Intersectionality and its Importance to Black Lives Matter
By: The Archive of the EIE Blog Committee
We often hear the cliché that there are two sides to every story, but it seems that many people in our country still struggle to understand the meaning of this phrase. In our society, the problems that we face are never as clear as they may appear to be.
This complexity can be seen in various aspects of our daily lives, but there are many examples of this occurring in 2020. COVID-19 plagued the United States more than any other country and there is no one reason to blame for the tragedy.
The plague of racism that persists during this global pandemic is not, by any means, an exception. As we have seen throughout history, and especially during the summer of 2020 after the cruel and unjust murder of George Floyd, people are quick to blame a tragic death on a victim’s actions without taking into account other important factors that may have led to an unfortunate outcome. It was only through through investigation of obvious facts and the willingness of many in America to finally see the truth about police brutality and hatred towards African Americans in this country that allowed consequences to be doled out for the murderers of George Floyd. For this very reason, we must include intersectionality in our discussions about racism and how it continues to affect people of color in the United States.
Essentially, the theory of intersectionality is that social identities often overlap (or intersect, hence the name) with each other and make oppression more complex. People who are members of multiple marginalized groups are more highly discriminated against than others in different ways, such as pay, hiring practices, and involvement in activism and the social sphere of society.
A popular example of this is the gender wage gap. Women are paid (on average) 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes. However, being a person of color makes this pay gap more dramatic for several reasons. Not having access to the same opportunities, disproportionately working in undercompensated jobs, and more contribute to the wealth gap between white and minority groups and bolster the systemic poverty that remains in the underclasses of American society.
The importance of intersectionality stretches beyond financial issues. Considering people’s multifaceted identities allows us to better understand diverse issues in all aspects of life. Dec. 3 was National Disability Day, which provided an opportunity for people to educate themselves on how disabilities impact other people they may interact with on a day to day basis. For disabled Black people, the danger of becoming a victim of police brutality is a terrifying threat because of the inability to be mobile in a threatening situation. Black people are already disproportionately killed by police, and more than a third of all victims of police brutality have a disability whether it be mental or physical. Clearly, there is a major connection between senseless violence, race, and disability that needs to be addressed nationally on a deeper level.
Everyone has multiple identities that contribute either to their privilege or their likelihood of being discriminated against. Examining these different identities more closely is crucial to understanding the complexity of many of our nation’s issues. Understanding intersectionality is key to allowing us to better analyze how to combat the consequences that come along with ignorance and blindness to the realities of race-based interactions in the American landscape.