The collaborative piece by Diab, Godbee, Ferrel, and Simpkins lay out a fairly good pedagogical ethos for a difference-responsive writing center. I found the hypotheticals particularly useful, mostly because some of the texts I’ve read on this topic tend to divorce themselves from concrete action such that their ideas are practically unuseable.
Also useful from this text is its warning against the essentialization of student groups. While it’s often necessary for cogency’s sake that some assumptions about a “typical ________” student be made, this can lead to treatment of groups as monolithic. Some pieces, I think, tend to offer a model for “how to help an ESL writer” (or some other “how to”) that can lead to a consultation in which that negotiation takes the forefront. It is surely important to understand where people are coming from and be sensitive to how those identities manifest in their writing. However, no consultation is limited to topics that “typically” affect those groups.
But I mainly want to discuss the situation in which an unequivocally more privileged tutor was put in the position where he had to identify and explain damaging language in a POC consultee’s paper. He let the student know about the problematic connotations of her word choice, but she effectively shut down afterwards. It is clear that she needed more help understanding why, given that the substance of the argument was left unchanged. I wonder how the authors of this article would have advised the tutor to proceed, since they don’t seem to address the aftermath of the tutor’s correction. Given the piece’s message as a whole, I assume they would have suggested that he continue to explain the connotations of that particular word, and how it carries with it a history of discrimination. But how does one avoid rearticulating racial power structures if the student does not seem at all receptive to criticism? In a way, forcing that discussion only reifies the power differentials between the two. But to not have that conversation is to, as the article says, strive for political correctness rather than for actual anti-racist work in the writing center.