The decision to attend or boycott the Kansas City conference was fraught for many in the field. As a way to record how individuals navigated that decision as well as the period of the conference, the following have agreed to record, in whatever medium they wish, their travel to, attendance at, and journey home from the conference through writing, video, audio and photography. Or if they chose not to attend, to record how their time away from the conference was spent advocating or working for issues of equity and inclusion. In addition, working with local organizations committed to social/cultural equality, Kansas City residents who work on issues, such as racial, gender, and religious tolerance, in Kansas City will record how this work continued during the period of the conference.
I ran for the CCCC Executive Committee in 2016, claiming if elected (which I was), I would “be committed to issues of equity and diversity.” As someone who has always felt “on the outside” of academia due to a mix of a working-class background, a mixed-race identity (Ojibwe and Finnish), and rural upbringing, I hoped to be a voice of “wait a second y’all, what about how this impacts [the non-dominant group(s) being impacted at the time]?” This “wait a second y’all” approach was intensely brought to the fore with the CCCC Kansas City decision. I joined this collective as a way to continue conversations about who CCCC is, but more importantly, who we want to be.
Upon knowing that 4C will still be held in Missouri, I began to wish and wonder: What spaces are available for NCTE members—particularly those who aren’t historically well represented in 4C or the academy—to share their stories, concerns, and actions as a way to promote dialogues about how race, class, abilities, gender, other identity factors—and location impact who we are and how we are as colleagues, mentors, teachers, and field? Considering the prevalence of discriminatory discourses in the political climate of 2018, what voices can be heard, what (counter)narratives can be told and what decisions can be made (individually and collectively) form our ethos and history as scholars, organization, and discipline. These issues motivated me to become a part of Four Days in Kansas City, a project that I hope will motivate critical conversations and reflexive thinking about our responsibility and commitment to social justice as scholars and organization, past, present and future.
As editor of CCC, and a senior colleague in the field committed to queer critiques, I feel a deep responsibility to consider carefully with my colleagues the many material and discursive ways in which different people are invited to participate — and variously discouraged from participating — in our profession’s conversations. We must attune ourselves to how we both consciously and thoughtlessly construct and disable opportunities to promote and nurture diverse ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. Our collective commitment to literacy and rhetorical know-how as empowering demands nothing less.
It’s important to bring together diverse perspectives as we strive for change within our fields, organizations, and society. Following the NAACP Travel Advisory, I decided not to attend CCCC. This decision resulted from my concerns as a person of color and a choice to highlight the vulnerability of those for whom the current hostile political climate proves an intensified version of the norm. But, complex situations and real change require varied forms of action, as represented by those participating in #4DKC18. In the future, I hope that projects like this one will 1) continue to provide records of our conference experiences that help us to make future meetings more accessible and inclusive; and 2) promote dialogue among our peers about how best we can orient ourselves towards social justice, decoloniality, and radical inclusivity.
Dr. Tom H. Do is an assistant professor at Concordia University Chicago. His research explores the relationship between heritage languages and identity construction. He has publications in Interdisciplinary Studies in Pragmatics, Culture and Society and the Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics. He is currently working on a book project tentatively titled, Racing Translingualism: Towards a Race-Conscious Translingualism. As a teacher-scholar exploring the intersections of race and rhetoric, Dr. Do is committed to the 4 Days in Kansas project to understand and document the field’s response to racism and discrimination
I am compelled to participate in #4DKC18 because I hope to work through the many tensions and ambivalences that I have felt, heard, and experienced around CCCC’s response to the NAACP Missouri Travel Advisory and decision to keep 4C18 in Kansas City. As I sought to listen openly to the many perspectives around these events, I often found myself with more questions than answers. Among them: How do organizations use rhetoric to manage and maintain themselves when political and economic tensions call its business-as-usual into question? What are the varied consequences of organizational responses for its members? How do the institutional rhetorics of academic professional organizations interpellate members as responsible subjects? And, at the same time, what are my responsibilities as a member of the organization and as a co-chair of the AAAC?
My interest in this project stems from two primary assumptions that shape much of my scholarship and teaching. I view narrative as a rhetorical practice that can help organize discrete incidents and experiences into stories that give them coherence, causality, direction, and purpose and in doing so, provide those within the profession and the broader public a better understanding of the issues and concerns of particular groups and particular publics. Additionally, I am intrigued by the possibilities afforded professors and students who take seriously the need for reform and resistance to institutions and institutional logics that maintain troubling labor practices and discriminatory practices toward identity markers of difference. Particularly, I am drawn to questions and examples of individuals laboring in love and service to subvert the practices, policies, and procedures that excise and penalize diversity and difference.
My interest in this project is a confluence of my research in the institutional, organizational, and professional dynamics of academia and my identity as a non-citizen immigrant scholar-teacher of colour. When the NAACP’s MO travel advisory came into our community’s collective consciousness, I felt a mix of anxiety, fear, inspiration, not just at the advisory itself, but also in the kaleidoscope of our many, at times conflicting, responses. While listening to others, I stepped back and began formulating some questions of my own: What actually is the purpose of an academic conference, whether generally or specifically in our field(s)? What should they look like? What should they be doing? For whom? And where should we hold them? I hope to keep listening to the varied perspectives we continue to negotiate while attempting to answer some of these difficult questions.
I am drawn to this project to write, think, and strategize about ways a national organization can, should, and must intervene to support its members. What are we willing to do, as a community, to protect and support the most vulnerable among us?
As a co-chair of the NCTE/CCCC Latinx caucus, I am concerned about representing the diverse perspectives across communities that consider the CCCC a scholarly home. When the NAACP travel advisory was announced for Missouri, I felt that it was extremely important for the conference to act as allies for the members of CCCC who felt threatened by the politics of the state that led to the advisory. In addition to my blog posts, I conducted interviews before, during and after CCCC 2018 that I am composing for a multimodal text that exhibits how members of CCCC have thought through the advisory and their decisions to attend of boycott the Kansas City CCCC.
As one of the co-chairs of the American Indian Caucus, I wanted to join this discussion to make space for American Indian voices and work with other caucuses and standing groups. For me, this blog provides an opportunity for all of us to think about our past and present identities as 4Cs participants and scholars in Rhetoric and Composition. But also, it offers a space for us to practice relational accountability, consider our future, and develop plans for sustainability.
Open discussion and reflection regarding the problems that plague us is a constructive first step towards doing the hard work of moving NCTE/CCCC closer towards a more equitable, more accountable, and more transparent style of operating. My hope is that what we produce here via this multivocal collection becomes a resource from which we can begin to change the culture of our org from one that reproduces and sustains forms of injustice to one that operates more democratically.
Why I chose to Participate: A Short Video
There are a lot of efforts that typically don’t get as much attention as do the publicized gestures that aim to improve the field. Documenting the processes that go into deliberating these efforts from distinct subject positions should be a good starting point to counter this generalizing approach. I’m hoping this project can provide an array of voices who care deeply for each other, even within the complex power relations in which we are all enmeshed.