A little girl looks up at a woman at a protest.
Image Source: Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

The Role Intersectionality Plays in Justice for Black Women

Breonna Taylor deserves justice.

“Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was in her home in Louisville, KY on March 13th when officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department barged in without a warning nor announcement and broke through her door, fired off more than 20 bullets, and ultimately took Breonna’s life. 

Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thought someone was burglarizing their home and fired his gun to defend himself. But in turn, the officers responded with a hail of bullets and turned an average morning into a tragedy. The police were at the wrong house. There was no search warrant that gave them the right to be there in the first place.

Despite the clear and egregious misconduct of the police officers, Kenneth Walker is being charged with attempted murder and the murderers who killed Breonna Taylor are walking free without any consequences.”

This is quoted directly from the Color of Change petition. Please take action by signing.


TAKE ACTION

• Honor Breonna Taylor today by completing the action steps on the #BirthdayforBreonna campaign, created by Cate YoungPlease do as many as possible.

• Using the examples of intersectionality below, ask yourself: Who in my life is more marginalized than me based on their identity? How can I use my privilege to advocate for their rights? 

How did I not hear about this?”

This was an egregious misuse of power. And although Breonna Taylor needs no accolades or professional career to be celebrated, she was also an award-winning EMT worker on the frontlines as COVID-19 unfolded across the globe.


Why wasn’t her story heard?”

Our understanding of police brutality against black people is centered on black male victims. And understandably so – the murders of Trayvon MartinPhilando CastileEric GarnerGeorge Floyd, and many other men garnered national attention and outrage. Black men have been centered as the symbol of Black liberation since the anti-slavery movement. But this leaves injustice and outrage reserved for men and minimizes the response to the same violence against black women. Brittany Cooper, author, teacher, activist, and cultural critic, explains this thoroughly in her recent Time magazine article and in this analysis on Twitter.

We have even further minimized the voices of Black transgender women in this conversation, who are disproportionately targeted and victimized by the police.

To understand why elevating black women in this social justice narrative is important, you must understand intersectionality. 


“How does gender, sexual orientation, etc. play into racial discrimination?”

Intersectionality is defined as the “complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” 

This term was created by lawyer, civil rights advocate, philosopher, and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw* to describe how gender, race, class, and other aspects of our identity come together to inform how we walk through life.

Intersectionality helps us acknowledge that identifying as a “white woman,” for example, comes with race privilege and gender inequality. Someone that identifies as a “gay man” means, based on the term, that they are likely to be oppressed by their sexual orientation and receive privilege based on their gender.

Intersectionality operates as both the observance and analysis of power imbalances, and the tool by which those power imbalances could be eliminated altogether.”

Jane Coaston, in The Intersectionality Wars on Vox

Many white women will try to equate or minimize race discrimination with their gender discrimination. Don’t do this. There is no such thing as an adequate comparison between racial and gender discrimination. Besides, remember that there is space for all of us. Race equity does not take away from your gender equity. Centering those most marginalized within the feminist movement is critical for moving forward.

*Follow Kimberlé Crenshaw on Twitter and support her organization, The African American Policy Forum (AAPF), which “acts as an innovative think tank that connects academics, activists, and policy-makers to promote efforts to dismantle structural inequality.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

• Intersectionality looks at how multiple factors of one person’s identity can further marginalize them from access, opportunity, and equity.

We must center those most marginalized in all movements. We do that today by honoring Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday.

• White women should not equate or minimize another person’s racial discrimination through their own gender identity.

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