Janina Klimas

Languages and Cultures, Racism and Bias

The world is having a long overdue reckoning with race and treatment of people of color. Languages and multicultural education have never been more important than in this moment. As we know, languages don’t only offer us the words and codes to understand and create messages to share with people. Languages offer us a unique view into the lives of the people who use those words and codes.

In this presentation, I will share the story of my grandfather, Benner C. Turner, the grandson of slaves. Despite earning two degrees from Harvard, he was never admitted to the bar in his home state of Georgia. He opened the first law school exclusively for blacks in the U.S., and eventually became president of the university. He had some very controversial views on segregation. His life experience at that time offers perspective on a world that doesn’t celebrate other cultures.

Languages and cultures are inextricably intertwined. The polyglot community does important work to promote intercultural understanding through sharing their stories, tips, research and strategies with people wanting to learn more languages. This work promotes the understanding of other cultures and people. They are multicultural educators. In addition to talking about the work the community does without necessarily intending to, ways to actively support and expand this work with intentionality will be discussed through talking about The Wandering Scholar–a foundation that funds study abroad for students from underrepresented backgrounds. The work on anti-discrimination being done by the Anne Frank Foundation, further work we can do, as well as ways we can actively participate in their projects and learn languages at the same time will be shared.

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