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Linguistics Program Issues Official Statement on Black Lives Matter

The Linguistics Program stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and its goals of social justice, healing, and liberation from white supremacy and institutionalized racism. The recent public murder of Mr. George Floyd, in addition to other black murders both public and private, which are often a result of excessive and brutal policing in black communities, is rooted in both covert and overt forms of white supremacy. We recognize that covert and overt white supremacy is pervasive at all levels in our society and we are committed to doing our part to disrupt and dismantle these systems. As linguists, it is part of our academic discipline to educate communities regarding discrimination against varieties of African American English (Black American English). The devaluation of the language and expression of black people and other communities of color is rooted in white supremacy. We recognize that what is regarded as Standard English, and most frequently studied, is a white variety of language. We recognize that our Program needs to prioritize, amplify, and center the voices and needs of the black community. We must use our power as educators to authentically and transparently represent the languages and cultures of black people as well as those of other communities of color and indigenous communities. We need to recognize the related historical and contemporary narratives that reinforce discrimination. We live in a country of systematic and institutionalized racism. It is past time to face it head on. We will make mistakes, but we will also make room for feedback, acknowledge those mistakes and formulate a plan to make amends when they happen.

As a next step, we will be sending out a survey within the next two weeks to our students to gather input about how we as a program can step up. (If you have an immediate concern please reach out to any faculty member or the director.) In forming part of the William & Mary community, it is of vital importance that we develop anti-oppression and anti-racist frameworks, unpack our own biases, and develop meaningful and impactful policies and practices that promote equity, equality, and most especially accountability in collaboration with our communities, colleagues, and students. Black. Lives. Matter.