I represent three categories. I’m a woman who is African–American and I also have a disability.
The word for a person who is overlapping social identities and related systems is called intersectionality. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality. While I hate to admit it, I know my categories of my intersectionality often hinder my career success and life in general in many ways.
Women have been fighting for the right to be equal to their male counterparts since the beginning of time. To references the song of James Brown, the God Father of Soul, “This is a Man’s World”. Face it; we live in a male-dominated world. Women were not granted the right to vote until the 19th amendment came about in 1920. Today, women are fighting issues such as the right to earn equal pay for the work they perform. Women have fought so hard just to have their voices be heard and it has paid off tremendously. Who would have every thought a woman would be given the opportunity to run for president of the United States? Although James Brown was absolutely right when he concluded his sentence by saying, “the world would be nothing without a woman or a girl”, women will always have to fight to be recognized as being equal to men.
There is no secret to the discrimination that the African-American race has suffered over history and also still today. As an African American woman, I have come across some interesting information with this part of my intersectionality. According to the Census Bureau 2013, 64% of black women had white collar jobs, 8% had blue collar jobs and 28% were identified to have service occupation positions. http://blackdemographics.com/black-women-statistics/. Although I am very impressed to see such a high percentage of black women who obtain white collar jobs, it saddens me to see such a low percentage of women who obtain blue collar jobs. Blue collar jobs are basically the level where a person can earn enough money to support themselves or their family with occupations such as a factory work, administration duties or social work. Most blue collar jobs require a certification or degree of some sort. Fifty-seven percent of black women have attended college but only 31% have obtained at least an associate degree. I think these issues stem from black women suffering generational poverty and single parenting. Black women have taken the position to be the bread-winner for their family.
The third and final category that I represent is a person with a disability. People with disabilities are often looked upon as being weak due to their circumstance. The Americans with Disabilities Act that was signed into law in 1990 made it illegal for people with disabilities to be discriminated. But, to be truthful, I still see the looks of some when entering a room, pre-judging my capabilities just because I have a disability. Most people with disabilities do not focus on their disability because it is just life as they know it.
When reading Clutch Magazine, an article written by Britney Wilson caught my attention. Britney who has Cerebral Palsy, is African-American and attends a historically black college, shares an interesting perspective. Wilson says, “While I have no trouble wearing my racial pride on my sleeve, when it comes to being physically challenged, I have a tendency to stress my sameness, to prove or demonstrate my equality, in order to fit in, be granted opportunities, and ultimately, to succeed, and just like there is nothing like a “driving while black” episode to remind some people of who they are, there is nothing like a broken elevator to bring me down to size because “disabled” has not become an accepted minority.” http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/01/black-female-and-disabled-the-disintegration-and-continuation-of-struggle/. We as a population of people with disabilities are forever trying to break down society’s stereotypes just to have a seat at the table of acceptance. As a person with a disability, I am not asking for any special treatment but some accommodations and equal opportunities would be very much appreciated.
As you can see the three categories of my intersectionality are rather challenging but unique and make me who I am. My research on this topic gave me insight on why I’m so passionate in my fight for human equality. I know that there will be times when parts of my intersectionality will bring about an unjust reaction to me but as long as I am grounded in the roots that I represent, I will be fine. I stand firm and proud with my categories and hope one day all that will matter to people is if you have a good heart. What categories of intersectionality do you represent?
Thanks Keith! Hope all is well!
Shari, you are my hero. This was a great article and needed to be said. My intersectionality is also based on race-Native American, being a woman and also disability. Only my disability is not visible but mental. So I have to answer to all the above and then have an invisible disability. But your words give me hope that maybe some day things will change. Thank you.
Great comment Debbie! Thanks for sharing!
Shari, this is a hard topic to tackle. I love your perspective. Miss ya.
Thanks Melissa for challenging me to dig deep inside myself on this topic. Miss you bunches!
I too represent three. I believe that makes us not only unique but blessed because we have the ability to see beyond the physical and/or obvious. It’s like judging a book by its cover without bothering to open it and find out more. However, I find it sad when some of those we work with still are unable to see beyond “our covers”. I also stand firm that one day those categories will no have no bearing in our lives.
Well said Tracy! Thanks for the comment.
Great article, Shari! Your insight is so valuable to others! Keep on writing!
Thanks for your support Mary Ellen!
You’re an awesome Lady Shari! Thanks for keeping it real, we all need to hear it.
Thanks Cheryl for the comment and your support. I really appreciate it!
Thank-you for also being a great teacher and writer!
Thanks GESMV Employee for the comment.
Another population that experiences overlapping intersectionality is the LGBT community. As the parent of a Gay child, I haven’t had to deflect the discrimination that my son has, but I find myself braced for non-supportive reaction everytime I share about he and his husband, my new son-in-law. My husband I and couldn’t be more proud of them, their accomplisments and the joy they bring to our lives. But I, too, look forward to the day when there’s no longer an impending feeling of judgement.
Great Comment Nancy! The world would be a better place if everyone was as open as you.