Most of you have heard the word “diversity” – the concept that means having a range of people with various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds and various lifestyles, experience, and interests.
When multiple identities intersect, it’s referred to as “intersectionality” and it’s important to think about when reflecting on ways to incorporate diversity and promote inclusion. For example, a trans black woman may experience the world on the basis of her sexual identity, gender and race, all of which intersect as part of her unique experience living her life.
Intersectionality is important to consider when we think about oppressional forces like the power of norms and systems that are designed for the traditionally powerful identities. Intersectionality shows us that social identities work on multiple levels, resulting in unique experiences, opportunities, and barriers for each person. Oppression of each social identities is dependent on each other, and cannot be reduced to gender or race alone, for example.
This might seem obvious when we talk about identities that are often talked about in the news, media, movies and at our dinner tables – things like racism, sexism, wealth. But there are other identities that contribute to who has power and who is marginalized. Things like ability, sexuality, body size, language, wealth, citizenship, housing and more.
The Wheel of Power/Privilege visual is a great tool for self-reflection on your own relationship to power, and how certain identities move people further or closer to marginalization. People who are marginalized often exist within systems that are not designed with their needs in mind, and what means they face barriers and challenges that may seem invisible to you.
Consider how your social identities play into your privilege.
We’ve used this tool at team meetings to reflect on inclusion and deepen our understanding of equity and diversity. As a group activity, encourage the team to reflect on their identities and assign a score to each slice. The identities closes to power are worth 3 points, the middle tier is worth 2 point and the outside ring is worth 1.
To learn more about intersectionality, we encourage you watch this TEDx talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw.