Just ICYMI: it's 2019 and Trump is allegedly our President, children are in cages, trans women are dying, Flint still does not have clean water, women are still fighting for equal pay, LA's homelessness rate has increased 12 percent since last year, Handmaid’s Tale is becoming more of a reality every day as the government continues to infringe on women’s reproductive rights, police are still killing POC without justifiable cause (if there is such a thing), and more than two million people are in jail for minor cannabis-related offenses while white men make billions. Are you tired? I'm tired. We could think of each of these issues as singular problems in the Latin community or the LGBTQIA+ community or the Black community or the poor communities America forgot about; or we could acknowledge the interconnectedness of our existences and experiences and fight discrimination and injustice together by making our voices heard and calling our government to action, together. It’s becoming too common for us to criticize and even exclude those allies trying to learn, understand and help simply because they’re “not doing it right” or still need to grow, as we all do. However, each member of a marginalized group faces at least one type of discrimination: racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, sexuality, citizenship status, social status, class background, religion, education, and the list goes on. The fight for change is not won alone or by one group because as MLK said, “no one is free until we are all free.”
"We have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates a vision of love with a vision of outrage." - Ruby Sales
Definition of Intersectionality
"the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage."
Used in a sentence: "...through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us."
Columbia and the University of California Los Angeles professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term 'intersectionality' in 1989, which initiated her work to demolish racial hierarchies altogether. She has mentioned that her message has been misconstrued by even those who claim to be in support of it, but regardless of the interpretation, one message is clear: the common enemy amongst us is the system set to divide and destroy us. This term is authoritative and relevant because it bridges gaps between groups and embodies allyship, which is precisely the purpose of TAYLOR + tess. Nothing pisses me off more than to scroll through an Instagram or website and see zero effort in visible diversity. My first and only question is: why should I give you my money if you clearly do not even attempt to support people that look like me? The discussion on identity and visibility is the segway to dismantling systemic racism, homophobia, gender bias, or in a word: bigotry. Perhaps if this theory became a focal point of our activism, we could effectively and more quickly affect serious change.
"The most important rule for an individual in this fight is to figure out how not to remain an individual...how to join a movement big enough to change the politics." - Bill McKibben
Our nation's most pressing problems are not single issues, just like an individual who qualifies for one protected class—race, gender, religion, disability, age, and in some states sexual orientation—likely is a member of more than one "category" protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Constitutional Law is my favorite chapter to tutor my college athletes—who are almost entirely Black males in revenue-producing sports, i.e., basketball and football—in for Sports Law + Ethics because I get to introduce the concept of protected classes and discrimination to a young student who probably needed a refresher on the Bill of Rights and who likely will never get another opportunity to learn about the justice system that often works against them. In 2017, writer Andrew Sullivan argued that intersectionality "posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of the human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., 'check your privilege,' and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay." While the experiences amongst marginalized groups are similar in nature, we must all acknowledge the privilege that we have over other groups lower levels of the social hierarchy. A white woman will never fully understand my experience as a black woman, just as I will never fully understand the experience of a transgender woman of color. Don't call yourself woke if you're not examining your own privilege and inherent biases and keeping them in check during the conversation. The evolution of the LGBTQIA+ community and movement proves that we can band together as “women, men, neither and both®” despite race, religion and sexual orientations. All of our perspectives and experiences are valuable and necessary.
"Once you find the truth, you ought to be prepared to stand on the street corner and use all your gifts to right the wrong." - Maya Angelou
My brand's mission was conceived during my most recent graduate program on performance psychology. While working towards my third (and so very final) degree, I became enthralled with the concept of identity and how it impacted our perceptions of self, belonging, and how we all move in this world and the spaces we have access to. I specifically studied the intersectionality of college athletes who are members of protected classes attending one of the most expensive private universities in the country, comparing their experience to that of their White classmates of privilege. I work with both groups of students daily. As one of the few persons of color in the lives of the athletes at this time, I am privy to learn what their experience is actually like versus what they feel comfortable sharing with administrators and coaches. Even if they grew up an hour away from campus, the diaspora of Black athletes is still experienced by them. They all left communities of family, friends, and faces that looked like theirs behind in hopes of a better future. They understand that their bodies are essentially a commodity, so many of them latch onto the belief that their greatest value is their athletic ability. They also understand that their experience in the sports realm is a reflection of society’s perception of them. Whether they are female, male, black, brown, straight, gay, Christian, or Muslim, they all endure the systemic racism, sexism, and homophobia while feeling like an outsider amongst the majority of their classmates. How we define ourselves can be limiting and divisive, but embracing intersectionality could open us up to an entirely new world of opportunity by learning to appreciate our differences and finding camaraderie in shared experiences.
"Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté." - Maria Popova
It can be challenging to explore our own intersectionality when we are so committed to fitting into one rigidly defined (and government-designed) box. I encourage you to think of everything on a spectrum: gender, sexuality, We twist ourselves into knots to fit into boxes that are often divisive and destructive not only to our own individual self-esteem but to our collective esteem. Lyft recently had a campaign that featured non-gender-conforming models and the tagline, "You are enough. Two boxes aren't." Trying to fit into boxes prevents us from ever standing out and shining as our authentic, best selves. There are divinity and depth in each person we encounter, but we have to be willing to reach across the table and connect to find it.
This is a very short discussion on a very complex topic, but I believe it is essential to start the conversation and to introduce Crenshaw's theory to anyone willing to listen. It is vital that we educate ourselves because that is how we empower ourselves. The fight is nowhere near over. TAYLOR + tess has a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do. Keep going.
"Hope dies last." - Jessie de la Cruz