Saturday, March 12, 2016

Intersectionality - Do I Owe Loyalty to My Race or To Other Women?

As a black woman in a free, racially diverse society such as the USA you will be faced at least a few times in your life where you feel pressured to choose between standing by your black  "brothers" or standing with your white female counterparts against male chauvinism. It can be extremely uncomfortable for you and there is no right answer. Intersectionality is a fact of life for most African-American women. She must learn to calmly and gracefully maneuver situations on a case-by-case basis. The fact of the matter is that women of color are most often "claimed" by the equality causes, viewed as supporters of the larger causes - whether they be racial or gender-based - and it is implied that "they will get their turn once the larger issues are taken care of". It is very important that you not feel pressured to choose and you do not "owe" your loyalty to anyone but to your own intuition. From Wikipedia:

"Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, KimberlĂ© Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination."

Two of the biggest cases in the United States which likely brought many Black women face-to-face with the issue of their own intersectionality were the murder trial of OJ Simpson and The Clarence Thomas hearings. We can also add to that the more recent blow up of the rape allegations against Bill Cosby.

You might run into everyday situations that pull at your loyalties. One Twist Out Girl reader told us:
I was having a drink out one night with two of my closest girlfriends who happen to be white.  We were busy talking and laughing so I had not noticed a brother who had been staring at me for several minutes from another table.  One of my friends mentioned it to me and said, "Gosh that man can't keep his eyes off of you!"
When it was time to leave, we paid our bill and walked outside headed  towards the parking lot.  Suddenly a voice came from behind us, "Excuse me."  We turned around and it was him.  He was a nice looking guy, wearing a business suit, of average height; if I weren't already dating someone I might have given him a chance. He continued, "Can I speak to you in private?"
Before I could even respond, one of my friends went into "attack mode", almost like he was infringing on her property.  I know she felt she was doing it to protect me but I thought it was a bit overboard when she said to him "She doesn't go anywhere without us!"
I could see he was annoyed by her but he continued, "Um, can I have your number?  I'd like to take you out." Whether my feelings were right or wrong I don't know.  All I felt was that I didn't want to dis a brother, especially in front of white people; but I didn't want my girlfriend to feel that I didn't appreciate her well-intentioned attempt to protect me as another woman.  I was also flattered that he risked humiliation in front of my friends and I admired that he remained composed even after the earlier exchange. 
I handled the situation by thanking him for his invitation and asking him a few questions about himself. We chatted for a few minutes. He was an IT Engineer, worked in Silicone Valley.  I told him he could give me his number and maybe I would call (I knew that I wouldn't). He said, "Please do." and he left, I believe, with his male ego still intact.
Intersectionality is not only based on issues of race verses gender.  Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

Have you ever had an experience with intersectionality? Tell us! How would you have handled the situation described here?  Post your comments below and share this post with your friends.

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