Op-Ed: Bias Against African American English Speakers Is a Pillar of Systemic Racism

Sharese King, assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago

In the national conversation taking place about systemic racism in the United States, one important element should not be overlooked: linguistic prejudice.

African American English, like other dialects used in the U.S., is a legitimate form of speech with a deep history and culture. Yet centuries of bias against speakers of AAE continue to have profound effects on employment, education, the criminal system and social mobility. To attack systemic racism, we have to confront this prejudice.

Of course, some of the greatest examples of American oratory and literature have roots in AAE, also known as African American Vernacular English. The works of Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison are infused with AAE. Its significance cannot be understated when examining the speeches of orators like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama. 

Three Division of the Humanities Faculty Receive Named, Distinguished Service Professorships

Frances Ferguson

Thirteen University of Chicago faculty members have received named professorships or have been appointed distinguished service professors.

Profs. Clifford Ando, John Birge, Frances Ferguson, Vinay Kumar, Ka Yee C. Lee and Linda Waite received distinguished service professorships, while Profs. Neil Brenner, Junhong Chen, Scott Eggener, Timothy Harrison, Eric Pamer, Mercedes Pascual and Brook Ziporyn received named professorships.

The Berlins Endow New Chair for Assistant Professor in English Language and Literature

Timothy Harrison

Compelled to make the humanities relevant to UChicago students’ lives, Timothy Harrison focuses on creating and nurturing an intellectual community—within and outside the classroom. For his scholarship and his engagement with students, Harrison received the inaugural Chair for the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature: Masterpieces from 1500–1700.

“By every measure of scholarship, pedagogy, collegiality, service, and impact, Tim is worthy of this named professorship,” said Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Music. “He brings great distinction to the Division of the Humanities, and I am delighted that we now have this public recognition of his accomplishments.”

Why We Can't Turn Away from "Gone with the Wind"

Jacqueline Stewart by Joe Mazza of Brave Lux

By Jacqueline Stewart

(CNN) Just before the Covid-19 quarantine, I joined my fellow hosts on Turner Classic Movies for an "Old Hollywood" fashion photo shoot for Emmy Magazine. But when the spread came out, I could not bring myself to post the photos to my social media. As an African American cinema and media studies professor, how could I promote the glamour of classic Hollywood when our current media landscape was exploding with scenes of racial crisis?

Day after day, I scrolled through posts decrying the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. For weeks, video after video showed the escalating protests against police brutality and the brutal treatment of protesters by police. It seemed inappropriate to share shots glorifying Hollywood's golden age in this moment of mourning and mobilization. Moreover, the classic films we showcase on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) have played a major role in perpetuating the racist beliefs that devalue Black lives and normalize the use of excessive force against Black people.

No wonder that many viewers were outraged when HBO Max rolled out with the Civil War romance "Gone with the Wind" on its roster. HBO Max has temporarily pulled the film with the intent to return it to their service with additional historical context.

Pages

Recent Tweets

Events

  1. More