Killing Black Agency

Error Correction: It turns out that Writey McScriberson is living in Illinois. When I wrote this post, I was under the misimpression that WM was located in the UK. My bad. I have not changed the text below, but any commentary speculating on differences between the UK and the US were obviously motivated by my own misimpressions, not the actual life, experience, or writing of WM.


Shiv’s blog is such a great source of things that need discussion, it is entirely unsurprising that another of her recent posts has inspired me to write.

As I try to do when blatantly ripping off ideas from Shiv, I will be writing about something she mentions but does not explore in depth and let her main points speak for themselves, as they do so reliably and so well.

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On the Corner: Postscript to a Beginning

Taking nothing away from the importance of the post on the birth of intersectionality, it was both a bit long, and it was focussed more on what Kimberlé Crenshaw thought than my thinking about her thoughts. There are some nuggets that I think are important, things that we will need to remember as we continue to explore Intersectionality. But I think they are best placed in this separate PostScript:

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On the Corner: The Birth of Intersectionality

Intersectionality as we know it today was given life by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and social theorist. In the talk that brought the metaphor of the intersection into public discussion, she first noted:*1

in race discrimination cases, discrimination tends to be viewed in terms of sex- or class-privileged Blacks; in sex discrimination cases, the focus is on race- and class-privileged women.

She then explained some of the consequences of this:

This focus on the most privileged group members marginalizes those who are multiply-burdened and obscures claims that cannot be understood as resulting from discrete sources of discrimination. I suggest further that this focus on otherwise-privileged group members creates a distorted analysis of racism and sexism because the operative conceptions of race and sex become grounded in experiences that actually represent only a subset of a much more complex phenomenon

But why not simply include Black voices in feminism and women’s voices in anti-racism and call it good? For Crenshaw, it was because the effects of multiple oppressions are not merely linear increases, not merely additive.

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