck on our books. We fall in love with a text, and stay put. Grounded. Stubborn. We defend these texts with passion and lizard-brain emotion. And I mean white teachers, if I was being too subtle. Over my fifteen years of teaching, even recently, there is still so much “othering” of books written by authors of color, global viewpoints, etc. It’s become a binary conversation: this or that. White books or Non-white books. But here’s the thing: let go. Just–let go. Look at your canon and take out what is worth discussing, and eschew the rest. Don’t teach the entire novel. Have it as a reference for a timeline, but otherwise, release. Relook. Review. There are brilliant educators doing the work right now, in real time, who can help you find better novels with thematic clarity, relevancy, and rich, deep philosophies.
Important School Library Journal post from Padma Venkatraman about the importance of reading and sharing #ownvoices books instead of timeworn “classics” that perpetuate harmful stereotypes:“Powerful books can transport us to different places and times and also transplant us, temporarily, into a character’s body. Protagonists haunt us, move us, and sometimes spur us to act by sowing empathy and respect for diversity.Conversely, exposing young people to stories in which racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm may sow seeds of bias that can grow into indifference or prejudice.”
I’m going into year 15 next school year, and during this time I can vouch that I continue to seek answers and strive to be a better teacher for my students. This is built on my master’s thesis, which was using engaging children’s literature–I contend this was a solid foundation for my practice. But I’m out of patience waiting for others to catch up. And I’ve encountered this request and steerage multiple times. I’m not a patient person by nature anyway, or so I’ve been told by a friend. It would be my life lesson. I’m beginning to think patience, when it comes to children and education, is highly overrated and is not, as painted, a virtue, but a sin.
We don’t have years to wait. We shouldn’t have to wait months. If you are a content creator, this is your warning. Think about your books. Blog posts. Tpt products. Go back w your new lens. What should go or be revised? And how can you be transparent about that process? https://t.co/gB0soHTklT
I would add that I am here for any conversation about books, novels, problematic texts, and the approved “canon.” Districts and district leadership: I beseech you: do not make it so difficult to get great literature written by BIPOC writers in our classrooms. We don’t have time to wait.
1/Having been forced to teach it (or lose my job), I can say that this has given me a lot of thought.
White teachers: if you’re not forced to teach these texts, what reasons do you have to justify this?
We’re not a football family in our house. And like many areas of fandom, it’s okay–no judgment on those who love football, and as far as we know we aren’t judged by others. Wouldn’t matter. So forgive me for not knowing who Emmanuel Acho is. Turns out, he’s pretty amazing! And I am so grateful for other media formats who bring people such as him into my life and help me learn.
And I am an ELA/ELL teacher; however, full disclosure, I was not an English major in college. Most of what I learned about mechanics, style guides, and conventions I relearned and created lessons while teaching. My next question is what are the current grammarians and style guide writers determining about the capitalization of Black and White. Here’s what I’ve found:
The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. Many of the terms related to Black and White people in The Diversity Style Guide come from 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. The team that put together that guide decided to capitalize Black and White, according to editor Joe Grimm. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it’s not incorrect to lowercase those words.
However, when words labeling an entire people are at the root of a language dispute, that’s reason enough to seek direction outside of our usual resources, especially if the resources are outdated. If your editorial directive is to call people what they want to be called—including names, pronouns, and labels—then look to Black media outlets like Ebony and Essence for accepted usage and avoid overriding their terminology. By capitalizing black and white, we also make necessary distinctions between color and race—black hair and Black hair—similar to distinguishing between native and Native. Don’t wait for your style guide to catch up, because it’s waiting for you to demonstrate sufficient usage.
We believe that it is important to call attention to White as a race as a way to understand and give voice to how Whiteness functions in our social and political institutions and our communities. Moreover, the detachment of “White” as a proper noun allows White people to sit out of conversations about race and removes accountability from White people’s and White institutions’ involvement in racism. We are also reckoning with the threatening implications of capitalizing “W” in “White,” often used by White supremacists, to establish White racial dominance. The violence of capitalizing White in this context makes us grapple with the history of how Whiteness has functioned and thrived in the United States; acknowledging that, yes, White people have had power and still hold power in this country. While we condemn those who capitalize “W” for the sake of evoking violence, we intentionally capitalize “White” in part to invite people, and ourselves, to think deeply about the ways Whiteness survives—and is supported both explicitly and implicitly.
Language is powerful, and oftentimes I think ELA teachers don’t teach the true power of capitalization, punctuation and syntax. Because it “wasn’t on the test” we spent the past 14 years teaching to a test that uses excerpts like out-of-context entrails on an autopsy slab. I am going to call on my other experts on history and language to ask their thoughts. I will and do capitalize Black when referring to race, and have been using lower case “w” for white people. My instinctual response was because capitalizing the “w” felt like a nod for white supremacy. However, CSSP makes a strong case. (No pun intended.) Language is ever-evolving and shifting, sometimes for honest, descriptive and precise communication and sometimes for nefarious and subtextual racist communication. This article was written in 2015 by the Columbia Journalism Review: I think we can all agree that we need to be mindful of language and do our best to stay current and mind the impact.
And also, ELA teachers, be especially mindful of your use of Martin Luther King’s, Jr. works.
Every “y’all lost us with the word ‘defund,’” go read A Letter from A Birmingham Jail.
Every “y’all lost us with the word ‘abolition,’ go read some Sojourner Truth & Frederick Douglass.
It is possible-and necessary- to evolve on these things.
Literally. Go read.
— brittany packnett cunningham does not do remixes. (@MsPackyetti) June 14, 2020
AP has changed its writing style guide to capitalize the “b” in the term Black when referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context, weighing in on a hotly debated issue. https://t.co/yeigYh9GWU