– EAP for Social Justice SIG –
The murder of George Floyd in the USA earlier this year sent shockwaves around the world, highlighting to many the stark truth that, after 400 years of struggle, racial discrimination still has a presence and is causing tangible harm in our societies.
As the EAP for Social Justice SIG, as teachers, and as human beings, we stand in solidarity with all who have to live with such effects of racism and white privilege, however subtle or overt, every day of their lives. We also stand with those who wish to work actively towards eliminating it in its many forms. We emphasise the word actively; as Angela Davis says, ‘In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.’
What might this mean for the field of EAP? At the moment, we are exploring this question with a spirit of open enquiry, and have thus far generated more questions than answers. How can we ensure that there is fair representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)* practitioners not only in our institutions, but also on secure contracts? Within BALEAP itself, how can we ensure that more BAME practitioners are represented on the Executive Committee, and what can be done to help more BAME practitioners access conferences and PIMs? In terms of our EAP curricula, how can we take steps towards decolonising not only what we teach but also how we teach? Whilst acknowledging the problematic and potentially ‘colonial’ nature of EFL/EAP itself, what can be done to mitigate the effects of this?
These are not easy questions to answer, but it is important to make a start, and to keep this issue on the EAP agenda, as it is currently notable by its absence, despite the clear relevance of this topic to the field. While there has been movement in some EAP quarters, in recent years, to begin to engage with issues of power and positioning related to its students, practitioners and the discipline itself in a broader capacity, EAP has been slow to turn its focus to the particular elephant in the (class)room which is race, racism and white privilege.
Therefore, as a much-needed and long-overdue response to the wider call for change in HE and EFL to examine current policies and practices in light of the BLM movement, we are planning over the next few months to run a number of webinars exploring different aspects of this theme, starting with Let’s Talk about Race in EAP: Practitioner Perspectives. In addition to this, we will be featuring a variety of blog and vlog pieces on our website, and links to some of the good work being done in related areas. We intend for these to encourage learning, reflection and, ultimately, action.
As a sector we need to be willing to tackle race and racism within EAP and our institutions more widely, which will require many of us to step out of our comfort zones. This will also require time, effort and willingness to learn from each other, but, in the words of Rosa Parks, ‘To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try’.
* We acknowledge that this term is not universally accepted, and are using it here as the term which is currently used within HEIs in the UK until such time as a more acceptable term is found