Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Intersectionality-Big Word for Small Lives. (Speaking of Education)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Intersectionality-Big Word for Small Lives. (Speaking of Education)

Article excerpt

Intersectionality is a big word to talk about the small ways in which we live, and the limited tools of analysis we use to describe the details that define our living. In other words, we are used to using one or two things to explain our reality, when four or five factors might influence our space.

For example, 16-year-old Donovan Jackson was brutally beaten by Inglewood, Calif., police officers, especially Jeremy Morse, a 24-year-old White man who was videotaped slamming Jackson's head into the hood of a police car. It is tempting, 10 years after Rodney King, to make this solely a race matter. It would be factual to view race, but also class, police training and an army of demographic issues, as contributors to this conflict.

I could not help but think of the intersectionality of Donovan Jackson's life when I sat with a group of women at a workshop at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The occasion was the annual meeting of the International Association for Feminist Economics. I was on a panel with women who were Asian American, Latina and African American, in a room with women who had connections with Jamaica, Western Europe and Brazil. Our task was to thrash out the issue of "Intersectionality," or the many ways that race, gender, class and sexual orientation combine to determine a person's fate and economic status.

How did intersectionality collide when Donovan Jackson's head met Jeremy Morse's fist? Jackson is a developmentally disabled 16-year-old that guilelessly left a convenience store looking for his dad. He bristled when told not to go into the car, was handcuffed, then beaten on videotape. Ironically, as this is being written, the only person who has been incarcerated is the man who recorded Jackson's beating. His harrowing cries, after he was picked up by police officers stalking him outside Los Angeles' CNN studio, suggests that too many people are frightened by our nation's so-called crime-fighting officers. It also raises questions about the class dimension in the intersectionality discussion.

Donovan Jackson is Black, young and disadvantaged. Jeremy Morse is a cop who seemed to wear his privilege like a chip on his shoulder. At 24, and with less police training than LAPD officers, Morse had several complaints against his high-handed tactics. His family is telling the press that he wanted to be a police officer all of his life. One wonders why.

When Black and young collides with White and inexperienced, race seems to tromp. Too many people are saying that Morse needs a break, and has the right to his human rights and to be judged innocent until proven guilty. …

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