Composition Pedagogy, Race, and the African American Student:
An Annotated Bibliography
Bernstein, Susan Naomi. “Writing and White Privilege: Beyond Basic Skills.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 4.1 (2004): 128-31.
Evaluating the relationship between white, middle-class privilege and both standardized testing and standard conventions of writing, Bernstein offers a classroom strategy for underprivileged students (either from racial or class position or both) to counter the negative effects of academic standards in relegating them to remedial positions in order to acquire basic writing skills before being granted access to the ...view middle of the document...
Specifically, Campbell sets out to determine how features of Black English Vernacular (BEV) are revealed in and used by African American students in their writing. Through the use of BEV features, like signifying for instance, black writers present what Campbell contends to be “their most authoritative voices” (69) that allow self-affirmation in their academic writing. Building off of the work of Marcia Farr and Harvey Daniels, which proposes the need for the cultivation of the student’s linguistic identity as a resource in facilitating the transition into the academy, Campbell offers strategies for helping African American students to explore their linguistic identities in their writing as a way of synthesizing cultural voice with an academic one. If BEV students are to survive in academia, Campbell claims, then they will need to be taught an approach that legitimizes who they are rather than one that suppresses their identity as writers.
Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “Safe Houses in the Contact Zone: Coping Strategies of African-American Students in the Academy.” College Composition and Communication 48.2 (1997): 173-96.
Many composition researchers have attempted to theorize how the teaching of literacy and composition interacts with student cultural identity inside the multicultural classroom and academic environment – an aspect of what Mary Louise Pratt deems the “contact zone.” Also making use of Pratt’s notion of the “safe house” as a discursively constructed cultural community for helping marginalized students cope with the stress of academic discourse and learning (often associated by the student with assimilation and deracination), Canagarajah seeks to demonstrate how safe house discursive strategies can also be active forms of learning, as well as aid minority students in progressing through the academy, by explaining how these techniques were put into practice by African American students in a summer writing program for remedial writers at the University of Texas. For these students, the safe house acted as a way of affirming the self and communicating a strong, shared ethnic identity within an institution that was perceived as potentially threatening. Students could express their unique cultural positions through both their dialogue with other students and their personal, informal essays, but were asked to use academic discourse in formal writing assignments. What Canagarajah found, however, was that the safe house persisted even within these formal essays through the avoiding of an acquisition of or assimilation to standardized discourse, and instead, acted as a mimicking or “fronting,” which only imitated academic conventions, thereby resisting what would otherwise be construed by the black student as an erasure of his or her racial and cultural identity. In other words, these students realized the need for the imitation of academic discourse in order to succeed but manipulated it only to that end. Therefore, as the...