by Naomi Silver

Sweetland’s Anti-Racist Task Force is a standing working group composed of faculty and staff interested in increasing their understanding and practice of anti-racism in their work with students and colleagues. We collaboratively choose a range of books and articles to read together, and we plan initiatives to promote anti-racism in Sweetland and in collaboration with other units.

2022 has been a year of growth, reading, and planning. This fall, our membership has doubled to comprise more than half of Sweetland’s faculty! We have been sharpening our tools and strategies for creating equitable, anti-racist climates in our writing classrooms and our one-to-one writing workshops with the aid of April Baker-Bell’s Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy (2020) and Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom (2021). Reading and discussing these books together has supported changes in our classroom activities, our feedback on student writing, our assessment practices, and our training of new undergraduate consultants who work in Sweetland’s Peer Writing Centers. April Conway developed a workshop on anti-racist assessment that she shared with GSIs and lecturers from the English Department Writing Program; you can hear her discuss these strategies on the podcast Behind the Scaffolding!

Our growth has also been supported by off-campus collaborations. Last May, with funding from Sweetland, five of us (Scott Beal, Cat Cassel, April Conway, T Hetzel, and Naomi Silver) attended the ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity) Online Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism Workshop over six afternoons. In connection with other organizations from across the state, and from sectors ranging from foster care to housing to food service and more, this workshop gave us space to explore an analysis of systemic racism and examine strategies for dismantling it within our own institutions. The opportunity to share responses, reflections, and stories around the material we learned, with each other as colleagues and with participants from very different institutional cultures and missions, was something Sweetland participants named as most lasting and most important to changing ways of thinking about our own work and the work of our institution. A specific exercise that stands out was a center-margins analysis in which we were asked to interrogate together the question “How does your institution legitimize and impose the center, creating white power and privilege and consequently marginalizing and exploiting people of color?”

Looking ahead to 2023, we plan to build on these readings and experiences to create a presence on Sweetland’s website for sharing anti-racist writing pedagogies and resources; update our document of anti-racist writing consultation practices to reflect new research in the field; and collaborate with U-M’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching to offer a workshop on the critical application of anti-racist teaching principles for their May series on Equity-Focused Teaching @ Michigan.