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#CommunicationSoWhite: Two-Year Anniversary Reflections - Part 1

Updated: May 19, 2020

It has been two years since the #CommunicationSoWhite piece was published in April 2018 in the Journal of Communication, arguably one of the most prestigious journals in our discipline. I share some personal reflections on how the movement has grown and evolved over the last two years.

In Part 1 of this series here, I reflect on some significant moments in the Summer of 2018 that laid the foundation for the beginning of this vital mo(ve)ment within the Communication discipline.

April 2018

When Chakravartty and colleagues published the #CommunicationSoWhite journal article in April 2018, I shared the following message on social media:

April 17, 2018 · 
Journal of Communication's latest issue carries an important piece: "#CommunicationSoWhite by Paula Chakravartty and colleagues. Their study shows that "work by non-white scholars does not receive equal circulation." Moreover, "White authors cite other White authors significantly more frequently than what would be expected by chance and cite non-White authors significantly less frequently." They conclude that "such disparities are rooted in citation practices we are socialized to perform, based on perceived attributions of authority, quality, rigor, and topical fit. ... Citational disparities are exacerbated by the racialized and gendered foundations of a White- and masculine-dominated field." I will be including this article in my upcoming grad course and will be citing it often, including in conversations about using "race-neutral" and "gender-neutral" metrics in hiring, merit raises, tenure, and promotion.

Being equity-minded means taking historical inequalities in mind and being intentional about building inclusive spaces in all aspects of scholarship -- syllabi, citations, mentorship, teaching methods, journal editorial boards, and merit evaluations -- to name just a few examples.

April 18, 2018 · 
We are socialized into a White Communication discipline by the same rigid ideas about what can count as theory, rigor, quality, expertise, and "fit." We need to be intentional in intervening in citational practices. We can do this through the design of grad/undergrad seminars, as journal editors, as journal reviewers, as scholars/authors in the field, as mentors, as tenure and promotion letter writers, as committee members of dissertations, and as members of tenure and promotion committees. The onus should not be on authors of color to cite one another or to do unpaid labor of helping white scholars by creating decolonized reading lists. The same goes for citing non-US authors, who at best are from Western Europe at present, still continuing to preserve the whiteness of our discipline. #CommunicationSoWhite

May 2018

I attended the Race and Media Conference organized by Dr. Ralina Joseph, Dr. Leilani Nishime, and other wonderful colleagues at the U of Washington in Seattle. I share my work on "Analyzing white nationalist rhetoric, neoliberal multiculturalism, and colorblind racist discourses in a historically white campus."

Lots of wisdom and pro-tips were shared at the closing panel of the 2018 Race and Media panel (by Angharad Valdivia, Kent Ono, Isabel Molina Guzman, Jane Rhodes, and Radhika Parameswaran). They talked about coalition-building, creating writing accountability groups, and self-care. They discussed about removing teaching evals and collegiality as criteria for advancement and merit. They suggested ways for better hiring/retention/promotion of faculty of color. They talked about the need for more editors of color for mainstream journals, the importance of progressive academic leadership, finding allies and advocates, etc. (see#racemedia18on twitter).

May 10, 2018 · Seattle, WA · 
My tribe is here! Excited to see all my people in one place. Those to whom I don't always need to explain myself and my experiences. A room full of POC faculty is in itself exhilarating. Race and Media 2018 conference in Seattle! Check out the schedule here:
#Decolonizecomm #Commsowhite

May 2018

I traveled to the International Communication Association in Prague. The ICA President Paula Gardner gave a powerful Presidential address on "Diversifying ICA: Identity, difference, and the politics of transformation," which was inspired by the #CommunicationSoWhite momentum that is building. She also talked about the Eurocentrism of Communication as a discipline and about #CommunicationSoMale. She shared about intersectional feminism. She cited indigenous, brown, and black scholars, especially from the Global South, which is refreshing. Yet we all knew that the work ahead of us was immense, and that this was just the beginning.

May 26, 2018 · 
Day 3 in Prague- A full conference day from 9-5. I gave my first talk on "colorblind racial ideology, closeness, and interracial conflict" with grad student Vanessa Gonlin. My favorite panel was "Feminist Theorizing Beyond Western Cultures." Just seeing Tamil words on an ICA slide gave me goosebumps. And the awards reception saw several of my favorite people in the field (Linda Putnam, Dana Mastro, Helen Hua Wang and Arvind Singhal) being honored. The highlight was Paula Gardner's outstanding Presidential address on "Diversifying ICA: Identity, difference, and the politics of transformation."
Lots to think and reflect about #lifelonglearning #inspired

As lovely as this conference is with folks from around the world, I am shaken up by two separate racist attacks (spat on, called the n-word, and followed into a restaurant) on my desi women colleagues near the conference site. The many narrow staircases, cobblestone streets, and distance between the two conference hotels made it quite a challenge for those with mobility issues (I almost twisted my left ankle and had to buy new shoes with added inserts). There are many side conversations about #CommunicationSoWhite in the hallways, at receptions, and over coffee.

June 2018

In June 2018, I was part of a group of scholars who signed a petition asking the National Communication Association to reconsider the lack of diversity (especially scholars of color) in journal editorships and editorial boards. Part of this discussion was also about the whiteness of the Distinguished Scholars of NCA, who were almost all white, 69 out of 70 of them. We noted that "each year despite nominations of senior scholars of color, NCA's Distinguished Scholars remain an overwhelmingly white institution."



Chakravartty, Paula, Rachel Kuo, Victoria Grubbs, and Charlton McIlwain. "#CommunicationSoWhite." Journal of Communication 68, no. 2 (April 2018): 254–66. DOI:10.1093/joc/jqy003.)


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