Tag Archives: diversity

Breaking Down Intersectionality

Because it always takes some practice.

During our second event in our  For the Love of Justice series, we wanted to jump right into our session by asking “What does intersectionality mean to you.”  However, we realized that intersectionality is such a loaded question. We didn’t want to the audience to feel disconnected and removed from the notion if they hadn’t already understood the academic, collegiate context of the concept. Yet, we knew that though people might not be familiar with the actual term – we all experience intersectionality and it helps us see the ways we’re empowered and disempowered. However the people that need to understand it the most may not even know what this scholarly term is that activists have come to use in such frequency.

So we realized we had to start smaller to go bigger. To make this concept more accessible to a larger community, we needed to break down intersectionality in more simpler terms. How do we bring people closer to that word, who DO experience it daily, who needs to understand the concept the most, who should be equipped with the language –  without sounding so anthropological about it?

We started backwards. We first asked: What do people know about you… and what do they draw from that? How do you see the world and how do you move through the world?

And if we broke it down further… we realized that intersectionality really is:

  • The understanding of an entire person
  • Having no hierarchy of your identities. You are all those things at once.
  • How your race, culture, class, gender affects you and how people interact with you.
  • How it’s not JUST reduced to culture, race, class, and gender….
  • How it’s ALL the elements and experiences of the entire person, their actions, their thinking.

And we came to the conclusion that when talking about intersectionality it really is understanding who you are. It is simply your lived experience and it shapes how you intersect, interact, and view the world. It put a focus on the empowerment component of intersectionality and was an opportunity to define intersectionality by however the individual wanted to be defined. So instead of asking “what intersectionality meant to you” at the beginning of our session – we just prompted the question with “I Am…..” allowing themselves to define whatever, however they wanted to be.

Embracing Difference with the Children’s Bureau

In August, LDIR had the opportunity to work with supervisors at the Children’s Bureau to support them in exploring how diverse identities within an organization influence approaches to difference and the impacts that has on an organization’s culture. We spent the day engaging in challenging but fruitful dialogue. One participant reflected, “It was the moments of discomfort that actually moved me the most.”

Participants were especially impacted by the introduction to cultural humility. The practice of cultural humility encourages people to be aware of and acknowledge their own barriers to understanding another’s culture. It helps to mitigate the distinctions between learning about another culture, relating to that culture or being a part of that culture. As the Children’s Bureau team discovered, this approach to navigating diversity is one that can create a culture of embracing difference.

What if Donald Sterling were a LDIR?

By Povi-Tamu Bryant, LDIR Program Coordinator

If Donald Sterling had the opportunity to become a LDIR, what would be different? LDIR participants learn to understand the way their positions in society shape how they interact with others and, in turn, how others interact with them. As a LDIR, Sterling would have had a chance to think about, discuss and understand the way his life was shaped by being able to afford to own a NBA team, being able to walk through the world without being negatively impacted by his race, and being able to benefit from his gender. This type of deeply personal reflection could have opened Sterling up to understanding the ways our different experiences–and intersecting identities–impact us. Sterling could have reflected on and changed his interactions with friends, colleagues, and the Clippers team with a critical awareness of how he has had a different level of access to resources.

Besides growing awareness, LDIR would have helped Sterling to build the skills needed to create equitable professional and social environments for those around him. LDIR would have helped Sterling understand that action is necessary for change. Sterling could have been a powerful ally, advocating for change that was informed by Clippers team members, women colleagues, LGBTQ peers and more. If Sterling were a LDIR, we would have a different NBA.

If every team owner in the NBA were to become a LDIR, the league would be stronger. When you understand that leadership requires self-awareness, you are positioned to create major shifts. Employees, players, and fans could have stronger investments in teams and the league, knowing that the leaders in the NBA understand the impacts of their power and are invested in building strong teams and relationships across difference. There is so much to be gained from having LDIRs at all levels, not the least of which is healthier work places and personal relationships. If all team owners were LDIRs, maybe no team would ever feel compelled to warm up hiding their logo.