Leading the Way on Language Justice

July 10, 2015

As an economic justice organization we recognize that language is power.  The language of economics is used to distort, deceive and distract when people are suffering from things like poverty wages or unemployment.  A big part of popular economics education involves breaking through the jargon so we are not fooled by the language of so-called experts.  At United for a Fair Economy, language justice is integrally tied to our work.

It continues today and it is these dynamics of power that language justice seeks to address.  In their Language Justice Statement, Wayside Center for Popular Education explains: 

“Language is power. Language can determine whether a person or a community has access to—or is shut out from—decision-making processes and persons, resources, information, and services…The goal of language justice work is relatively straightforward: language access as the great equalizer. It promotes autonomy and self-determination by making sure that everyone’s voice is heard and that all of the transmitted information is relayed…It teaches that interpretation is not in the service of the non-English speakers but rather for everyone that does not share a common language.” 

The emerging field of social justice language work goes by many names in English: language justice, multilingual capacity building, language access, language work, social justice interpreting, multilingual justice, etc. Whatever you call it, the central idea uniting all of this work is a power analysis around language as something that can exclude, include, or transform. Historically, English language dominance is an axis of power in U.S. society (for example, the language of economics can be used to maintain or deepen wealth inequality), but we have the power to change this from the grassroots.

That's why we're excited to present a workshop titled "Multilingual Justice: Beyond Translation" at this year's Netroots Nation conference. This is one of the largest gatherings of progressive people and organizations in the country. On Friday Morning our Executive Director Jeannette Huezo, and our friend Tony Macias will be presenting on this important topic. All information about our presentation can be found here. We hope to see you there!

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