In our April 2023 Unlearning Racism support space for white people, we looked at Intersectionality and why an intersectional lens is important, particularly when considering the complex marginalisations that happen around race.
Ijeoma Oluo in Chapter 5 of her book So, you want to talk about Race explores personally how
- Their queer identity may be overlooked by anti racist movements
- Their black identity may be overlooked by feminist or queer movements
- Their middle class identity may cause them to overlook poor people in all movements
This is the essence of Intersectionality: it is an invitation to explore our identities in order that parts of us don’t fall through the cracks of connection, and that we might be better equipped to understand other people’s experiences of marginalisation.
What we did in the session
If you missed the session, we watched 3 min section starting at 56 mins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByiEt0hpmkk (total video length 1hr 18 mins and we will discuss parts of this video in the future)
We then explored these questions:
What would be the areas of identity you might overlook or not notice because they are not part of your identify?
Whose experience would be inaccessible to you because of that?
And What action might you take to counter this or do this differently?
- For example, I’m a cis-woman, I put my pronouns on my screen as an act of solidarity with non binary people
- Im an able boded person, I try to name accessibility in venues I use, so disabled people don’t have to always ask for the information they need to come along.
- I’m a white man. I tend to read books by other white men. I can create change by finding my knowledge and learning in works by black women, or people from the Global South.
We then went on to ask this question
What other examples can you think of, that if you didn’t hold awareness of different identities people occupy, that part of their experience would go unacknowledged, and could create huge conflict and imbalance in life?
Further exploration …. How Intersectionality evolved as a concept
You can watch Kimberley Crenshaw talk about the original case involving Emma Degraffenreid that led to coining the term Intersectionality. https://youtu.be/JRci2V8PxW4 (5.50 mins)
Emma Degraffenreid was an African American who didn’t get a job in a car plant that employed African American men on the factory floor and white women as secretarial support in the office. Her lawsuit for discrimination was thrown out because black men were being employed and white women were being employed. But Emma Degraffenreid faced double discrimination as an African American woman and the law refused to understand her experience and tossed the case out of court. Kimberly Crenshaw advocated that there was no name for the problem, and when you can’t name or frame a problem, you can’t solve it, hence the need for a lens, such as Intersectionality to see Emma’s dilemma.
An ‘Intersection‘ is more commonly used in the US than the the UK. It’s simply where two roads meet, so if the word crossroads or junction provides a visual image that might support understanding, go for it!
About Unlearning Racism
Unlearning Racism is a support space for white people interested in NVC and we meet monthly. Info here
It is co-held under the umbrella of pre-emptive work by the Conflict Transformation Weave.
For those of you who are interested in conflict facilitation, understanding systemic issues such as explicit and internalised racism, class, gender inequality, neurodivergence and physical mobility and how different aspects of these identities ‘intersect’ (or ‘crossroad’ each other) is essential.
It’s also essential as a facilitator to have a sense of how your own social identities impact and inform your experience (who can you easily empathise with and who not, as just one example) and a sense of how other people experience you as you show up in all the glory of the intersecting features of your identity.