Martin's Big Words
Book Review: Martin’s Big Words
January 12, 2018
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Intersectionality from So You Want To Talk About Race

~ Intersectionality ~

"We’re still waiting. We’re still hoping. We are still left behind." Ijema Olu

Are you struggling to talk about racism? Are you concerned about racist attitudes and beliefs as manifested in our most public figures? Do you truly want to broaden your view of injustice?

So You Want to Talk About RaceIjeima Oluo, editor-at-large at the online magazine The Establishment, has just published a book every person who struggles with these questions should read: So You Want To Talk About Race? (January 2018)

Building on her life experiences, Oluo explains in clear, forceful language why institutional racism and prejudice inform every part of our society. Oluo tackles the tough issues – privilege, school-to-prison pipelines, police brutality, cultural appropriation, and a plethora of up-to-the-moment issues that all of us, no matter who we are, need to consider and incorporate into our daily struggle for justice.

Intersectionality, for example, is something that has not been addressed sufficiently on our blog. In fact, that lack is one of its major weaknesses.

What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality is being cognizant of the fact that oppressed people are subject to multiple threats. Sure we can talk about racism in general terms. But it not merely a question of what race a person is that affects how they are treated or what injustices they face, but rather how rich or poor they are, how old they are, what gender they are and so on.

Racism co-mingles with sexism and class and ethnicity and ageism and all the other biases. When we look at only one factor and address only one issue, we miss the others.

Breaking free from single-minded approaches to injustice forces us, according to Oluo to “interact with people we have not reached out to before.”

In her discussion of intersectionality, Oluo provides a rich set of questions to inform our conversations with each other, to help us question what we read and the politicians we hear on the news and that help us step outside our comfort zone in our relationships with our family and friends, students and coworkers, and fellow human beings in general.

Based on Oluo, here is a version of her questions to apply to school and family and community group discussions.

  1. Do I consider how race, gender, ability, class, ageism, and sexism contribute to this discussion?
  2. Do I attempt to understand how the identity differences between me and the person I am talking to or listening to contributes to our conflicting opinions or perspectives?
  3. Do I examine and attempt to understand all of the identities being represented (or not represented) in this conversation?
  4. Do I look for who is missing from the conversation or what I don’t know and need to learn?
  5. Do I let the least privileged have access and priority in the discussions?
  6. Have I created a safe space where marginalized people are not afraid to speak up?
Intersectionality Chart

Source: The Learning Network

More readings on intersectionality:

Intersectionality in Real Life

The Learning Network

Ontario Human Rights Commission

How do multiple perspectives inform your conversations with others?

Join the conversation. We love to hear from you!

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