Toward the Antiracist: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present
The 2021 Watson Conference focused on policies and practices for planning and convening antiracist conferences. This year's uprisings for Black liberation have only reaffirmed the need for institutions of higher education to confront their roles in perpetuating a white supremacist system, and to create just and equitable structures in its place.
Dr. Thomas R. Watson Endowment
In 1995, Dr. Thomas R. Watson donated 1.2 million dollars to the University of Louisville English Department to endow a biennial International Conference in Rhetoric and Composition and a Visiting Distinguished Professorship. The gift is a mark not only of Dr. Watson's extraordinary generosity but also of his imaginative and far-sighted vision.
2021 Watson Conference
The 2021 Watson Conference organizers strive to create a different kind of conference environment, a brave space that "emphasizes the need for courage rather than the illusion of safety" (Arao & Clemens, 2013, p. 141). To accomplish this will take work from all involved. We therefore invite all participants—presenters, moderators, attendees—to support our project by committing to several values.
The Watson Conference planning team stands in solidarity with our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) friends, family, colleagues, and students in the wake of the March 16 mass murder in Atlanta and amid the escalation of acts of violence and hate against AAPI communities generally
As rhetoric and writing scholars, we are attuned to how language can both create and destroy, and we appreciate the need to wield it responsibly. We therefore join with othergroups in our field in condemning the cruel, transparent vilification of AAPI communities that has issued from certain national leaders, and we call on those in power to acknowledge and repair the devastation that xenophobic speech has wrought.
We encourage all those reading this statement, and all of us associated with the Watson Conference in particular, to complete Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s Bystander Intervention Trainings and interrupt hate speech and bigotry when we witness it; to report acts of hate at Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice; to donate to organizations that support AAPI communities; and to research further actions to take in our classrooms and communities (see, e.g., Electric Lit’s Literary Guide to Combat Anti-Asian Racism in America and the Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit).