Featured Photo: Nathan M. Smith
Written By: Francis Borrasso
Intersectionality can be defined as “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect,” (Merriam-Webster). Because of intersectionality, people can fall into several categories of discrimination just by being themselves.
The easiest way to demonstrate this is by taking a look at liberation movements. The Civil Rights Movement went from fighting for African American freedom, equal treatment, and acceptance to African American male freedom, male equal treatment (to that of white men), and acceptance of the African American males in society. In this instance, African American women were marginalized in, what was essentially, their own movement. This is not the last instance.
The Feminist Movement can be described as fighting for women’s equal rights in a very general scope. When we look at literature, historical documents, monuments, they focus on white, straight women. Again, people of color are marginalized in this movement. And now, we see that LGBT people are also being excluded from these movements.
The LGBT Liberation Movement wanted safety, acceptance, and equal treatment for its members. There were several groups that were marginalized and excluded from this movement. This includes: people of color, bisexuals, transgender/transsexual, and, in some cases, those that identified as gay/lesbian but did not follow a heteronormative relationship dynamic (male/female roles).
Despite the fact that those who were marginalized and excluded from these groups/movements were fighting the same institutions of oppression and oppressors, they were still left out. They were “Kanye’d” in a way: I appreciate your support and I’m going to fight for your rights too, but mine first.
Now, why does this happen? Why is it so easy to leave people out? I believe Patricia Hill Collins explained it well in “Toward a New Vision” when she says, “…these dichotomous differences must be ranked. Applying this premise to discussions of oppression leads to the assumption that oppression can be quantified, and that some groups are more oppressed than others.”
In order to affect real, substantial, and sustainable change, we need to come together. We are all fighting the same institution of oppression. Even those with “privilege” can face discrimination. I have heard others tell white, cisgender males that they have no room to complain, they have it “easy”. We can’t know what someone’s situation is just by looking at them or by assuming their race, class, or gender. We need to end the idea that oppression has to be quantified and that whoever has the “most” stacked against them, or whichever group is the most visible is the one who can speak for the others. We have seen this fail time and again within other liberation movements; we have to try something new in order to succeed, otherwise societal norms will continue to divide and conquer and apply Band-Aids to situations requiring surgery.
Photo: Facing Climate Change