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Mission Possible or Impossible? Racial Equity in the ITP

by Kellie L. Stewart & Elita Hill

Interactive Workshop

Date | Time | Room

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The construct of race is biological nonsense; yet, for the past 400 years, race has significantly shaped the lives of White, Black, Brown and Latinx people to the extent that life opportunities and outcomes remain inequitable across all measures of income, employment, poverty, healthcare, infant and maternal mortality, education outcomes and school discipline, court sentencing, social services, life span, higher education, etc. (RMJJ, 2019). The plethora of research on racial inequality consistently identifies systems as the main mechanism driving disparate and disproportionate outcomes for Black, Brown and Latinx people. Is any system protected from structures which situate better outcomes for White people than People of Color? What do our systems in the field of interpreting and interpreter education reveal about the ways in which racial equity is fostered or inhibited?

The Racial Equity Institute (REI) employs the concept of Ground Water to build an understanding of structural racism which is based on three observations; 1) racial inequality looks the same across institutions, 2) socio-economic difference does not explain racial inequity; and 3) inequities are caused by systems, regardless of people’s culture or behavior. This metaphor shifts the perception that instances of racial inequity are a problem in isolated spaces. Racial equity data in the field of interpreting and interpreter education has remained sparse since the early 60’s. Demographic data in the interpreting field reveals White interpreting practitioners make up nearly 90% of the field with no significant change since 1991 (RID, 2018). National trends in public education show over 80% of U.S. teachers are White (US DOE, 2016), and nearly 90% of full-time professors are White (The Education Advocate, 2019 February). Although anecdotal evidence suggests attrition of students of color in interpreting programs is significantly higher than for white students, understanding the mechanisms can lead to dismantling the systems that contribute to disparate and disproportionate outcomes.

Equally important, there is no research to date that has examined whether and how White ITP students and interpreting practitioners are or are not being prepared to identify and interrogate racial inequity. With 90% of the interpreters serving communities of color being White, we must better understand the impact of a vastly white interpreter workforce on deaf people of color and indigenous communities. The starting place for developing this understanding is, first, understanding what it means to be White, as well as, understanding the structural mechanisms of working within predominantly White academic systems.

This interactive workshop will explore three main themes; first, what evidence exists that structural racism is at play in maintaining a dominantly White interpreting profession? Next, what does it mean to be White within academic systems structurally designed to maintain inequity and status quo? Lastly, we will explore various strategies for identifying racial inequity within ITPs, and discuss ways for elevating the racial consciousness of white students, while improving outcomes for students of color.

Participants will be able:

  • To examine and discuss the mechanisms of structural racism in academia which serve to maintain racial inequity within the interpreting field
  • To examine and discuss the invisibility of Whiteness and its effects on systems, students, and the racially diverse deaf community
  • To explore and discuss whether and how White students are or are not being prepared to function as future interpreting practitioners in a
    racially inequitable society
  • To explore and discuss strategies for elevating the racial consciousness of white students while improving outcomes for students of color

A white woman with short reddish hair looks up at the camera and smilesKellie L. Stewart is the current ASLEI Program Coordinator and faculty member at the University of Northern Colorado. She is a veteran interpreter educator with experience teaching in traditional and online courses at the associates, bachelor and master levels. Her doctoral studies at Northeastern University included a focus on curriculum, teaching, learning and leadership. Her research interests include decision-making, the effects of implicit bias on ethical decision-making, racial equity, and culturally relevant and responsive teaching and learning.

Kellie’s personal journey into racial equity work began many years ago culminating in master’s and doctoral coursework on race in education and race within the context of social justice, as well as, participated in the Race Matters for Juvenile Justice’s (RMJJ) Dismantling Racism Training. Kellie has committed to infusing conversations on racial equity into her teaching practice with interpreting students and is committed to long-term projects and actions contributing to social change.

A black woman with ear-length black and grey dreadlocks wearing a light tan vest and necklace smiles in front of white cinder-block wallElita Hill provides consultation and technical assistance regarding practices and policies that create racial inequity within companies, as well as, served as Diversity Chair and Board Member of Omni Montessori School. Elita has conducted continuing education workshops focused on racial equity, interpreting in specialized medical settings, biology, and professional regulation/licensing systems.

At Language Line Solutions, Elita assesses the interpreting skills of the staff interpreters. Elita has provided technical assistance to health agencies and community organizations to create programs that were accessible to the Deaf community and has served as the ASL interpreting consultant for regional theatre organizations. Ms. Hill is a current member of the Advisory Board for the Central Piedmont Interpreter Training Program in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as, coordinates the ITP student internship program at Language Line Solutions. Ms. Hill is a nationally certified interpreter, MHFA-certified and is licensed in North Carolina and Arizona.