mapping the margins

The concept of political intersectionality highlights the fact that women of color are situated within at least two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agendas. The need to split one’s political energies between two sometimes opposing groups is a dimension of intersectional disempowerment that men of color and white women seldom confront. Indeed, their specific raced and gendered experiences, although intersectional, often define as well as confine the interests of the entire group. For example, racism as experienced by people of color who are of a particular gender—male—tends to determine the parameters of antiracist strategies, just as sexism as experienced by women who are of a particular race—white—tends to ground the women’s movement. The problem is not simply that both discourses fail women of color by not acknowledging the “additional” issue of race or of patriarchy but that the discourses are often inadequate even to the discrete tasks of articulating the full dimensions of racism and sexism. Because women of color experience racism in ways not always the same as those experienced by men of color and sexism in ways not always parallel to experiences of white women, antiracism and feminism are limited, even on their own terms.
—  Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”

honestly its suchhhhhh a pattern in social justice movements (and i say this for lack of a better catch-all term) for leaders to attempt to underscore the significance of an issue specifically by diverting it away from the preexisting cultural notions of the issue as it was experienced by black people and the terrible political and social suffering imposed on black people because of those notions.

and not to say that its bad that these tropes are being combated, because itd be great if they actually were ! but all thats happening is that these social justice authority figures are just trying to suspend peoples disbelief that its not exclusively a black issue (in a bad way) long enough to open their minds to the possibility of political actions towards an exclusively white end.

two examples cross my mind atm. first is kimberle crenshaws discussion of domestic violence in anti-racist and anti-sexist political movements. (this quote is from her article “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”, in the subsection entitled Race and the domestic violence lobby.)

Yet these comments seem less concerned with exploring domestic abuse within “stereotyped” communities than with removing the stereotype as an obstacle to exposing battering within white middle- and upper-class communities.
While it is unlikely that advocates and others who adopt this rhetorical strategy intend to exclude or ignore the needs of poor and colored women, the underlying premise of this seemingly univeralistic appeal is to keep the sensibilities of dominant social groups focused on the experiences of those groups.

my second example is assemblywoman Diana Richardson’s recent statement in the new york state assembly regarding drug justice / treatment. (the video can be found here, but it doesnt catch all of it sadly.) her anger is absolutely justified; drug laws have terrorized the black communities around new york for decades, but only when an “other demographic” is experiencing “drug problems” is it treated with care. even worse, theres no retroactive care, no reparations, no acquittals, no compassion for the communities and families and individuals torn apart because of oppressive drug policies. at the end of the video, assemblywoman richardson hits the mark when she criticizes not the fact that others are getting compassionate treatment, but that that compassion is at the expense of black people that were given no such mercy.

a new brand of political compassion that lacks a “restorative justice”, as assemblywoman richardson calls, it for those that have been cruelly and unusually punished in the past is not proper compassion, and a new brand of political compassion that only functions on the exclusion of those that have always suffered the most is not proper compassion.

Among the most troubling consequences of the failure of antiracist and feminist discourses to address the intersections of race and gender is the fact that, to the extent they can forward the interest of ‘people of color’ and 'women’ respectively, one analysis often implicitly denies the validity of the other. The failure of feminism to interrogate race means that the resistance strategies of feminism will often replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color, and the failure of antiracism to interrogate patriarchy means that antiracism will frequently reproduce the subordination of women. These mutual elisions present a particularly difficult political dilemma for women of color. Adopting either analysis constitutes a denial of a fundamental dimension of our subordination and precludes the development of a political discourse that more fully empowers women of color.
—  Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (July 1991): 1241-1299, 1253.
Contemporary feminist and antiracist discourses have failed to consider intersectional identities… I consider how the experiences of women of color are frequently the product of intersecting patterns of racism and sexism, and how these experiences tend not to be represented within the discourses of either feminism or antiracism.
—  Kimberlé Crenshaw, ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color’
Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as woman or person of color as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling.
—  Kimberlé Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color