There are many misconceptions about intersectionality, as well as campaigns from the news media and politicians to discredit it. It is no accident that racism, sexism, and many other forms of discrimination are still prevalent today. There are powers that be, with lots of money no doubt, who still cling to it because it is profitable for them. As Crenshaw states – “Conservatives have painted those who practice intersectionality as obsessed with ‘identity politics.’ Of course, as the DeGraffenreid case shows, intersectionality is not just about identities but about the institutions that use identity to exclude and privilege. The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture.
Others accuse intersectionality of being too theoretical, of being ‘all talk and no action.’ To that I say we’ve been ‘talking’ about racial equality since the era of slavery and we’re still not even close to realizing it. Instead of blaming the voices that highlight problems, we need to examine the structures of power that so successfully resist change (Crenshaw, 2015, para. 9)”. Crenshaw is correct. We have been talking and talking about racial equality for an insanely long time; and yet it is still a massive issue. One might go so far as to say that it is still as alive and well as it was during the time of slavery. People have just found quieter, more underhanded ways of being racist. Of course conservatives are going to paint a movement that promotes equal rights for women, people of color, the LGBT community in a negative light.
It isn’t in their own “best interest”, and they have to financials to back them up. Which brings me to my next point- acknowledging privilege is hard. “Some have argued that intersectional understanding creates an atmosphere of bullying and ‘privilege checking.’ Acknowledging privilege is hard – particularly for those who also experience discrimination and exclusion. While white women and men of color also experience discrimination, all too often their experiences are taken as the only point of departure for all conversations about discrimination. Being front and center in conversations about racism or sexism is a complicated privilege that is often hard to see (Crenshaw, 2015, para. 12)”.
As a white, straight woman, who grew up decidedly middle class, I know that I am privileged. It was not something that I was conscious of until I moved from my homogenous hometown of 2000 people to Minneapolis, a huge, beautifully diverse city that is teeming with culture and life. It is strange to think that an idea or grievance that I present might be taken more seriously or as fact, when a person of color, or of a different religion or sexual orientation might not be. I know that I bear a strong responsibility to make sure these groups are heard, to work the system, so to speak. Finally, we know we cannot do without intersectionality to build social movements for change, but utilizing only words will not make the changes that are needed.
“Intersectionality alone cannot bring invisible bodies into view. Mere words won’t change the way that some people — the less-visible members of political constituencies – must continue to wait for leaders, decision-makers and others to see their struggles. In the context of addressing the racial disparities that still plague our nation, activists and stakeholders must raise awareness about the intersectional dimensions of racial injustice that must be addressed to enhance the lives of all youths of color (Crenshaw, 2015, para. 15)”. Instead of simply writing about or speaking about intersectionality (i.e. thoughts and prayers of the internet world), people must take action. We must recognize that there are multiple ways that people struggle with discrimination, and look at different perspectives while talking about issues. Even working together with people from many different walks of life will make efforts toward intersectionality so much more effective.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé “Opinion | Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 Mar. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/.