Abstract Along with its focus on foundational research, one of the enduring concerns of variationist sociolinguistics over the past half‐century has been a tradition of application and engagement. As research paradigms have developed in variation studies, so have traditions of engagement with issues of social and educational language equality. In the formative era of the field, the primary concern of engagement was one in which sociolinguists took a strong, united stance on language variation as simply ‘different’ rather than ‘deficient’. This stance has had a strong impact on language assessment in determining language normalcy in early child development and beyond. In the period of ‘proactive engagement’, sociolinguists aligned with technological development, producing sociolinguistic audiovisual materials, physical and digital museums, social media, and other venues for raising language awareness consonant with the age of digitisation. The current period of raciolinguistics examines more critical, systemic issues of colonialism and structural racism confronting the field, ranging from the significant under‐representation of minority scholars in sociolinguistics to confronting sociolinguistic inequality in institutions of higher learning where most sociolinguists reside. The essay further addresses the devaluation of engagement in the academic meritocracy, despite recent attempts to legitimise engaged research, arguing that engagement provides social meaning and personal gratification for the professional sociolinguist.