A Diverse Discussion

Addressing Racial Diversity in a Writing Center: Stories and Lessons from Two Beginners by Nancy Barron and Nancy Grimm uses a combination of personal anecdotes and stories to convey the importance of race and diversity issues in writing situations. I believe that this article makes a very crucial point that a sort of colorblind writing environment may not exist yet and may not be beneficial to a writing center.

Although I have only been at Stanford for a year, I have already felt a push from my instructors and peers to share my opinions somewhat drenched with my personal, cultural, and ethnic experience. I believe that those personal experiences have enriched my writing at the university so far. As a writing tutor in-training, I believe that there is a certain beauty that manifests in a students writing that takes their unique backgrounds into consideration.

I understood the safety in anonymity and fear and exposure expressed In the first story about the African American woman who did not want to submit her piece. That just proves how important it is to establish that the writing center is a safe and open space for students to express their ideas without fear of judgement.

I believe that this article had an important teaching opportunity that was not fully realized. I wonder how often situations arise where a student is afraid to share their opinions when race is involved?  I was hoping to gain insight into different techniques on how a tutor should approach said situation. I understand, however, that many of these situations may have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Oriekose Idah  Stanford University ’15

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14 Responses to A Diverse Discussion

  1. Lam Hiu Yan 1155016266 says:

    I agree with the above said totally as to protect the writer from judgement of others, be it positive or negative.

    With a protection of identity, writers could express their views freely without fear of being looked down to or excluded from their peer circle, which is so essential for young writers in particular.

    Indeed, another issue of writing in a too extreme context like the inclusion of rude words would then arise, therefore, I think what’s important is to first make sure the characteristics like the education level and moral value are of an acceptable level before the possibility of a zeal in writers’ identities could be launched, so that no word war or any such like would arise.

  2. Yuen Stephanie Wing Tung 1155016699 says:

    The beauty of reading is to learn and be inspired by people’s who are with different experiences and values. That would be ironic if writers are bound by their race background which is something worthy in contributing to their writings.
    However, I would say the measure to keep writer’s identity anonymous is too passive. Instead, we should educate people not to be biased to certain races and to construct a healthy atmosphere and platform for writers of different races to express. But definitely, this takes time.

    Yuen Stephanie Wing Tung

  3. Lee Wai Lun says:

    There are two pieces of comments on the same article by two individuals which are different in perspective, and this one summarizes the article better.

    I, being a member of the majority, may not be accurate in my perception of the real situation of racial minorities. I feel like the minorities are freer to express themselves, at least in academic settings in Hong Kong, and are usually given credits for their insights due to their unique experiences.

    In Hong Kong, racial minorities may have less fear in expression, they nevertheless face prejudice or even discrimination that make their lives difficult.

    Lee Wai Lun

  4. Lam Ho Bong says:

    This passage raises an issue about how we should perceive race diversity. It is true that if we do not understand particular culture and the race, we may have bias easily towards them. Some classmates suggest that education could be a possible way to reduce discrimination. Instead of this, I think people should adopt a more proactive approach to remove our own bias. For instance, we can take the initiative to make friends with the minorities. University has provided a caring environment that we can easily meet people in different races. We should take the chance to explore and widen our horizon to avoid making incorrect and biasd judgement towards them.

    On top of this, I do support writing in an anonymous way but only in certain occasion. If we have to express our idea which may leads to conflict to readers, it is better to hide the writter’s name. Otherwise, I will support people to show their name so that we can know more about his/her belief and attitude etc.

    Lam Ho Bong

  5. Helen Law (1155014073) says:

    I think that it is a pity that people are bound by their fear and are not able to openly express their thoughts. Anonymity can be a way to protect those who want to share their knowledge and thoughts but I feel that this does not do any good in helping to solve race issues. Instead, those who are willing to speak up should show their identity little by little to broaden the acceptance of the society. Only then, will we learn to accept the importance of race and diversity.

    Law Hei Lam Helen 1155014073

  6. HAN, HeeJae says:

    As a writer, they should learn to accept criticism, judgments or negative comments on their writing since there must have someone with different view point. Also, as a reader, we should respect writer’s work and should make a fair evaluation without any bias and prejudices.
    We can enhance our knowledge through writings by people from diverse cultures. Therefore, we should protect and encourage them to freely express their own beliefs and values. When I was young, I was fear to share my opinion in class because if my idea is different from what teacher think, then I would be scolded by teacher. Similarly, if we judge writings by writer’s races, it blocks their uniqueness.
    In today’s globalized world, we, as a global citizen, should not be racism, and also accept the differences from other cultures.

    HAN, HeeJae

  7. Ng Chuen Shing (1155015665) says:

    I do think people are more willing to share their opinions in anonymous situations. Why there are many replies everyday in forums? It’s because people can share their points of view with less consideration. Even if their comments were criticized badly, their daily life and their job would be almost unaffected. They may suffer less hurt than face-to-face insult. Therefore, anonymity may give participants some courage to share their opinions.

    However, in lessons, tutors and participants often need quick response and interaction to gain insights in some topics. Discussion in class can hardly be avoided. Anonymity in this case seems not work. In order to motivate participants to express their opinions, it seems necessary to create a warm environment to make them as members of the same social circle. With little suspicion, people may have a stronger will to share opinions to others,

    Ng Chuen Shing

  8. Ip Hang Sze 1155003879 says:

    For me, I am pleased to have classmates come from different countries because it is a good opportunity for us to share and learn. Although we may have different opinions toward an issue due to cultural or race difference, this is a good chance for us to have self reflect and understand an issue in an all-rounded way. Therefore, I think it is ironic and sad that racial diversity hinders writers from expressing their true feelings.

    Besides, I think anonymity is a solution in name only. On the surface, it can avoid conflicts and encourage people to express their true feeling. In fact, it cannot solve the underneath problem. What we need to tackle is the people’s attitude toward racial diversity or social minority. Therefore, I believe education is needed. According to some studies, understanding a particular culture and get along with people with different race can help to reduce racism.

    Also, I think we can remind the students that the purpose of setting up this writing center is to provide a platform for everyone to write freely. As a writer, we should be pleased to have variety of people to review our work. As a reader, we should be thankful to read articles with different cultural background and opinion. In short, I think we should learn from diversity and respect everyone’s thought and feeling.

    Ip Hang Sze

  9. Or Chi Fai 1155017240 says:

    I agree to encourage students to share opinions related to personal, cultural and ethnic experience as these are real backgrounds which somehow have a nurturing effect on students’ beliefs, thinking styles and behaviors. Nowadays, we realize that we should respect every human and have relations on an equal basis in this diverse world. We agree to have pluralistic values for different people and treasure the opportunities to understand each other deeply. So sharing opinions related to personal, cultural and ethnic experience help all of us to understand each other better.
    Sharing writing with safety of anonymity by using technology such as internet blogging may help students to relieve from fear of judgment, but the best way is to discuss with others face by face for two reasons. First, discussion can be in two-way and immediate response can be provided so both persons can benefit on knowing more from each other. Second, listening to others without judgment should be encouraged as a real practice, there should not be a fear of judgment ideally, so talking with others face by face is the real challenge to alter the phenomena of judging others in an injustice way by stigma on people’s ethnic or personal backgrounds.

    Or Chi Fai

  10. Chan Wai Sze (1155016219) says:

    It is undoubtedly that people shall not be bounded, by fear or racial factor or any other factor, to express their own thoughts. It is also for sure that we can learn a lot from people coming from different cultural backgrounds.
    In this case, setting up a writing center seems to be a good way to provide a platform for students of different races, to freely share their personal ideas and experiences. However, such platform will be effective only when all students have common consensus that its major purpose is to address racial diversity. Otherwise it may end up like most extra-curricular activities as well as facilities in the university: dominated by the local students while the minority races seldom get involved.
    Therefore, how to maintain an open and warm discussing environment will be the main concern. Besides education (which is always the most fundamental way in changing students’ attitude and value judgment toward the minorities), some other methods might be adopted to promote the idea of addressing racial diversity. For example, mini talks about appreciation of masterpieces written by authors from different cultural background can be held in the writing center; also a theme day can be held once a week, such as ‘the African Day’, in which students of that specific race can be invited as guest speaker to share and discuss their unique culture and tradition with others, and they are encouraged to write a short article after discussion.
    Last but not least, I believe anonymity should be allowed but not encouraged, as every writer shall be responsible for what they wrote; and every reader shall be responsible for giving only sincere appreciation and rational feedback.

    Chan Wai Sze

  11. Ho Hoi Lam (1008608554) says:

    In the past, we might only learn about the culture or subculture of other foreign countries by visiting those countries and observing the residents. Nowadays, with the advance of technology, we can know the customs and living styles of people from other places easily, through reading related books or online articles written by either people who have travelled to there or people living there. However, when it comes to some African countries, or districts that are mainly resided by ethnic minority groups, most the articles available would be written by the former group of people as the latter group would hesitate to submit their articles due to the fear of judgment as mentioned by Oriekose. Our understanding about one place and its culture would never be complete without knowing the view and feeling of people growing up there. Therefore, it is crucial to break the invisible boundary that resists the minorities to express their ideas freely.

    Other than setting up safe and open writing centres, online forums or blogs also allow people to voice in an unstressed manner because of its anonymity. However, these methods cannot tackle the problem of racism systematically but only serve as a “safer” means for minorities to speak out temporarily. In order to solve the problem thoroughly, education is the ultimate key. Children should be educated that there is nothing wrong with black people. They are born with black skin color simply because their genetic information is different from what yellow and white people have. With the proper education, Black people can perform as good and disciplined as other races. It is also unjustifiable to think Black people must be inferior to other races or black people are necessarily linked to crimes.

    Ho Hoi Lam

  12. Fung Tsz Hung 1009633732 says:

    It is a pity that racial inequalities still exist in the world that people’s opinions are rejected simply because of the writer’s race. Bringing up in such strict and apathetic environment, minorities learn that speaking out for their own rights is not reinforcing and turns to become silent group, fail in open to experience. In the terms of cognitive social theories of personality, it is a typical example of how social situation shape people’s behavior and personality. I think it is quite similar to the Chinese culture that people should be shy and maintain interpersonal relatedness in a daily conflict because they are perceived to be virtuous.

    Writing in anonymity allows the minorities freely express their true feelings, raise the public concerns. It is good for voice with diversity get into the society. And maybe, promote a more liberal culture of discussing racial issue in society in the future.

  13. Chan Chun Ming 1009625833 says:

    I am not sure about why the African American woman was reluctant to submit her writing.
    But i think she is afraid to voice out from the perspective of her own race because of the self-stigma. She probably impose the negative stereotype about her race to herself. Hence, when she needs to represent her race, she feels that it is inferior to do so. I think she is ashamed to identify with her own race.
    To counter her self stigma, i think it is important to let her know there is nothing wrong to speak with the identity of an African American. She can be encouraged to speak from a black perspective if she understand that it is valuable for every member of a society to speak up. Only with considering of a different voices of a society, a society can be a better place to live. A sMinority also has their right to voice out what their thoughts are. It would be good to let her know there is nothing wrong to act unlike the White.

  14. Chingying Pak says:

    In a class I’m attending regarding media power and discourse, teachers often invite non-local students to express their opinions, especially mainland students. When we know where they are from, we can understand the same issue more from another minority perspective.
    From the article, keep the identity of the writer anonymous is indeed a measure to avoid unfair judgement. However, it also weakens the opportunities to comprehend and empathize the minority.
    It is truly pathetic to restrict the freedom to communicate and exchange original ideas due to racial discrimination. The greatest thing about art is the universality. It shouldn’t be abandoned in such way.

    Pak Ching Ying

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