Performing White Monolingual Arguments

At Cs this year, I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with the amazing Norma Denae Dibrell, Sumyat Thu, and Sara P. Alvarez.

In my talk, I highlighted Emil, an old student and one of the participants in my longitudinal study of Spanish-English students moving from high school through college. In short, Emil has been writing some brilliant pieces of writing that artfully explain a position, then share information to substantiate his view. But, at least according to his professors, he’s not makingĀ arguments in the sort of linear claim-subclaim-evidence-warrant-connection-counterclaim form of broader academic argumentative genres.

I argue that such genre-centered feedback (and I’m well aware that the kind of argument his instructors are talking about is the muttiest of mutt genres) is a feature of what Asao Inoue calls a “white racial habitus.” Emil is being held to a narrow view of writing that doesn’t match with his own priorities for learning and sharing knowledge. And that’s some old bullshit.

Here on the other side of the talk, I’m thinking about how to take this work further. Is this about looking critically at ways that Emil’s instructors have perpetuated this white monolingual argument? Is it about highlighting the navigations Emil learned to make, finding little ways to take an end-run around this white racial habitus? Is it about thinking about learning to teach better? Or is it about looking at ways to radically restructure writing and education practices? I mean, it’s all of them. But where to go from here?