During Up For Learning’s most recent Racial Justice Dialogue, participants discussed the topic of “intersectionality.” Intersectionality provides a base for understanding how various components of a person’s identity and social positions intersect and interact, influencing their experiences and opportunities in society. It is a valuable tool for understanding the complexities of systemic privilege, oppression, and discrimination. Identities are the little pieces that make up who we are, and include race, religion, gender, nationality, ability, background and more.

Identities are multi-dimensional. Intersectionality acknowledges that people are not defined by one single category, but rather belong to many overlapping identities. It’s not always easy or fair to compare the experiences of each of our identities because of intersectionality, and how it changes so drastically from person to person.

It is also important to note the level of social privilege that comes with each part of our identities as people, and to acknowledge how each of our unique mixes of identities impact us, especially across different spaces. For example, objectively observable identities such as race, ethnicity, ability and gender expression have different impacts on people’s life experience compared to invisible identities such as sexual orientation, values, and some religious beliefs. Because it is impossible for me to speak on anyone else’s experiences, I will use myself as an example: I am a queer person, but first I am white and present regularly as a woman (although I don’t identify as such). By that, I mean that I encounter the queer experience both in queer spaces and non-queer spaces; however, before I am perceived as queer or gender non-conforming, I am perceived as white. This is important to note due to the intrinsic privilege that comes with being white.

In summary, intersectionality is a powerful and evolving concept that enhances our understanding of the complex dynamics of identity, privilege, and discrimination. It encourages a more inclusive approach to social justice, and provides a valuable framework for addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by individuals at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities.

By Ava Ferris, UP Youth Facilitator and Junior at Randolph Union High School