Autonomous Collective Liberationism

I’ve always struggled with what to label myself. I’m a registered Democrat for the sake of voting and other sorts of civic participation, but two parties really isn’t enough, and they’re only a little less openly racist than the Republicans (though I will not pretend there’s no difference between the parties).

But Democrat isn’t really an ethos. It’s a party affiliation.

Liberal was once a title with a strong history, but it’s unfortunately been perverted into cowardice by those who favor inaction over justice. There are certainly some righteous folks who call themselves liberals – we can’t paint everyone with one broad brush – and I won’t bite the political hand that fed and raised me. But I think it’s long since lost the power it once had. It’s an insult from both the left and the right. It’s a no-win proposition.

Progressive? It’s not bad. It aligns with a lot of what I believe in. But, again, I find that the people in the movement can be really terrible at certain forms of oppression. There are far too many racist and sexist progressives, and you can say that the worst of any group doesn’t invalidate the title, but that’s not how I get down, man. I don’t want a big part of it.

This is more or less how I feel about calling myself a Democratic Socialist. Great ideas, great folks, some real racists who think that marginalized groups supporting their own folks is bad. Among both progressives and DS folks, there is the legitimate idea that “GirlBoss” unaware support of women can lead to the support of women with terrible policies. But to dismiss intersectionality whenever something other than class is centered is reductionist, sexist, and racist, and there’s far too much of this among these groups in their rhetoric, even if their policies are generally sound. So while I don’t much disagree with their policies, I disagree with their approach, and approach matters to me.

So what of Socialist or Communist generally? Again, the policies that support a truly egalitarian society are those that I agree with. But I am not at all fond of authoritarianism, and many leftist societies aren’t any less prone to this, which leads to people support leftism of any sort, even when led by dictators. This is not to say that traditional politicans aren’t just as bad! They are! It’s just that, you know, there are ways to really support people without authoritarianism.

Would I go so far as to espouse Anarchism? I agree with many of the tenets. I no longer believe that the state is the best way forward. But I remain skeptical that, had this current situation occurred, full self-governance would have been able to coordinate a response. Maybe I’m just naive, but although I’d rather we had no prisons and no police and many fewer nonsense laws, a very minimal state for emergencies, chosen among the people to serve them and coordinate to avoid chaos.

I’ve looked into things called libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism and a lot of complicated mash-ups and finally I just wanted to pick my own labels.

I think we are in a transformative time, for better or worse. Trump and his clowns could use our eventual recovery as justification to turn this into Gilead and slaughter reporters and intellectuals and so on. But as much as they like power, deep down, I think that guy wants to be liked by the smart people who don’t like him. I think there’s a difference between him and someone who had the singular drive to commit active genocide. Passive genocide, sure, but holocaust-type things require effort, and dude is lazy. That may be the only reason we have a chance to survive this with a chance to continue to accomplish things.

I say all this to say, what I finally came to believe in is what I call Autonomous Collective Liberationism. I think you need all three of those to forge the future we all deserve.

You need Autonomous because, although selfishness is a massive issue, if we don’t give people options about what they themselves can go, provide them with ample agency, and remove hierarchies, we don’t get anywhere.

You need Collective for obvious reasons, that society will be split into a very American style of small uncooperative groups without it.

But you also need Liberationism because you can seek collectivist goals while remaining oppressive. If you seek collectivist goals without specifying liberation, the oppressed wll remain as such with no end in sight. Otherwise, traditionally collectivist societies would have no oppression, and we all know that that’s not the case.

This is the very best way I can conceptualize my politics and my goals in life. I fall short, I will continue to, but Autonomous Collective Liberationism is what I believe in, and also what I made up out of whole cloth to describe my beliefs, because I think we’d all do well to define our views our own way.


New episode!

There’s a new podcast episode! I bought a new microphone too but you won’t be hearing me use it until April so stay tuned for that!

I am getting closer to getting to do some real research to help out my longterm goals.

The stress of this current situation is upsetting, and I hope for the very best for the respiratorily vulnerable (that’s not a real word, but okay). I am going to do my best to stay productive as that’s my best way to avoid anxiety.

Some Bubbling Ideas

These aren’t fully formed thoughts but they are ideas I hope to pursue, either in school or after or just on the side via my writing here, in conceptual articles, or on the podcast.

  1. What is effective anti-racist (or more generally anti-oppressive) public scholarship? Can it be effective if it’s part of an oppressive system (academia, journals)? But if there’s no system, how can it be taken seriously by the systems that need to change? Accordingly, is a fully post-structual response useful, or is it better to create new structures?
  2. What truly moves a person along the anti-racism spectrum? I have possible answers, but I need to speak to people to find out and confirm my suspicions.
  3. Is there, in fact, a greater percentage than expected of “gifted” students of color who have mental health issues? (And then, greater than who, people in general, people at these schools, people of color in general?)
  4. How can “well-meaning” folks learn to see their own complicity in oppressive systems? I know how it happened for me, but does this have to be a purely intrinsically motivated change, or can it be fostered at all?


Lessons for Ezel

I’m not going to let Ezel take until he’s 32 to figure out what I did about race.

I’m not sure how he’ll be seen. He’s black, but who knows how dark he will be. Still though, I was 32 before I accepted the reality of how race and racism had shaped me, and that’s way too late.

My parents tried. Maybe I can’t do it for him and he’ll have to learn it for himself. I can be of more use in his schooling, if he’s anything like me and the kids think he’s annoying.

I just want him to be able to avoid the bad parts of what I’ve lived through, and not to feel that intense pressure to be accepted by the majoritized. I almost lost my whole soul trying to chase something that was imaginary. I hope, through my guidance and my work, I can ensure he always keeps his.

3 Circles

If you are familiar with what is now considered traditional ELT theory, you will remember the 3 circles, inner, outer, and expanding. Now, it’s nonsense (because language and nationality aren’t the same thing), but I want to overlay the concept onto something else.

When we talk about antiracist work (and especially for white folks), I think there are three ways to go about it, two that are necessary, and one that is basically counterproductive yet by far the most common.

First of all, there is deep, challenging internal work, genuine transformation that never really ends, where you understand how prevalent racism is, and you acknowledge how you’ve benefited from it (even if you’re otherwise marginalized – poor, female, LGBTQ, etc). This doesn’t mean that those other forms of marginalization don’t matter, as true antiracism is necessarily intersectional, but they don’t cancel each other out or something silly like that. This is, for an individual person, extremely important.

Second, there’s of course public policy – whether in a home, school, organization, locality, state, or nation-sate – that must be changed to depower white supremacy. This is the work we must all do. Part of my research seeks to interrogate whether, if policy was codified in Master’s program to include antiracist work, more teachers would be able to engage in the transformative work above, or if that work is truly random and intrinsically motivated.

And then there’s the third thing, the place where everyone seems to get stuck. Basically, this is believing that antiracism is an individual competition, where you don’t have to change internally or change policy for the many. For teachers, this means just, I guess I’ll throw some more black people into my curriculum (which you should do), but not challenging the structures around you and within you. Or, it’s bashing Trump and that style of overt racism without challenging policies that have had discriminatory impact around you. It’s going online to laugh at dumb racists (and there are plenty) without actually changing a single thing in your life aside from being glad you’re not that dumb.

Antiracism requires change (in this case, not just for white folks, but for anyone engaged in it). I know I get frustrated because I always realize I have so much more work to do, but that’s the point. In this society, the work is centuries from being finished. For someone like me who likes to be DONE with things to feel comfortable, I’m always going to be a little unsettled trying to do this work. And you should be too.

So if your antiracism is basically a series of memes and jokes about the Real Racists, you’re not helping. Do better. Push for policy – again, in any shared context – and do the work on yourself.

SIC Scholarship

I can’t read everything, even in the subfields of my particular interests. If someone asks me if I’ve read a particular piece, chances are the answer is either “no” or “I have no idea.” In other words, it’s very hard for a piece to stick in my memory because there are so, so many. I say this because this essay here is entirely subjective, and intentionally so.

When I think about what articles stick to my ribs, so to speak, and the type of scholarship and public engagement in which I hope to participate and that I would like to encourage in my colleagues and compatriots, I have begun to codify (though not quantify) my interests along three different scales.

I hope to read, share, and create, SIC scholarship.

S(trong), I(mportant), and C(ompelling).

Strong is the most traditional aspect of it, the scholarly rigor. Basically, peer-reviewed, though I know this excludes some valuable work. This is what I need to continue to learn about in my methods classes and my other coursework. I don’t know that I agree with the way rigor is defined, and it’s surely used as a gatekeeping tool, but if I’m going to cite something and it’s going to be criticized for relying on something not considered rigorous, then I should be aware ahead of time. For my own reading, I don’t care as much, but especially while I’m in school and soon after, I am mostly reading articles so I can turn around and write. So, yeah, it needs to be strong for me to rely on it, even though I think the journal system is a mess and so are conferences. I can’t exist fully outside of the system just yet.

Important is purely subjective, of course, but to me, it means two main things. It’s important to me if it’s related to my subfields, sure, because I can use it, but it’s also important to me if it seeks to challenge oppression, dominance, white supremacy, etc. This is mostly about the goal of the study or the article. Articles that reify power structures just aren’t important to me, aside from their roles as counterexamples of what I would not like to consume or produce.

And for me, I hope to consume and create work that is Compelling. This is purely about the way people write (or otherwise express themselves). This is what journals really stifle, and if an author can force precise prose into their published piece, it can totally sing. I will cite a piece that’s important and/or strong, usually looking at the findings, but when the introduction or “discussion” sections are particularly compelling, that’s when I hold articles close to my chest.

I think if more of us strove for these qualities, our work would be much better. Imagine if it wasn’t unusual to challenge oppression in our work. Imagine if reading most journals wasn’t dull. Imagine!

This is just a silly idea, but I think it’s a fun concept, and I’m going to hold onto it.

Tescher Problems indeed

I’m not going to link it, but if you go on twitter and look up #tescherproblems, you should find what I’m talking about. Yes, that spelling is intentional, because the tweet includes a typo.

There’s this account, ostensibly a humorous one, that talks about Teacher Problems. Monday, it asked its many followers for things students say that are annoying, using “I ain’t trippin'” as an example. Plenty of people (including me) pointed out that this was a common phrase in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), though some would contend that the name AAVE is discriminatory. Point being, though, that there is nothing wrong with it.

The account would probably claim it’s just a joke. To me, the real problem is that so many (white) teachers agreed with it and added other things that seem to genuinely annoy them, such as “bruh,” and “you’re doing too much,” all examples of common AAVE phrases.

I can bet you that the teachers that did this don’t think they’re racist. In fact, they probably think that, by virtue of teaching kids of color, they’re immune from racism. Indeed, this is an example of how the altruistic shield works, because it protects them from any self-reflection and criticism that might force them to evolve.

I see this a lot though, not just on twitter. I have had friends who were public school teachers who made jokes about their students’ names. Colleagues who joked about the choices clients made. And I can bet you if I point out that these comments are demeaning and perpetuate oppression, they’d just tell me I had no sense of humor and freeze me out.

We’re all educators. We need to love our students. I’m not immune to finding this stuff funny, I surely did ten years ago, but not anymore. I think the first rule of education is to love your students, and it’s a shame that so few of us seem to show love and respect to everyone we teach.

Latest Episode and Thoughts on Two Trains

First of all, new episode is up. You should listen!

Second, I posted recently about which angle I want to take in my research. To remind you, I’m circling white antiracist language teachers as research participants, but also interested in the sort of meta-topic of how to make innovative public scholarship more effectively so. Will this strain bear more fruit, or will it be my more traditional research? Do I need the more traditional research for legitimacy, yet the meta-topic might have a large impact?

Fact is, I have to do the traditional research to graduate, so it’s getting done. And my twitter feed, this website, and my podcast, can serve as informal research on public scholarship. I guess time will tell as to what has had more resonance for more people.

Which Angle?

Most of my writing and eventual research comes from the angle of different types of racial theory, mostly because of the central conflict of my life, the desire for acceptance and refusal thereof in white spaces, regardless of my family income, and the resultant belief that it was silly to consider racism because of my social class.

Consequently, and especially because I care deeply about plenty of individuals with money, it’s more comfortable for me to focus on race while bringing in other forms of oppression alongside it. My work must be intersectional (though I hesitate to use that word, since that was specifically about being a woman of color when it was introduced) or it is of no use.

I worry sometimes that my focus on race will obscure the need for class reform and gender equity and the like. But I also know that I am not a credible messenger on topics with which I have little experience. I seek to include many forms of oppression in my work, but my angle will remain tied to race (and whiteness specifically) and, honestly, in this country, we are so bad at dealing with race that there’s plenty of work to be done in that realm.

But I do want to be clear that advocating for antiracist ideals does not mean I will pretend that we don’t also need to fight misogyny, ableism, and, of course, capitalism. They’re all tied together, but we can only use but so many lenses at a time or else the argument becomes muddlged and unclear.

Just know that the liberation I seek is expansive, even if the angle is specific.

A Long Digression About Radical Public Scholarship Reaching A Broader Audience

I feel like there’s four groups of people.

When it comes to issues of oppression and marginalization, some folks are really curious to learn more, and some folks aren’t curious. Some folks have been exposed to theories, evidence, and data concerning oppression and marginalization, and some haven’t.

So that makes for four quadrants, something you can imagine on a matrix.

People who are incurious but high in their level of exposure. These folks have chosen to shut themselves off from developing an antiracist or antioppresive stance. Maybe they’ll change some day, but for the moment, they’re basically “obstacles.” The president and his people are often in this group. They know what they’re doing.

There are people who are both highly curious but also high in their level of exposure. These folks, like me and many I know, are seeking out everything they can. They (we) are “the choir.”

There are folks who are incurious but low in their level of exposure.  They may learn and grow, and maybe this is where many folks start. This group can be considered “future projects.”

And finally, there’s the fourth group, people who are highly curious but low in their level of exposure. They want to know but they haven’t come into contact with tools that can help them. They’d embrace it if they did, but for whatever reason, they aren’t coming across it. I was once in this group. These are “the targets.”

So, the “future project” group interests me for my empirical research for school. I want to ask how antiracist language teachers developed a deeply felt critical stance. In other words, how did they become curious? Was it being exposed – in school, in conversation, in life – that developed their curiosity? Or was it innate? Were they always pliable and open to learning more? So I want to know that.


If someone is already curious, and sympathetic to these issues, what avenues, what media actually reaches them? Is it really journal publishing that is the best way for information, particularly antioppressive literature, to be disseminated? Is it books? Should it be school? What of those who have finished? Is it conferences? (It’s not.) Is it podcasts and other new forms? How do you reach the people who are potential allies to bring into the fold? Is it best to “trojan horse” radical messages into traditional media, or will they eventually find it if we keep it in other places? Is it most effective to work within traditional avenues with more power to promote or to create your own where you can have more control? That might be a good idea for other reasons, and it is surely more satisfying, but do we want to be satisfied, or do we want to reach an audience that’s looking to grow?

I think about this a lot. My recent publication, a few dozen people have definitely read it. More read it as I send it around. There were 25 or so people at the live presentation.

And the recorded version of my presentation has been heard by nearly 300 people. Now that’s not 3 million, but still. That’s a lot more folks. I worked on that presentation (and article) for months. It might get cited someday, and professors may yet use it in class, which is gratifying. But if I want more eyes onw hat I feel is valuable, traditional publication doesn’t seem to serve the purpose of reaching the most folks who may want to develop their stance. In other words, I’m pretty sure, as proud of it as I might be, it’s mostly going to be read by the people who already agree. I love them, and I appreciate it, but how do we, in this antiracist work, get the curious folks who can expand the movement to see this conceptualization?

In other words, how do we get someone outside of our language nerd field to know who Flores and Rosa are? They’re better than a Gladwell, but not as easy for most to digest.

Maybe, however, this is the way it must be. And over time, their ideas (and maybe mine) can trickle into the mainstream. It’s too slow, though. The handful of us educating with these theories in mind can’t reach all the students who need to be shown this love.

This is all to say, I do think, although I’ll continue to try and publish and speak in the traditional way, the new forms of public scholarship might stand a better chance to “convert” and/or push people. I have a small podcast (for now), but whether it’s that, or youtube, or music, or other things, I do think, without dumbing ourselves down, we need to meet the curious on pathways with which they are somewhat familiar. And maybe the previously incurious will join them.

Are journals obsolete? Not entirely, no. Books surely aren’t, and the work that becomes books often begins there (e.g. White Fragility). But I do think sometimes we’re just talking to ourselves in these bubbles while the world burns, and I wish we could be heard and listened to.