Tools and weapons: “Worship of the written word”

I have been reflecting on pieces of an article and framework this summer by Tema Okun, on traits of white supremacy culture. You can delve into it here, and let me tell you, it is powerful:

It has been hard to read and see elements of myself in these traits. What is helpful (and hopeful) is not just the description of the traits, but also some possible antidotes. In other words, there are some things to consider and think about doing differently, whether I am talking about my teaching, my community work, my faith, etc. Okun is clear to say that these traits have to be understood in context of each other, but acknowledges that it is helpful to pull them apart and look at them separately, and I completely agree.

One trait I resonate with is “worship of the written word” . It has been humbling to see all the ways this is manifest in my regular life: if it isn’t in a memo it doesn’t happen, being a grammar police, placing blame when people fail to respond to written communication, etc. Some of this is embedded into my life because of my profession (a teacher) but some of it is….just me. There are several antidotes shared, but one that I appreciate is: to “dedicate time to practicing and honoring other ways of knowing and expression: oral storytelling, embodied learning, visual and movement art, silence, meditation, singing, dancing” I am thinking about all the times I have filled out assessments and conducted interviews with people (or expected them to complete the forms themselves, per agency policy) but have not really had space, or taken time, to build in different types of expression.

How can I appropriately embrace the power of the written word, and shape and encourage students in their use of it? In other words, how can I use the power of written word as a tool and not a weapon? I want my students (and others) to know that writing can be powerful without being perfect. And how can I also embrace other forms of knowledge building and knowledge sharing, as well as story telling and other aspects of oral tradition? I am thinking about this as we approach the beginning of a new semester!

Photo by Ann Nekr on

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