The Diversity, Equity, and Justice (DEJ) and the Ethnicity, Race, and Multilingualism(ERM) Standing Committees of the Literacy Research Association (LRA) are committed to racial justice, equity, and action. The purpose of this statement is to reaffirm the organization’s position against all forms of systemic racism. We raise awareness of racial injustices within our respective field and provide action steps on how the LRA community can take actions for change.
In the past three years, there has been a resurgence of racist acts against underrepresented groups. Specifically, there has been a backlash and targeting of Asians and Asian Americans within the United States. These violent sentiments once led to explicitly racist government policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans.
These unequal treatments include but are not limited to the brutal attacks against countless Asian and Asian American individuals, the xenophobic violence against Asian people in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the dehumanizing acts of Anti-Asian rhetoric within the sector of academia and beyond.
The committee stands in solidarity with our Asian colleagues, faculty, staff, and students who were impacted by the commentary of the Chancellor Thomas L. Keon of Purdue University Northwest. The Literacy Research Association Board of Directors recognizes the comments made by Chancellor Keon at graduation were harmful and there is no sufficient explanation or response regarding this incident. It is of grave importance to understand why a Chancellor creating a made-up Asian language at a graduation ceremony is not only in poor taste but a sign of a hostile and discriminatory environment at the university. Graduations at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI’s) have been in the headlines for many decades within the United States where students of color have been thrown off stages and protests have occurred. This racist rhetoric has often been excused as merely ‘bad moments.’ As we consider the incident which occurred at Purdue University Northwest, we must understand why change is needed at all levels. No longer should we merely require students to sit through equity courses. Equity must be enacted by the administration, faculty, and staff. Considering that the Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1134 to limit classroom discussions pertaining to race during 2022 (that was later defeated by the Senate) and that components of it could be revisited by a future legislative conference committee, Chancellor Keon’s mocking of Asian language(s) conveys that equity training is not only a necessity, it is urgently needed. This is but one in a litany of harmful incidents that incite violence, hatred, and disdain towards individuals of Asian descent.
Our literacy organization and literacy learning communities at universities should focus on studying the literacy experiences, language learning, and multilingualism of Asian and Pacific Islander countries and communities. First, developing these partnerships and experiences are key to diminishing historical and pervasive stereotypes within literacy, literature, and academic research. Second, literacy organizations at the national and state level must examine whether preservice and in-service teachers are acquiring updated research and inclusive literacy practices regarding Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students. Third, our national and state educational research and practice organizations should prominently feature research and speakers who can address the impact of racism because institutional norms, explicit acts, and implicit bias often fuel anti-Asian violence within education and other settings. Finally, teacher educators should include historical and contemporary readings in their current courses and curricula to specifically include the voices of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander scholars.
Organizational actions to combat systemic racism can include creating an environment for educational research and learning. This will promote further academic study regarding the varied experiences of diverse populations in literacy and learning, as well as the identification of actionable steps needed for racial equity and justice. We must take such actions now in order to improve outcomes for those who are historically marginalized and targeted.