ATTW President’s Call to Action to Redress Anti-Blackness and White Supremacy
Dear ATTW members,
As the President of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, I call on our non-Black membership to mobilize our (proximity to) white privilege and use our rhetoric and technical communication skills to redress anti-Blackness in our spheres of influence. Witnessing in horror is not enough. Acknowledging our white and light-skinned privilege is not enough. Reading and teaching Black authors is not enough. Being non-racist is not enough. These measures have not stopped the state sanctioned murdering of and violence against Black people in the U.S. nor have they led to systemic justice for the Black community. If they did, the families of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, and thousands of others before them would not be grieving and seeking justice for them. I ask that we confront our complicity in anti-Blackness and how we have personally benefitted from the institutions and systems that uphold white supremacy and then assess how we can use our personal agency and privilege to make anti-racist change.
I’m asking our ATTW membership—including our executive committee—to PLAN and DO at least three tangible things this summer that directly redress anti-Blackness in your spheres of micro, meso, and macro level influence, advocate for the human and legal rights of Black people, and support Black communities and organizations.
- First, educate yourself on performative allyship and make a plan for how you will decenter yourself in your efforts to support Black communities.
- Secure anti-racist partners who will hold you accountable to: doing the research on how Black communities are asking to be supported before doing the work; doing the work itself; and ensuring the work is intersectional and doesn’t re-center whiteness.
- Prioritize Black voices on how to do this coalitional work and center and amplify their work when doing yours. But please do your homework before asking your Black relatives and friends for their assistance.
The NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the Obama Foundation—among hundreds of other organizations—have offered specific suggestions for supporting Black people, organizations, businesses, communities, and Black-organized movements. (Perhaps one of our members would like to assemble a digital archive of such suggestions as one of their action items on their accomplice to-do list.) I also urge you to seek out local chapters of these organizations in your communities, donate (if you are able), and follow their lead.
Next, I would like for you to REPORT out those tangible anti-racist actions. What specifically did you do to intentionally redress anti-Blackness in your spheres of influence? How were those actions successful, or not, at the personal, organizational, community, and/or institutional levels? Why (not)? How can you package that work into useful, usable, and accessible templates and models for others to redress anti-Blackness in their spheres of influence? Which audiences and venues can benefit most from learning from your anti-racist work? Which platforms, media, and genres should you use for reporting that work and inspiring others to do anti-racist work? You can consider adapting and using this chart designed by the Michigan League for Public Policy’s 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge as well as contributing to this forum to track and discuss your progress. Note that the purpose of reporting out is not to seek affirmation, rather to participate in anti-racist skill sharing among your white and non-Black relatives and friends to inform and drive more productive action.
Please consider this an invitation to participate—and to do so in ways that move beyond the aforementioned suggestions. Though participation is not compulsory, I sincerely hope that you consider using your status as educators and public intellectuals—and rhetorical skills in civic and community engagement—to advocate for systemic justice for Black people at this kairotic moment in history. If you choose not to participate, please do so quietly, but also know that your choice is just as political as my choice.
I will report my own goals, actions, and results specific to redressing anti-Blackness in the communities to which I belong on social media and other venues. I will tag #BlackLivesMatter in all social media posts related to this anti-racist work, and I will add #ATTW when reporting on actions specific to our organization. As your President, I welcome your input, but please center the perspectives of Black people when offering it.
I offer my deepest gratitude to inaugural ATTW Amplification Award winner Temptaous Mckoy, ATTW Vice-President Natasha Jones, and ATTW At-Large member Laura Gonzales for your input on this call to action, for calling me in when necessary, and modeling how to call out and redress injustice in pro-Black and anti-colonial ways. I also appreciate ATTW Past-President Michelle Eble for your steadfast counsel.
Many thanks to those of you already doing important anti-racist work and to those considering this coalitional call to action. Black Lives Matter. All of them.
June 2, 2020