Linguistic Diversity as a Social Justice Issue

In The Danger of A Single Story, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks a lot about power; the power to shape the narratives of what is defined as desirable, as good, as inferior, as truth. It’s important to acknowledge that power also shapes the way languages and dialects are perceived in terms of what is acceptable, or not in society.

This spoken word performance by Dr. Jamila Lyiscott serves as another reminder of that reality, as well as the existence of resistance to it.


“Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator,” and this powerful spoken-word essay celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

The writing center at my current institution has a Linguistic Diversity Initiative that is built upon the assertion that no dialect is superior. I collaborated with some of the staff there to facilitate a Teach-In Workshop on Students’ Rights to Their Own Language, which acknowledged the role of white supremacy, colonization, and other dominant forces that contributed to the power dynamics that situate “Standard English” as the norm.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones


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Relando Thompkins-Jones

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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