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“Not another black life!” was chanted several times during the pandemic marches for Black Lives Matter in Toronto in early 2020. In one of those demonstrations, I walked with the crowd for about two hours, some chanting out loud while others were just singing and dancing. Suddenly the march became a mini party across the street from the Toronto police headquarters until we were told to disperse and use different streets to evacuate the premises to avoid police persecution.
Ben Calman is a master’s student in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE) at McGill University. His current research focuses on linguistic inclusion of international students in Canadian higher education.Ben was born in New York and spent his formative years there and in Washington D.C. He has a B.A. from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He lives in Montreal with his wife Michelle and their cat Louise.
My friend Austin, a fellow student in my cohort at McGill, refers to us fondly as baby scholars. As a baby scholar, entering the field of sociolinguistics in what McGill still refers to as the Second Language Education concentration is a daunting task.
Sifting through what Marshall and Moore (2018) call the “panoply of lingualisms” (p. 1) often feels less like sifting and more like hacking through a dense jungle of wonderful, intriguing ideas.
Language has always been a site of political struggle. All people regardless of their race, religion, age or gender are now being affected by COVID-19. However, to deal with the unprecedented global emergencies, different governments and community groups are using language to achieve varied political ends. While in some situations language is employed as a positive tool to democratically reach all people to inform and protect, in others it is weaponized for socially exclusionary purposes.
As a white French heterosexual Québécoise, I know for a fact that life is pretty easy for me. If I’m in a job or apartment hunting, I have a good chance to find something convenient. If I travel, crossing borders is, at worst, a loss of time and, at best, a way to practise my languages. No one questions my last name, my skin colour, my nationality, my sexual orientation, my intentions, or my dangerousness. I understand that this is no coincidence. I am not a particularly lucky person. In fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It’s all about privilege.
Now more than ever, we need art to inspire hope and change in the world. The arts—poetry, music, literature, visual works, film and other forms—enable us to feel emotion, gain the perspective of another, challenge assumptions, and provoke new ways of thinking and understanding. Continue reading →