Reader Response Journal

Race and TESOL: Introduction to Concepts and Theories by Ryuko Kubota and Angel Lin

This article is the introduction to the 2006 Special Topics issue of TESOL Quarterly on Race and TESOL. It starts with two anecdotes of racialized experiences of the authors, both Asian women in TESOL, which establishes the fact that racial issues are real and have consequences for real people within our field right from the outset. The authors make a case that race was (at the time) being overlooked within TESOL and that it needs to be included as an explicit area of inquiry alongside other aspects of identity. The authors differentiate the terms race, ethnicity and culture and argue that all three terms are used to exclude and otherize racial minorities. They define racialization (the process of assigning meaning based on racial categories) and racism (practices that exclude racial others or lead to domination of one group based on race) and emphasize that racism is a societal discourse, not a matter of individuals having personal prejudices. They distinguish between institutional or systemic racism, perpetuated within TESOL through discriminatory hiring practices and the use of the ESL label to exclude students from mainstream schooling in the US, and epistemological racism, which privileges White ways of knowing and delegitimizes “nonmainstream race-based ways of thinking and writing” (480). They discuss the ways race intersects with other identities and the ways racialization of nonnative speakers constructs English as a White language. They outline the basics of Critical Race Theory (including counter-storytelling) and Critical White Studies, including some criticisms of the approaches, and they propose critical pedagogies and critical multicultural education as approaches for exploring race within TESOL. They summarize the articles in the special issue and end with a call for more attention to issues of race within TESOL, especially outside of a White/Non-White dichotomy constructed around Anglo-European epistemologies.

I initially read this article when I was researching the intersections of racism and linguicism for my language and power project last year. The clarity and succinctness of the article make it a really good starting point for exploring race in TESOL, since it defines important terms quite well and covers the basics necessary to understand much of the work being done in the area. I think the special topics issue was a good starting point for race to enter into the discourse of our field, and now, over ten years later, I see a lot more attention being paid to it. However, issues of race still tend to be thought of as “extra,” rather than central to English language teaching practices, so I think we as a field still have a way to go. It was interesting for me to go back and revisit the article, because while I have a level of familiarity with these ideas, having absorbed them into my ways of thinking about my work, I feel like this is still the exception rather than the norm. I also think that this was where I first encountered the idea of counter-storytelling, which wound up becoming a fairly significant aspect of my thesis, so it was interesting to go back and see my original highlights. If there was one article I could make required reading in my TESOL program, I think this would be a strong contender.

Kubota, R., & Lin, A. (2006). Race and TESOL: Introduction to concepts and theories. TESOL Quarterly, 40(3), 471-493.

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