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Young activists define true intersectionality

Young activists define true intersectionality

Intersectionality, a term widely used but misunderstood by many, was the focus of a student roundtable held on Wednesday, Feb. 28, as part of Hofstra’s Civil Rights Day 2018 celebration.

“Intersectionality is the idea that something that you identify with could marginalize and overlap,” Panelist Jacinda Wadhwani, a senior psychology and religion major, said. “I can’t choose between being black and being a woman. I am both at the same time, so therefore my fight or anyone who is fighting for anything that I identify with have to overlap, whether you agree with it or not.”

The term was coined by civil rights advocate and leading scholar for critical race theory Kimberlé Crenshaw, whose TED Talk was featured at the start of the event hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement last week.

Wadhwani discussed the major relationship between intersectionality and activism throughout the event.

The women’s movement is a perfect example of how activism failed in the context of intersectionality, according to Ja’Loni Owens, a junior public policy and public service major.

“Feminism and the entire movement for women’s liberation has historically excluded women of color, so a lot of women of color have just not been invested in it until its third wave,” they said.

Those exclusive foundations continue to impact movements today and can be seen in contemporary initiatives, according to first year history major Rosario Navalta.

They said, “The problem with that movement is that the women’s march used to be a march for race. It was specifically that. White women took that and then excluded women of color and people of color from the narrative.”

For students like freshman Odessa Stork and junior Jocelin Montes, both journalism majors, the event was a real eye-opener as to how to be a better ally to marginalized intersectional groups. “Their goal is to unify the liberal front by making sure that no minority groups are excluded from the narrative so that they can better rise above the opposition and make their voices heard,” Stork said.

Montes said, “What surprised me the most is how much of a separation there is [between] the black and LGBT community at these marches and within these organizations.”

Kristen Misak, a graduate assistant for the Center for Civic Engagement and the co-coordinator for the event, emphasized the importance of a discussion about intersectionality specifically at Hofstra.

“While we do have a very diverse student body at Hofstra and we do have students that are really interested in activism. Sometimes they have trouble, I think, blurring the lines between different groups of students,” Misak said.

Another point discussed by the panel was the disconnect between the term “intersectionality” and its users. Senior women’s studies major Tess Griffin explained that negligence of the term actually makes things worse for minorities. “When we say intersectionality is used carelessly by people who aren’t of color and don’t understand what it means, what this actually does is [minimize] the role that racism plays in the struggle of minorities,” she said.

This is why the panelists encourage people to get educated and to remain courteous of the movement. Not only is this the right thing to do, explained panelist Maria Zaldivar, but it also allows for more appropriate activism. The junior women’s studies and journalism major said, “It is important to be aware of intersectionality ... and [to check] yourself constantly in order to apply it to your own advocacy.”

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