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It’s Black History Month: Let’s Talk Intersectionality

Happy Black History Month! I wanted to provide a brief history on a word we see quite a bit during February and many other months — “intersectionality.” If you already know what that means, great! But if you’re not sure, I’m here to help!

Google defines intersectionality as “an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. Examples of these aspects are gender, caste, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, disability, physical appearance, and height.”

laptop open to Google search bar
Photo by Benjamin Dada from Unsplash

If you want to go beyond Google and learn the multifaceted ways intersectionality plays out in many peoples’ lives, the piece  “Black Feminism and Intersectionality” by Sharon Smith is a great start. Smith defines intersectionality simply as a concept that describes the way multiple oppressions coexist and are experienced by Black women. Kimberlé Crenshaw, the founder of the term intersectionality, uses the analogy of a traffic intersection as a means to describe the word. In Crenshaw’s traffic analogy, intersectionality is the intersection as a whole. Discrimination is the traffic that flows both ways, and if an accident were to occur, it would have happened because of cars not only coming from one direction, but all four directions. 

People Walking on Street
Photo by Burst from Pexels

Similarly, if a Black woman is discriminated against, it is likely that the discrimination happens through not only one way of traffic, but all ways. Sexism and racism lead to discrimination, as opposed to one or the other. The term intersectionality describes how discrimination through sexism and racism is a simultaneous occurrence faced by Black women. 

A key factor of intersectionality is that the various oppressions are not suffered separately at different times, but rather that they are experienced all at once. Grasping the meaning of this word helps define the multi-level experience that many minorities, specifically BIPOC, have faced for centuries. While we celebrate Black History Month, it is critical that we define and understand this important vocabulary all year round.

Hello everyone! My name is Aemen (pronouns: she/her), and I am currently a 3rd year Junior Transfer student at UC Berkeley! My major is English with a minor in Public Policy. In my free time, I enjoy writing, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends. I also love listening to Investigative Journalism podcasts, my favorite is Serial!
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