Letter to the Editor: Intersectionality is ‘a promise to the marginalized’

Daniel Capote/Stonewall Pride Alliance President


Intersectionality is a framework used to look at how our interconnected identities coordinate our lives.

These identities are comprised of our sex, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, nation of origin and so on. Each is a road that intersects at a specific address and people are subject to different experiences depending on their own addresses.

For example, civil rights activist, lawyer, author and episcopal priest Pauli Murray once wrote “Black women, historically, have been doubly victimized by the twin immoralities of Jim Crow and Jane Crow.” The phrase “Jane Crow” here describes the way in which black women face discrimination from both sexism and racism.

A queer person who is deaf would have a vastly different relationship within the LGBTQA+ community than a queer person who is not deaf.

The unique experiences of Cuban immigrants shape their world in a way that is different from the experiences of immigrants from other nations.

Trans women of color have an intersection of identity that is so stigmatized in our society that they are some of the most vulnerable among us to poverty, violence, and incarceration.

All of these are examples of how illuminating an intersectional perspective can be, which is why it’s important for contemporary activism.

Social justice movements from our nation’s past have almost never taken an intersectional look at progress. Social support for needy families was originally a patriarchal attempt to keep widowed mothers out of the work force by having the government provide the income their husband would have made, but this system was uncaring of the needs of poor black mothers and unmarried women who had children.

The “Lavender Scare,” a witch hunt conducted in the 1950’s in order to find and fire queer people working in the federal government, intensified the feelings of fear and dread that community faced during an era already riddled with anxieties about nuclear war.

Betty Friedan, a leading icon of feminism’s second wave, coined the phrase “Lavender Menace” when describing the threats she felt lesbian women posed to the emerging women’s movement.

All of these are examples of how progressives in the past have trampled over the less fortunate in order to achieve their goals.

Intersectionality is a promise to the generations of the marginalized, the institutionalized, and the brutalized, that we will never inflict on others the injustices they faced simply because of their identities.



Letter to the Editors are published once a month. They are not written by FIUSM staff but by members of the FIU community.  If you would like to submit a letter, please email it to opinion@fiusm.com


Image retrieved from Flickr.

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