The enthusiasm and excitement that surrounds International Women’s Day is truly inspirational.
In 1989 the term intersectionality was coined as a direct result of the influence and critical thinking of Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
Crenshaw is an African American Woman, Lawyer, Innovator and Advocate of social in-justices.
Her pioneering efforts gave us …a new framework to understand the places where oppression and discrimination meet and overlap.
Her point was not only to highlight the marginalized experiences of individuals; but more precisely to shine a light on the gaps where the experiences of different people and different oppressions intersect and thus, were compounded.
Her work reveals the sink-hole that is often overlooked, when calling for any kind of social change.
She identified the places of overlap that revealed, NEW and UN-explored areas that social advocates and social systems were neglecting at the time.
These places of intersectionality are still undervalued and overlooked in our calls to action for social change.
Crenshaw’s insights were drawn from a lawsuit filed by several African American Women against General Motors in the late 80’s.
A group of African-American women argued that they were experiencing compound discriminations that excluded them from employment opportunities.
The court declined to consider compound discrimination, and dismissed the case.
The case was thrown out but the truth these women illuminated, remains!
If you picture a typical roadway intersection with the traffic of sexism moving one way and the traffic of racism moving the other way, there is a place where these two groups meet and naturally create a compounded oppression.
In this particular case, in this time, in Women’s quest for equality and civil rights the black woman, became invisible
This place of intersection has been overlooked for way to long.
General Motors hired African Americans as labourers (which was progress), but they were all men, and they hired women as front office staff (which was progress) however, the women they hired were white women.
So the invisible oppressed they neglected to serve was the African American Woman.
There was no place of awareness and thus no place of advocacy for this specific type of compounded oppression in the center of this cross-section.
So great strides were being made in hiring practices toward African Americans and the hiring of Women, however, the marginalized experience of African American Women were not being recognized.
People could not see the unique marginalization and experience of African American Woman!
Because the courts had no prior experience with these forms of marginalization and no framework on which to view the different ways oppressions intersect; the women’s efforts failed and the case was thrown out.
Intersectionality serves as a framework for understanding that; class, race, sexual orientation, disability and gender do not exist separately from each other but are complexly interwoven.
Today I stand before you as a white woman, a lesbian, an advocate, a minister- ordained in the United Church of Canada- and as well as someone, who presents as gender fluid, and also as an individual who doesn’t fit the stereotypical idea of clergy.
When I am playing in the traffic of social advocacy for women’s rights and LGBTQ2+ rights and the progression of women clergy;
I must be mindful that I do not claim to speak (as if I know) the experience of a transgender individual whose culture and race is different than mine although we may share commonalities.
I recognize that although I experience various forms of oppression my white privilege is the lens through which I view the world.
This reality means that I must actively seek out and raise the voices of those who do not experience this privilege.
By actively seeking to understand our unique differences more acutely and, by listening to the voices of those in the center of the intersection, we are not creating more labels as some critics suggest;
We are actually empowering ourselves to be better advocates for all people in a more comprehensive way.
When we bear witness to the experience of each other’s humanity we become not only better equipped, advocates.
We become a much larger force enabling us to make an incredible impact, in terms of, systemic and social change!
Crenshaw’s insights suggest that “through awareness of intersectionality, all people can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us and negotiate the means by which these differences will find expression in conducting group politics”.
Awareness of the overlaps of oppression, I believe, is imperative, when considering social change, but even more so, it must be recognized by the systemic institutions that neglect to acknowledge its existence.
Intersectionality is a term that illuminates the invisibility of individuals within groups that claim themselves as members but often fail to represent them.
We see this dramatic example with the Black Lives Matter movement; this movement grew out of the need to raise the invisible voices buried deep within the LGBTQ2+ movement.
The LGBTQ2+ movement failed to recognize that a queer white person and a queer black person do not suffer the same experiences,
in fact the queer black person and their unique intersection of oppression was inadvertently, being kept invisible.
A significant portion of society responded by saving Well, All Lives Matter, this slap in the face serves as a direct example of the result of our lack of awareness of intersectionality and individual social groups neglecting their own.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Press for Progress”.
Progress I think means a dedicated and continued effort toward joining our forces, understanding our unique differences and including them in our call to action for radical change.
I’ve heard it said many times, let’s just focus on what we have in common; but I think this statement neglects to capture the unique diversity that makes up the beauty of the human race.
We must understand our differences so that we can work together as a common human people to create a force so large that it will impact not only our societies but the world.
I join with you in this fight and I stand in solidarity with all of you as we continue to hold the torch and run our distance, while educating our youth, because one day, we will pass the torch to them.
I thank the countless tireless women and men who trail blazed, fought and died for social in-justices so that I may hold the position I do today as an openly gay clergy woman.
And looking at this room tonight, I feel hopeful that we are still fighting the good fight.
When I see the youth of Parkland Florida rising to action the way they have, and the students at The University of Waterloo walking-out for Mental Health;
I feel hopeful and inspired to know that our youth will be there when we, in-turn, pass the torch to them.
Thank you, to all of you who work tirelessly every single day to make a better way of life for all people.
I am a representation that your efforts have never been, in vain.
Rev. Jenn Hind