New College Alumni Speaker Series
Social Justice (for Jeantel, Trayvon et al.): Fighting Dialect Prejudice in Courtrooms and Beyond
Thursday, October 12th , 2017
William Do Auditorium (45 Wilcocks Street)
Guest Speaker: Dr. John R. Rickford
The lecture flows directly from Dr. Rickford’s long-standing focus on sociolinguistics, especially his exploration of the relation between language, ethnicity, class and social structure. Demonstrating how language is inextricably woven into all domains of social life, including structures of justice and policing, he makes clear that we ignore the critical role of language in the everyday at our own peril. He has taken a strong professional interest in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman (which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement), and the treatment of Rachel Jeantel who was on the phone with Martin until moments before he died. Her African American Vernacular English during the shooter’s trial was pilloried on social and news media and, given dialect prejudice, contributed to the jury’s disregard of her testimony.