The following interview was conducted with Writing Center graduate consultants Janelle Edwards, Ronisha Browdy, and Shewonda Leger.
What is it like being a black female in the Writing Center? Do you find this Writing Center oppressive in any way (think broadly here: clients, consultants, the overall look of the center, etc)?
Janelle noted that “the Writing Center is not, in itself, oppressive; however, she has to “challenge a lot of clients perceptions.” She remembers a paper in which she was consulting with a client and the client was “talking about what a ‘normal’ American looks like,” and the consulant was talkin’ bout certain people in this country “wearing a towel on their head. And how ‘normal’ Americans were from the West” and “the West was Old America with its traditional values.” Janelle, kept her cool and educated the “blonde and White” client asking her “her what’s a normal American?” I said to Janelle, let me guess, the client ain’t know some of the first Black Cowboys were Black?” Janelle responded> “You know what I’m saynl. Know your history.” She continues, “Needless to say. It made the client uncomfortable. I never saw her again.” I responded “I know why.” She continues, “but I do think the center is open. Usually it is just the clients.”
I wonder: how should consultants respond to racist rhetoric in student writing?
While Janelle provides a perspective on how a consultation with the client can be used as a way to provide knowledge while having to navigate racist rhetoric in client writing, Ronisha sheds light on how the writing center makes her feel.
Ronisha posited, “I have had a limited amount experience at this particular WC, but the environment is inviting, but that doesn’t mean that I am not aware that I am a Black woman with different experiences and what I want to talk about is different. It’s not different from my everyday life. I felt like I was being singled out because I was new. It was different for some reason. I think if I was a Black man I would not have been approached by clients and consultants in the same way.” Ronisha admits, I feel alone in the WC, which could have been because of the time that I was working. I just felt alone because I had no one to talk to.”
How can a Writing Center defined as “open,” lead to feelings of loneliness and disillusionment? And how can we implement a space where a Black female consultant does not experience this loneliness? How can we bring emotion back into the writing center?
Although Ronisha feels alone in the writing center, Shewonda believes that change starts with the individual.
Shewonda kept it short, direct and to the point, saying, “Nothing is wrong with the WC. A change begins with who u are. For now I see myself as the change. I will be the agent of change. I do not complain. I hate when people complain without intending to change anything.” I understand what Shewonda is saying, but if she sees herself as a part of change in the Writing Center, isn’t something already wrong?