I begin this post by indicating that I am a cisgender, white male. Because of my privilege, I feel the need to not talk about these topics as it is for others to do. As a white male, I have no business discussing these topics.
- Accessibility is a requirement, not a favor.
- Intersectionality is not a checklist, it’s a necessary mindset.
- You DO NOT need to silence your voice. You DO need to amplify other voices.
Buchwald concludes with this statement.
Simply, this is not about me. This is not about you. This is not even about us. This is about everyone.
With that call to action in mind…let us begin.
Intersectionality is a way of thinking that takes into consideration the perspectives and experiences of individuals from underrepresented groups and marginalized populations. An intersectional approach recognizes that one’s social location ― often shaped by race, class, gender, and other dimensions of who we are ― creates multiple, interconnected identifies and distinct experiences. Employing an intersectional framework acknowledges that there are social systems in place that create barriers and challenges for some individuals, while simultaneously providing privilege and power for others.
Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the term intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations — race, class, and gender to create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The term first appeared in Crenshaw’s paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.
These intersections are what rank us as citizens of higher or lower status or power in the society we live in. This has the effect of placing individuals and/or groups in marginalized positions. Marginalized individuals are often regarded as an underclass and society doesn’t provide them with equal access to basic needs, work, education, welfare, or health care.
The interaction of these categories that build our societal profile contributes to social inequality and injustice. In turn this fuels forms of oppression towards groups belonging to one or more of these categories, which interconnect and ultimately create whole systems of discrimination that intersects with each other.
Crenshaw explains this below.
Intersectionality in Tech
As an educator, I’m interested in intersectionality and our use of technology in and out of the classroom.
I believe there is conscious and unconscious bias in our systems and structure. How do we unpack and dismantle these systems to make them more equitable for students, faculty, and staff?
Crenshaw highlights this in her 1991 paper Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color when she highlights how the understanding of intersectionality can serve as a basis to address other kinds of marginalization. We can also use this knowledge to acquire social and political equality and improve democracy.
With identity thus reconceptualized, it may be easier to understand the need for and to summon the courage to challenge groups that are after all, in one sense, “home” to us, in the name of the parts of us that are not made at home.Kimberlé Crenshaw
Empathy and Inclusion
Do students, faculty, and staff feel like they belong in our systems?
How do we create a culture of inclusion, possibility, and awareness?
How do we open our hearts and minds to dismantle the system?
An intersectional lens offers us an opportunity to think about how different forms of oppression and privilege interact in people’s lives. This is a powerful opportunity to understand and explain situations, while also sketching out a strategy for addressing the situation. We have the opportunity to see things from someone else’s point of view.
If we focus on this situation from a deficit perspective, we will only see the negative elements. But, if we focus on the positives, we can consider inclusion, culture, and diversity across all learning environments.
Instead of focusing on power, perhaps we should think about happiness and suffering and how do we liberate ourselves from suffering. Shawntel Okonkwo suggests that if we want science and technology to truly change the world, we need to understand how overlapping forms of discrimination leave some people and perspectives out, and what it might look like to recognize and welcome inclusive participation.
In my own work, I want to move from just a true career, to finding true purpose, and ultimately becoming a true colleague.
I look forward to working with others to turn this into an action statement both at an individual and structural level. I look forward to opportunities to re-envision the recruitment, retention, and advancement of intersectional individuals in our tech and computing communities.