Dialogue on Writing: Rethinking ESL, Basic Writing, and First-Year Composition

By Geraldine Deluca; Len Fox et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 21
Fault Lines in the Contact Zone
Richard E. Miller

Richard E. Miller, author of As If Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education (Cornell University Press, 1998), is Associate Director of the writing program and an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. A frequent contributor to College English, his articles have also appeared in College Composition and Communication, Profession, and Cultural Studies. He is currently at work on The Hope Machine, which looks at the role writing plays in the internalization of institutional conflicts. The following article appeared in College English, 56, April 1994.

On the cover of what has turned out to be the final issue of Focus, a magazine “for and about the people of AT&T, ” there's a tableaux of five happy employees, arranged so that their smiling faces provide an ethnically diverse frame for a poster bearing the slogan “TRUE VOICE. ” Although the cover promotes the image of a harmonious, multicultural working environment, one gets a slightly different image of the company in the “Fun ‘n’ Games” section at the back of the magazine. In the lower right hand corner of this section, beneath a quiz about AT&T's international reach, there is a drawing of a globe with people speaking avidly into telephones all over the world: there's a woman in a babushka in Eastern Europe; there's a man with a moustache wearing a beret in France; and, following this theme and the telephone lines south, there is a gorilla in Africa holding a telephone (50). A gorilla?

Although Bob Allen, AT&T's CEO, has acknowledged in a letter to all AT&T employees that this was “a deplorable mistake on the part of a company with a long, distinguished record of supporting the African-American community, ” he has so far met with little success in his attempts to manage the crisis caused by the distribution of this illustration to literally hundreds of thousands of AT&T employees worldwide. First, the art director who approved the cartoon and the illustrator who drew it were dismissed; commitments were made to hire more minority artists, illustrators, and photographers; a hotline was opened up for expressing grievances and making suggestions; AT&T's Diversity Team was instructed to make recommendations

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