Intersectionality is a framework that aims to understand that a person’s discrimination and privilege are all dependent on their individual social and political identities. It shows that everyone experiences both empowerment and oppression uniquely.
Intersectionality is often absent in critical conversations relating to policy and law making despite our knowledge of its importance in these settings. Which leads me to this question, how can policies be made when the people they are affecting aren’t present in the conversation? The duty of policy making is often left to a homogeneous group of people who aren’t even affected by the issues being discussed. How is there productivity in a conversation where everyone involved falls into the same race, sexual orientation, economic class and are able bodied?
To answer the question, there isn’t a productive conversation happening as everyone agrees with one another because they only face certain challenges on a daily basis. For example, there can’t be a conversation about women’s rights in a room full of men because that’s simply an experience they don’t have. The same way we can’t make policies relating to disability, sexuality, race and class in a room with only able bodied, straight, white, upper-class men.
If we aren’t including minority and marginalized groups in important conversations, then we are creating a cycle where we are making the world more comfortable for the privileged few.
Recently in a (virtual) meeting with young people in the country, we discussed climate change and how we can curb the impacts and minimize any further damage in our cities and communities. Intersectionality is a point that was brought up that I think is crucial even in conversations that aren’t about social or economic justice, but also in those concerning our planet.
The most important thing is that these conversations need to be heavily focused on those who are affected most by these issues. It is of utmost importance that we familiarize ourselves with the struggles we may not face directly. We must have the empathy to not only learn about what others go through, but make an active decision to help in any way possible. This can be done by including marginalized groups in these crucial meetings because any changes in policy affects them the most, and if they aren’t represented well, it will only make their situation worse.
By turning a blind eye to those around us who are constantly silenced, we are only allowing the cycle of discrimination and inequality to continue. This is a message for the world. Quit having conversations about things that concern everyone in the world with a niche and homogenous group of people that don’t represent all of us. Intersectional conversations are the way forward! Open the door to that boardroom, or parliament and let us in. We deserve to have a say in what happens. This is our world and our futures too!
- Audre Lorde