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The Kaleidoscope of Intersectionality

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Intersectionality is a theory that explains the interlocking relationships between our social attributes such as race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. I have learned through researching this issue that each of these attributes cannot exist without the others, and that every individual’s life chances and life experiences are affected by these connecting systems of oppression. Here is a quote by Bell Hooks which perfectly explains this:

“I began to use the phrase in my work “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality and not to just have one thing be like, you know, gender is the important issue, race is the important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way, a sort of shortcut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives and that if I really want to understand what’s happening to me, right now at this moment in my life, as a black female of a certain age group, I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of race. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of gender. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking at how white people see me.”

Hooks has helped me understand that to look at these lenses of in equality altogether, as I would need to have a kaleidoscope to see all the points of connection and that just with the slightest turn, the life chances and experiences change as does the picture. As intersectionality continues to be a problem, it currently affects many families and individuals especially in the areas of health care, education which I have chosen as ways to illustrate the connections between race, class, and gender.

Education is one system that is very disproportionate to the upper, middle and lower classes. These differences begin as early as elementary school and continue into high school and eventually in college. It is not a secret that private schools have better resources than public schools, and that it is upper and middle class children who are attending the private schools. Public schools are funded by a society that is shows its prejudices by not providing the same resources that private schools have. Children who are born into lower class families automatically have different life chances because of the poorly funded schools they attend. High Schools are just as bad by not creating a usable learning environment with the tools needed for success, like computers and up to date textbooks. Today, most high schools have computers which are used as a teaching tool as well as prepare the students for the future. When students are not able to learn what they need to, their life chances are severely decreased. Colleges accept money for tuition, but they also accept class status as a way in. Some Ivy League Schools accept people based of the class, or legacy families they were born into.

Health care is always a concern, but even more so when dealing with race and gender and the disproportions of care that is or isn’t available to these groups of people. Available health care means health education for women and teens, free clinics, good doctors, medicine, and proper nutrition for children and pregnant women. Families living in low income urban communities are predominantly black and cannot afford health insurance, which means they go without. Health care for women is a concern because women have children. If women cannot get health care to help take care of them and their children, then the quality of our future will inevitably be poor. It is import that children get the proper nutrition needed for normal brain development. When health care isn’t provided to everyone, it decreases the life chances and the quality of life within these communities of people.

One thing that we have to remember is that we don’t choose these attributes that make us so different from each other. The prejudices that are attached to intersectionality affect people’s life chances or in other words, their resources and opportunities. Although it seems stereotypical, people in higher classes, who are predominantly white, have better resources and so usually have better health care, nutrition and education, while lower
classes, racial minorities and the women and children in the groups tend to have the opposite.

Work Cited:

Academic Essays:

Jackson, Pamela Irving. Tipping the balance toward optimism. Change. Nov/Dec93, Vol. 25 Issue 6, p35. 1p.

Noel, J. (2010). A Critical Interrogation of Privilege, Race, Class, and Power in a University Faculty–Urban Community Relationship. Urban Review, 42(3), 210-220. doi:10.1007/s11256-009-0131-4


Hooks, Bell. “Educational Videos About Media, Culture, and Society For The Classroom.” Media Education Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2012.

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