Changing Mascot Names

Working to end the use of American Indian names for sports mascots is an important LSJ initiative. The disrespectful practice of using indigenous names for sports team names is based on a violent history based on racism, colonialism, and systematic oppression. The LSJ initiated public outreach efforts to respond to these racist practices, and collaborated with the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, Committee for Human Rights Task Group, and Association of Indigenous Anthropologists. In March 2015 the AAA officially denounced these practices.


Dialogue on the “Word/Language Gap”

The “language gap” is a term meant to encompass a gap between the number of words young children from underprivileged backgrounds hear and those that children from middle-class backgrounds hear. The argument following from research and media on the “language gap” is that if these children hear more words they will then produce more words, test better, do better in school, and have more opportunities in life. If only this were the case. The LSJ emphasizes that this “blame the victim” discourse steers our attention away from the central issues of economic and structural inequalities, through a deficit model. We work to change the public dialogue on this matter through sharing our perspectives in a range of news media outlets.


Eliminate the I-Word

Ongoing debates about U.S. immigration reform have sparked calls for the media and the public to refrain from using terms like “illegals,” “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens,” to refer to unauthorized migrants. As scholars who study the ways that language constitutes culture and vice versa, it is intellectually and ethically imperative for linguistic anthropologists to contribute to this discussion. The LSJ Taskforce is committed to eliminating the I-word (‘illegal’) from mainstream public discourse. To this end, LSJ representatives (including in particular previous core member Jonathan Rosa) have worked to redirect the public dialogue through various media outlets.


U.S. Census Language Questions, Categories, and Labels

The American Community Survey (ACS) of the Census Bureau provides the only reliable data on language in the U.S., in order to comply with Congressional mandates, such as the implementation of the Voting Rights act, and to support interventions for those who speak a language other than English at home and do not speak English “Very Well”.  But those who reported they speak English WELL, NOT WELL, or NOT AT ALL are categorized together, and they were labeled Linguistically Isolated until the AAA (urged by our Task Group) and other national organizations lobbied against that term. As of 2011, the substitute label for this category is LEP, Limited English Proficient.  We are mounting a campaign against this inappropriate, incorrect, and limited label, as well as the grouping itself and the lack of questions concerning literacy skills, because misinformation about the language abilities of English learners encourages intolerance against speakers of other languages.

  • Society for Linguistic Anthropology letter in support of the American Community Survey, November 2012 [PDF]
  • “American Anthropological Association Spurs Elimination of “Linguistically Isolated” as Classification by the U.S. Census Bureau.” Press Release from the American Anthropological Association, May 2011. [PDF]


For more information about the SLA Committee on Language and Social Justice and its activities, or to get involved, contact Netta Avineri or other current core members.

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