The term “intersectionality” became part of my vocabulary less than a year ago. I probably discovered the term buried amongst the hashtags and rants of my twitter feed. As a small-town Midwestern girl who considered herself a feminist, I agreed with the discussions about intersectionality I read. However, the definitions I encountered never really helped me grasp the term.
After watching Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk, The Urgency of Intersectionality, I gained a much better understanding of intersectionality and its importance, and am left searching for how I can incorporate intersectionality into my life.
In her TED Talk, Crenshaw provided a clear visualization to help me better picture the concept of intersectionality. After sharing the story of Emma DeGraffenreid, a Black woman that took a workplace discrimination lawsuit to court on the groups that she hadn’t been hired because of her race and gender at the car plant where she worked. The judge dismissed her case because the car plant employed Black men and employed women. What the judge failed to see was the intersecting issues of race and gender discrimination that prevented DeGraffenreid from being hired. Crenshaw tells the audience to picture DeGraffenreid at a crossing between two roads: one road of race and another of gender. Because DeGraffenreid is both identities, she faces a discrimination that is both harsh and typically unrecognized.
Intersectionality is important. I realize now that so many matters are intersectional: gender identity and socioeconomic class, sexual orientation and race, and so many more identities. Crenshaw explains that because of our society’s blindness to issues concerning intersectionality, something as dire as the loss of lives is looked over. She states, “Black girls as young as seven, great grandmothers as old as 95 have been killed by the police.” If we do not recognize this intersectional problem, then serious problems like police brutality will continue to haunt the lives of racial minority women.
After listening to Crenshaw’s powerful Talk, I was left wondering how I could help open other people eyes to the unspoken stories that concern intersectionality. Of course, as it often does, the answer came to me in relation with my life’s dream: writing. When I become a journalist, I want to work hard to ensure that intersecting issues are represented in the media. And because I am clearly not an expert on intersectionality yet, to reach my goal I will have to devour the words and ideas of those who are intersectional experts to correctly amplify the voices of those who are unfortunately kept silent. When Crenshaw mentions the media, I feel as though she is speaking specifically to me: “Why is it that their lost lives don’t generate the same amount of media attention and communal outcry as the lost lives of their fallen brothers? It’s time for a change.”
So, I am adding “intersectional” to my long laundry list of characteristics I need to fulfill to be an outstanding, ethical journalist/feminist/activist that properly serves the world. And this does, admittedly, overwhelm me. There is still so much I must learn and must become that being the journalist/feminist/activist I want to be almost seems comparable to the impossible, naïve childhood dreams I once thought possible. To combat my self-doubt, I continue to study and open my mind to new ideas, absorbing as much of the world as possible.