Intersectionality is a term that came into light in the 1980s. While it is an important term, it is not widely known. It is, therefore, our obligation to educate ourselves as well as others on this term as we work to expand our knowledge on diversity, inclusion, and equity.
So, what is Intersectionality? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise”. Intersectionality was first used in 1989 by social theorist and law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw in her paper where she focused on different identities of Black women and how each of them informs one another to oppress them.
In this short clip, Kimberlé Crenshaw explains Intersectionality.
Personal Experience and Moving Forward:
As an undergraduate student, I was very involved on campus. Between all the training I went through, I learned about Diversity and Inclusion, however, I never learned about intersectionality. If I recall correctly, I first learned about intersectionality during the first semester of the graduate program. Since then, I have been part of various training and attended various presentations where the topic of intersectionality was discussed. As I now know the importance of the term and meaning behind it, I believe educators should focus on teaching intersectionality to students at an early age.
As a student affairs professional, I will be working with students and their families quite frequently. In order to make an environment inclusive and making sure everyone feels comfortable, I will make sure to be cognizant of the differences amongst people, avoid using generalized language that may be based on experiences of majority of people but not all, ensure that the space I create or work in is welcoming to all, and show up for those who may hold different identities than me and support their cause in fighting systems of oppression.