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.