Kimberle Crenshaw’s “The Intersection of Race and Gender”
Kimberle Crenshaw’s arguments and research in “The Intersection of Race and Gender” offer an insightful and probing look into the state of women of color in the current racial and gender climate of our culture. Her main point, that women of color experience both their race and their gender together in a way that is NOT mutually exclusive, as they are so often treated, and are informed one by the other and as they occur simultaneously, is one that almost sparks a flippant attitude of “No kidding.”
When the argument is first introduced, it seems to simple and so self-evident as to be self-explanatory (and taken for granted); at first it almost seems like a waste of time to be delving into something so painfully obvious. However, through her very thorough research and her carefully pieced argument which clearly shows how “X” relates to “Y” relates to “Z,” Crenshaw is able to take something that does indeed seem like it should be plainly obvious and more or less proves, as much as it can be “proven,” that even still today race and gender are not given the adequate attention the two together deserve.
As Crenshaw is painstaking to point out, both issues—issues of race and gender, that is—receive quite a bit of popular attention in our current culture climate. In fact, the issues have been made so big that they are difficult to contain in any one argument.
Nowadays, so many things become either an issue of race or an issue of gender, it is difficult to discern which issues legitimately need to be addressed by these “isms” and which have simply been lumped into them by sheer popular appeal (i.e., race and gender issues are the new hot-button “It” topic—if any discussion is going to occur on the large-scale mainstream popular platform of the media, one of the two had better be involved). However, through all of this seeming social desire to focus so much on gender and race, the fact that the two can also intersect and create a whole new array of complicated issues for a person and a culture seems to have been totally missed.
That last little bit is my own digression, and not part of Crenshaw’s argument; this is simply what struck me as so entirely shocking. While we’ve been so caught up discussing race and gender, we’ve completely missed the discussion of race with gender. Crenshaw has a plethora of information and examples to cite which show how race with gender has been entirely neglected by everyone, including the antiracists (who predominantly serve black men) and the feminists (who predominantly serve white women).
Here, Crenshaw further contains the overall argument into speaking strictly in terms of violence against women, and how violence against women of color is treated and viewed as being the same as violence against women in general, completely ignoring the deeper-lying complications of layers of different of social structures which affect women of color that DO NOT affect white women (something that, if women of color are to be treated in a way that is beneficial and acknowledging of them and their plights, simply cannot be ignored).
Again, Crenshaw brings so much “evidence” to the table that her point rings loud and clear: the separate and distinct plights of women of color are not recognized by any other vocal group as being anything noteworthy. And this attitude further perpetuates this belief of their own negligible experiences in the minds of those very same women of color. And so is the vicious cycle.
I found Crenshaw’s essay to be extremely culturally important and incredibly relevant. For as much as antiracist and feminist groups preach about “Otherness,” they too are guilty of “Othering” in order to further their own causes (or, worse than “Othering,” just flat-out ignoring).
Any effective kind of identity politic must be informed by all aspects of a person’s identity; not just race, and not just gender (or, for that matter, class, religion, sexual orientation, age, profession, education, employment history, disability, proclivity to heart disease, or anything else), but a combination of all the various intricacies that creates a person’s identity. To separate one out makes a person no less of the other, and the only way to truly address them is to do so in a way that accommodates how they all come together to form their own separate and unique experience. Perhaps this is where the postmodernists really got it right: identity is fluid, after all.