Tipp: “Intersectionality 101” with Kimberlé Crenshaw

“A lot of the problems we face today grew out of intersectional failures of yesterday”, Kimberlé Crenshaw, the female black civil rights advocate, feminist scholar, and law professor, began her keynote at the Women of the World Festival 2016, earlier this year. Crenshaw, who helped to coin the term intersectionality in the 1980s, elaborated in her talk on the meaning and usefulness of intersectionality. A great deal of her explanation illuminates, why the concept is so important until this day and accounts for difficulties of addressing diversity without borrowing from her terminology, which explains why the intersectionality is an omnipresent term in most of the short expert statements we posted here in this blog in preparation of our WeberWorldCafé “Diversity – Limits and Opportunities”. Since modern multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies are complex hierarchies, and forces of oppression work from several directions at once, intersectionality has become an incredibly helpful analytical tool to address the overlapping, entangled structures that characterize almost any form of discrimination and social inequality that is part of human everyday life to this day. It allows people, both scholars and activists, to name and approach the multidimensional interplay of markers of human identity, such as gender, race, class, sexuality, age and able-bodiedness. The intersection, the image the term intersectionality borrows from, was, as Crenshaw explicated the most obvious choice for a metaphor to put the experience of being disadvantaged from more than one perspective: “If you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you are likely to get hit by both”, pretty much like a person standing in the middle of a crossroad.

Through teaching, writing and activism, Kimberlé Crenshaw spent the last 30 years speaking up for people at the crossroads of race and gender. Along with the African American Policy Forum, which she co-founded in 1996, Crenshaw has been at the vanguard of social media initiatives and real-world programs like #SayHerName and #BlackGirlsMatter, that fight violence against women of color. If you want to keep updated on her latest projects and activities, you can follow her on twitter (@sandylocks).

The video of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s keynote address is available on YouTube.

If you prefer a short, written summary, Crenshaw also participated in the annual TedWomen’s event last month, where she addressed similar issues on the unique challenges facing women and girls of color when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and well-being. A short recap can be found here.

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