I’m a queer man of color. As such, I am deeply impacted by intersectionality, a theory which asserts that people are often disadvantaged by multiple types of oppression, such as racism, homophobia and classism. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a lawyer and a scholar on critical race theory, coined the term in 1989 when she published a paper in the University of Chicago Legal Forum titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex.” In a recent interview with TIME, Crenshaw said intersectionality is basically “a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”
I first learned about intersectionality during an undergraduate sociology course at Lebanon Valley College, a predominantly white institution in Annville, Pennsylvania. For me, it was revolutionary to be able to give a definition to the feelings and experiences — such as working at a small firm that affirmed my sexuality and welcomed my blackness as long as I didn’t speak out against racism — I’ve encountered as a result of my social and political identities.
After leaving Lebanon Valley College in 2014, I enrolled in law school at Penn State, where I focused intentionally on queer theory and critical race theory. There, I developed a key understanding that while the law is sometimes presented as a neutral source of authority, it is far from that. Rather, it is the sum of a robust negotiation of identities in which some are elevated over others. Take Degraffenreid vs. General Motors as an example. In 1976, five Black women sued General Motors due to their de facto last-hired-first-fired policy, which resulted in the termination of all but one Black woman, who worked as a janitor. The plaintiffs argued they were discriminated against due to both their race and gender.
However, a federal district court ruled that discrimination may only call for action in instances of race discrimination or sex discrimination, but not a combination of both. In many cases, this one-dimensional understanding of discrimination still exists today. And that’s problematic. Because forcing Black women, or any person who exists at the intersection of marginalized identities, to litigate the totality of their identity in separate boxes, creates an impossible legal burden for recovery that is at odds with their lived experiences. (Continue reading from WHYY)
The Pride movement itself began as a protest. The historic Stonewall Riots in 1969 played an important role in liberating the LGBTQ+ community and demanding equality. This year Pride organizers say it’s more important than ever to recognize that many of the leaders of this movement were people of color. Among them were two transgender women who were at the forefront of Stonewall: Marsha P. Johnson, who was black, and Sylvia Rivera, who was Latinx. Organizers say Pride programming must reflect and stand with the current protests against racism—that demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black Americans is at the heart of what Pride symbolizes.
“You have people who believe that Pride and these protests are mutually exclusive, and that’s absolutely not true,” says Carolyn Wysinger, the board president of San Francisco Pride. “That idea stems from the whitewashing of Pride. The original brick was thrown by Marsha P. Johnson at Stonewall. One thing that we’re going to be focusing on in this year’s Pride is really making sure that people understand that Pride’s original intent was to defend black bodies—that black queer bodies are always just as violently targeted, sometimes more so than straight counterparts.” David Correa, the interim executive director of NYC Pride, agrees with the sentiment of protesting and solidarity this year, adding that, “Pride has always toed this line between protest and celebration. It might be more so in the protest realm this year—and I think that’s great.” (Continue reading from Vogue)