A Long Digression About Radical Public Scholarship Reaching A Broader Audience

I feel like there’s four groups of people.

When it comes to issues of oppression and marginalization, some folks are really curious to learn more, and some folks aren’t curious. Some folks have been exposed to theories, evidence, and data concerning oppression and marginalization, and some haven’t.

So that makes for four quadrants, something you can imagine on a matrix.

People who are incurious but high in their level of exposure. These folks have chosen to shut themselves off from developing an antiracist or antioppresive stance. Maybe they’ll change some day, but for the moment, they’re basically “obstacles.” The president and his people are often in this group. They know what they’re doing.

There are people who are both highly curious but also high in their level of exposure. These folks, like me and many I know, are seeking out everything they can. They (we) are “the choir.”

There are folks who are incurious but low in their level of exposure.  They may learn and grow, and maybe this is where many folks start. This group can be considered “future projects.”

And finally, there’s the fourth group, people who are highly curious but low in their level of exposure. They want to know but they haven’t come into contact with tools that can help them. They’d embrace it if they did, but for whatever reason, they aren’t coming across it. I was once in this group. These are “the targets.”

So, the “future project” group interests me for my empirical research for school. I want to ask how antiracist language teachers developed a deeply felt critical stance. In other words, how did they become curious? Was it being exposed – in school, in conversation, in life – that developed their curiosity? Or was it innate? Were they always pliable and open to learning more? So I want to know that.

BUT.

If someone is already curious, and sympathetic to these issues, what avenues, what media actually reaches them? Is it really journal publishing that is the best way for information, particularly antioppressive literature, to be disseminated? Is it books? Should it be school? What of those who have finished? Is it conferences? (It’s not.) Is it podcasts and other new forms? How do you reach the people who are potential allies to bring into the fold? Is it best to “trojan horse” radical messages into traditional media, or will they eventually find it if we keep it in other places? Is it most effective to work within traditional avenues with more power to promote or to create your own where you can have more control? That might be a good idea for other reasons, and it is surely more satisfying, but do we want to be satisfied, or do we want to reach an audience that’s looking to grow?

I think about this a lot. My recent publication, a few dozen people have definitely read it. More read it as I send it around. There were 25 or so people at the live presentation.

And the recorded version of my presentation has been heard by nearly 300 people. Now that’s not 3 million, but still. That’s a lot more folks. I worked on that presentation (and article) for months. It might get cited someday, and professors may yet use it in class, which is gratifying. But if I want more eyes onw hat I feel is valuable, traditional publication doesn’t seem to serve the purpose of reaching the most folks who may want to develop their stance. In other words, I’m pretty sure, as proud of it as I might be, it’s mostly going to be read by the people who already agree. I love them, and I appreciate it, but how do we, in this antiracist work, get the curious folks who can expand the movement to see this conceptualization?

In other words, how do we get someone outside of our language nerd field to know who Flores and Rosa are? They’re better than a Gladwell, but not as easy for most to digest.

Maybe, however, this is the way it must be. And over time, their ideas (and maybe mine) can trickle into the mainstream. It’s too slow, though. The handful of us educating with these theories in mind can’t reach all the students who need to be shown this love.

This is all to say, I do think, although I’ll continue to try and publish and speak in the traditional way, the new forms of public scholarship might stand a better chance to “convert” and/or push people. I have a small podcast (for now), but whether it’s that, or youtube, or music, or other things, I do think, without dumbing ourselves down, we need to meet the curious on pathways with which they are somewhat familiar. And maybe the previously incurious will join them.

Are journals obsolete? Not entirely, no. Books surely aren’t, and the work that becomes books often begins there (e.g. White Fragility). But I do think sometimes we’re just talking to ourselves in these bubbles while the world burns, and I wish we could be heard and listened to.