Well, this is certainly something to put in the “are you kidding me” category.
The director, tutors, and staff of the University of Washington-Tacoma’s Writing Center have posted what they call an “anti-racist” poster, insisting that American grammar is in fact “racist” and an “unjust language structure,” promising to prioritize rhetoric over “grammatical correctness.”
The poster proclaims that “racism is the normal condition of things,” and infiltrates every aspect of society – including rules, expectations, schooling and systems. The writing center states:
Linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English…Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.
The Tacoma Writing Center’s self-described goal is “listen and look carefully and compassionately for ways we may unintentionally perpetuate racism or social injustice, actively engaging in anti-racist practices.”
The poster also declares: “We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts...We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”
Dr. Asao Inoue, director of the writing center, features a biography maintaining that he “researches and investigates racism in writing assignments.”
This isn’t the first time grammar has been hit with claims of racism. Last April, I wrote about The Guardian’s data editor, Mona Chalabi and her belief of having good grammar or correcting someone else’s grammar was racist and yet another form of “white privilege.”
Chalabi believed these were rules created by white people as a way to shut up minorities, and therefore minorities should be able to ignore such rules without facing criticism:
The people pointing out the mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension…All too often, it’s a way to silence people and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up…We should spend more time listening to what others have to say and less focusing on the grammar what they say it with.
I’m sure many would agree that certain words spoken or written could certainly be considered racist, but to insinuate grammar is an “unjust language structure” created to shut up minorities and therefore should be ignored isn’t racism – it’s more like ignorance, and for many, that ignorance is bliss.