Intersectionality – The multiplications of oppression

Fareeha Usman, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Manager, Dynamo North East. 

 

Intersectionality – an introduction

Intersectionality – a term that that was first coined by the black feminist scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989 to educate people on how a person with a variety of identities is crucified with discrimination. She has spent years and years putting her thoughts into a theory to make the world understand how different identities of a person can add up to the level of prejudice and unfairness they face. Even now, when people around the world are fighting for their fair rights and equality, intersectionality is still an alien concept to most of them.

People do not realize that we are not only divided into different genders, but we also have different sexuality, ethnicity, color, religion, caste, class, disability, and much more. We as human beings are so much more than what we seem and that usually remains undercover. But the ugly mindset of the world we live in makes it even more difficult for us to accept that.

Being looked down upon at your workplace, your school, your neighborhood, or just in daily routine such as going to the market or walking on the street is something that needs to be lived to be understood. We tend to ignore the severity of the situation here – like what kind of an impact it would have on the victim’s mental health and their perception of themselves as a person.

The more “intersected” you are, the more problems you are subjected to face. It is not the addition but the multiplication of oppressions.

 

How the intersectional discrimination mechanism works:

We as humans tend to think that somehow, we are superior to the other person. This egoistic approach sometimes forms a part of our conscious and sometimes our subconscious mind. Some people think that they are entitled to achieve success just because they are “better”.

They will unintentionally look down upon someone different than them, not because they want to but because it is what they have been taught and trained to do. Some people are manufactured in a way that shows some beliefs are deep-rooted into their existence.

Where they should be showing empathy, they show neglect and negativity. A very common example is of someone who happens to be differently-abled in our society. Life already is a challenge for them, where they need our support and confidence, they are showered with pity and degrading remarks. It becomes even tougher when that differently-abled person is a woman, or from a disadvantaged or an ethnic minority background. The world just seems to seize the opportunities from them as their different identities are connected.

Whether it comes to you intentionally or unintentionally, you must NOT practice these behaviors of condescension.

The story of my life:

I personally believe that intersectionality is a term that should be celebrated but instead it is treated as a curse in the world we live in. Give it a thought, the more identities we have, the more stories we have to tell, the more love and experience and skills we have to share with the world. I as a Pakistani, woman of color living in Britain, who has survived violence and racism at the core have so many things to share with the people I meet. I can make delicious Pakistani food for you, as a woman, I can celebrate my femininity, as a woman of color I can cherish that I am different and as a survivor, I can honor my strength and set an example for those who are younger than me and as a woman in Tech I can code an app.  But it saddens me to state that even now, I face racism, I am discriminated against, and that discrimination does not only come from being a woman; that’s just the first step, it then moves to my nationality, my color, my race, age and so on.

What needs to be done:

To unravel this deeply embedded pattern of immorality, we need to understand that our race, color, sexuality, gender, appearance, etcetera are things that we DID NOT GET TO CHOOSE. We were not given a form before our birth to fill in and apply for the most privileged class to save ourselves from this tyranny. This is who we are and we do not have to change our roots to impress the world. Yes, we need to be better people, better versions of our own true selves to set examples, but we do not have to recreate ourselves to fit in.

The more diverse people are in their existence, the more beautiful they become.

It is obvious that another person will be different from you in one way or the other, obviously, they will be. Just like we have different DNA and fingerprints, we all have different ways of being and that is not a crime, therefore someone different than us, should not be punished with humiliation and unfair treatment.

If you are someone who has been subjected to intersectionality, hear us out at Dynamo North East…. We understand how it feels, We know you feel low on yourself sometimes but it’s high time to stop doing that. You don’t have to let go of the things that make you, YOU! Be empowered and proud of your origin, culture, history and your reality. Your story is just as important as anyone else’s.

If you would like to have your say around EDI please write to us at Fareeha.usman@dynamonortheast.co.uk

 

Watch the second episode of of the 6 month series around Dynamo’s EDI action plan presented by Fareeha Usman on the Dynamo YouTube channel

Listen to Fareeha’s latest podcast here: What is intersectionality and how are we surrounded with it?

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