A Brief Orientation to the Linguistics of Social Justice by Miguel Madrid ’21

My project focuses on the linguistics used regularly in social justice. Similarly to any language, there are specific key terms in social justice that represent differing identities. I chose three key terms, which were all connected by the letter “x.” Those three terms were “LatinX,” “Womxn,” and “Folx.” These terms have all fascinating histories dating back to the 70s, 90s, and early 2000s, yet the general misconception people hold is that the terms were recently discovered. Thus, I wanted to introduce the history of each term, provide a clear definition without academic vocabulary, and present the different perspectives surrounding each term. I also wanted to describe why the letter “x” is the marker for inclusivity in social justice. Lastly, my project aimed to inform high school students of these terms to help their transition from high school to college. Hopefully, my project gives students a better understanding of social justice and the terms used in social justice.

Sponsor: Cesar Cruz Benitez, Area Coordinator at Wesleyan University

Student reflection excerpt:

I can successfully say I feel comfortable speaking with other people about each term’s definition and history. When I first came to Wesleyan, I was a student coming from an inner-city unfamiliar with these terms. So, I feel tremendously proud to have gained a better understanding of each term and the definition of social justice in today’s world. I also learned while it may be difficult to ask questions about any subject, you should take the leap of faith and ask away. Throughout the project, I asked my sponsor an abundance of questions, and due to that, I learned so much. Also, it was beyond helpful to have a sponsor who knew the field of social justice well. Thus he was not only patient but passionate about the work too.

The only aspect of the project I would change would be the medium I used to present the work. While a pamphlet is ideal, there was also room to expand the project as a tik-tok series or something else.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to expand my project after the semester. I have spoken to a few people concerning the scope of my project. So far, faculty here at Wesleyan University have told me I could pursue a Ph.D. or even continue to expand by making it a children’s book series. There are many possibilities I can see myself attempting down the road as an educator.

Instructor reflection:

What a fascinating topic! As we all know, words matter, and finding the right language can help us understand and relate to ourselves and each other. Your work is especially suited for engaged scholarship – studying etymologies is valuable in its own right, but actually sharing what you learn is the only way that it will lead to positive impact for people who don’t study the same topic as you but who stand to benefit from the knowledge. I hope you will continue to share the booklet you made, and moreover, that you will continue to talk with younger students about the language of social justice, what you’ve learned through your research, and what they can do to engage with this topic themselves.