Intersectionality – A blog post by Beth Elliot

Recently I wrote about how it is a good time for all the groups and committees at UUCB to re-establish our covenants. This moment also affords us a mandate, as a faith, to review and renew our covenants with people who are marginalized, like women, BIPOC and LGBTIQ+. These covenants are broken. They need our attention, our commitment, and yes, even our discomfort. 

Repairing these covenants requires us to continue to hold space for learning and listening. Honoring the ever expanding vocabulary of anti-oppression work is essential. One important term in anti-oppression work is intersectionality.

The term “intersectionality” was coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Intersectionality accepts that differing identities can combine in ways that impact both priviledge and discrimination. For example, a Black man faces racism. A Black woman faces racism and misogyny. A Black, trans womxn faces racism, misogyny, and transphobia. A Black, trans, queer womxn faces racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia. Furthermore, a Black woman’s experience of racism will be different than a Black man’s, because misogyny shapes the racism faced by Black women. No aspect of our identity, whether privileged or marginalized, can be treated in isolation.

Therefore, intersectionality is also important as a way to understand how the very systems of oppression are all linked together. Can we address racial justice without addressing economic justice? Things like reproductive freedom, food deserts, immigration policies, education, and voter suppression do not exist as discrete systems. They are all interconnected. 

Our faith already recognizes the interconnected web of all existence. Intersectionality fits well into that Principle. During last Sunday’s service I spoke about the damage of individualism and how it cuts us off from others and how we are sold an American Dream, based on hard work and achievements. However, we hide the fact that hard work and achievements are treated differently if, for example, you are Black or identify as female, or the intersectional impact if you are both. The rugged individualism of the American Dream doesn’t recognize that the choices we make have an impact on others and that we share in communal responsibility. This faith believes that the antidote to the white supremacy myth of individualism is mission and covenant.

Living in covenant requires us to continually call each other back in. Let’s pledge to continually remake our covenants to be inclusive and expansive. Let’s recognize the complexity of intersectionality and reflect that in our work, mission, and covenant.