Day One of #CCCC2018

The first day of the conference (Wednesday) was a bit strange for me, since I had to remotely attend the full-day Executive Committee meeting. The use of Zoom worked out pretty well. In some ways, it made participation a little easier for me, given that I have anxiety about speaking in large groups (conference presentations don’t count because I have a script!) and this was my first EC meeting in my three-year role. The experience caused me to reflect on how we may better use remote access options in the future to make the conference more accessible for Cs members whose mobility is limited for a variety of reasons, including disability, a lack of institutional support, immigration and travel concerns, and many others. With that, of course, comes the question of access itself–Internet connections aren’t always reliable, and usability may very well be a question for some folks. Not to mention that physical presence is important, especially when we think about how we construct spaces as inclusive/exclusive.

Here are just some thoughts on in/exclusion I had as a result of my Day One.

—With the increased use of remote technologies, it’s important to seek cost efficient alternatives that make things accessible from a distance, but we must never stop thinking about how the “main space” itself may remain exclusive. Just because someone has the option to stay home and still participate doesn’t mean they want to or should have to. Input from those requiring accommodations is vital unless we’re not going to  actually be accommodating of people’s different needs. As technology evolves, I imagine we’ll continue to be more reliant on it, but it will always come with new sets of problems and concerns. As proponents of Universal Design explain, we’re never going to get it 100%, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to do our best to account for everyone.

—Attending a whole-day meeting remotely was both interesting and awkward.  In many ways, it was harder to keep up with my different committee responsibilities because I wasn’t at the conference. A five-minute conversation instead became an email back-and-forth; keep track of multiple conversations was difficult. But that’s the least of it. Because I don’t regret not going. It seems that a lot of people I know sat this conference out, and maybe it’s just a matter of who I follow, but my social media feeds seem a bit “quieter” than they usually do during Cs. The thing is, that quiet speaks to what it usually feels like to be a POC, a queer person, a disabled person, an Indigenous person, a member of an ethnic minority/immigrant group, and feel like you’re not really visible or heard in spaces where you’re supposed to be welcome–and quite frankly, these spaces dominate too many of our experiences in- and outside of academia.

—The main debate this year was about the NAACP travel advisory for Missouri, the first issued for a whole state, which proves especially dangerous to Black people, given the state’s history of racial profiling and violence, and since the proposed bill makes suing for discrimination difficult, if not impossible. But things aren’t automatically better if a law is changed or an advisory lifted because anti-Blackness is embedded in our social structures. Last year, some of us tried to draw attention to the bigotry of the Muslim bans and how they affect many of our colleagues. These bans keep getting struck down in court, but does that do much to fight Islamophobia in the everyday? Speaking as a person of Indigenous Mexican descent (with light-skinned privilege, to be clear), I can say that the anti-immigrant hatred targeting Latinxs has felt especially visceral this last year, but it is rooted in coloniality and this oppressive nexus is centuries-old. I think about the fact that every school in the nation is built on Native land and yet this is where our young people too often go to be told that their ways are wrong. And yet, all of these groups whose interests are framed as marginal are the same people who can best tell you about how to survive times like these that have caught many by surprise. Why isn’t the mainstream discipline listening as much as it could/should be?

In the end, Day One brought up a bunch of emotions and threads of thought; I hope the bit I share here isn’t too convoluted to follow. Still, I’m not cleaning it up because I feel it’s important to try and capture the ecology of feelings, concerns, and motivations of real people. (Hi, hello!) Ultimately, though, I do want to close out with an open question that I’d like us all to wrestle with. The boycott and debates will pass and we’ll go back to conferencing and researching and sharing as usual, but regardless of what actions we chose to take, we have to ask ourselves what we want to see come out of all these discussions. What is it we want our discipline to look like and be like the next time another major crisis comes up, and how are we going to learn from such times in order to fight those problems that are endemic? We have to be ready.