Power, Privilege, and Oppression: Intersectionality

By Brianna Prazen

Many members of the Angelica Village community who are marginalized struggle with a concept referred to as “Intersectionality”. This means that an individual may identify with multiple identities that intersect and create a new identity altogether. This new identity is often overlooked because people tend to focus on one aspect of the identity and struggle to view the person as a whole.

For example, a woman named “Raven” is marginalized because she is a woman. She is involved in many groups that support women’s rights. Raven is also African-American, and involves herself in organizations that fight for racial equality. However, these groups and organizations may only focus on aspects that favor the majority individual in each category; so women’s groups may favor white women, and African-American groups may favor men...but intersectionality is a real issue for individuals like Raven, an African-American woman who accepts multiple marginalized identities and become especially overlooked in terms of power, privilege, and oppression.

Watch this TED talk: “The Urgency of Intersectionality” spoken by Kimberle Crenshaw to learn more about a woman’s insight on intersectionality of race and gender bias:

Many members of the community who experience intersectionality also feel pressured to assimilate to one or more of their cultures or identity, depending on where they are and what their culture favors.

For example Raven, the hypothetical African-American woman used as an example earlier, might have been born in America and identifies with her American friends. Together Raven and her friends listen to American radio stations and watch American media, speak English and use English slang that is popular in the social sphere. They wear fashionable clothes from American stores and eat American food. However, Raven’s family is from Ethiopia. They eat traditional Ethiopian food and use injera, a flat bread to scoop and eat the food from. They are also Muslim and engage in Muslim practice, wearing clothes that reflect this culture. The women in Raven’s family wear shawls, cloths that cover their head, and habesha dresses. Raven’s family is disappointed in her for adhering to the American culture and doesn’t understand the American culture she has assimilated to. Though Raven understands her Ethiopian culture, she feels as though she is a stranger to it living in America and feels pressured by American society to adapt to American ways. When she visits Africa with her family, she feels more comfortable expressing aspects of her Ethiopian family. This hypothetical experience is similar to what many individuals experiencing intersectionality may feel during their lifetime.

Click on this link to watch short clips of individuals speaking about their experiences of intersectionality in America:

It is helpful and important for us as a society to understand the struggles that people who experience marginalization go through in order to feel dignified living in our country. Angelica Village is a community which embraces intersectionality and supports all cultures within it. At Angelica Village there are refugees of war, non-citizens, individuals who have formerly experienced homelessness, members of the LGBTQ community, and individuals with many different cultural experiences, identities, and backgrounds. Angelica Village returns dignity to those individuals who feel the pressures of intersectionality or marginalization (and those who may not) by supporting and celebrating differences, and recognizing what each member of the community can bring to it. In doing so, Angelica Village stands for the notion that more should be done in the world to achieve cultural acceptance and integration.