Language is inextricably connected to culture. Since we’re all cultural beings, language is a part of our identity and humanity. These different forms of expression represent the beauty and value of our collective lived experiences. And yet, whether we choose to admit it or not, we make assumptions about people based not just on what comes out of peoples’ mouths, but how it comes out. There’s a disconnect when we hear a different intonation, linguistic variation, or pronunciation. Studies have shown that tracking youth into the prison system begins as early as preschool. Unfortunately, not every child is viewed as beautiful, strong, and capable. Why do we do this? Why do so many of us who try to help kids end up doing the opposite?
Perhaps the partial answer lies in implicit bias. Many of us are biased against other human beings without even realizing it. We judge people, including little children, on the basis of seemingly inconsequential factors, such as how they say what they say. We do so often without realizing it. When we imply, knowingly or not, that a child is inferior in some way because of his or her rich home language, we send the message that they are not valued and not good enough. These condemnations at such an early age are often repeated when a child speaks, and undermine children’s natural desire to learn and ability to thrive. Our children deserve better from all of us. It takes courage and wisdom to begin to address our own implicit biases.