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A Deeper Look at Intersectionality

The study of sociology has looked at race, class, gender, and other categories of identity, as individual components, weighing their value separate pieces instead of parts of a whole. The theory of intersectionality, however takes those pieces and evaluates how their overlap creates an advantage to understanding the privilege and oppression created each part. By widening the view of differences and seeing how they impact each other, a better understand of the whole can be gained. The human experience cannot be defined by one single moment in a person’s life, it is a cumulation of the entirety. Therefore, to look at an individual and judge them by each independent social identity would limit your understanding of the person and the impact society has on them. Intersectionality gives you the distinct advantage of understanding a person for the sum of their parts and how society impacts that sum.

Intersectionality offers the framework to identifying different factors to privilege and oppression. It allows you to see how, for example, being a poor black woman impacts her chances for education in contrast to a middle-class white male. Each social identity brings with it, its own set of advantages and disadvantages and when you look at them working together you can understand how one identity could exasperate or diminish the impact of another. Intersectionality may down play the impact of the individual identities in order to achieve complete understanding of a person.

To understand diversity through the lens of the Intersectional Theory it gives you a better understanding than you would have if you studied diversity without it. It reinforces the concept that humans are multidimensional. People are identified by more than what is skin deep. By seeing the layers and the influence each identity has sociologists can find better ways to address their needs. When people fit into multiple categories, they experience oppression and/or privileged differently. Therefore, the needs of the individuals become different.

Intersectionality looks more holistically to how each identity impacts oppression. By deepening the understanding of the nuances in diversity it helps to show how privilege plays in. Intersectionality looks into the complexity of how people experience discrimination. It looks at how that discrimination is unique to them, while taking into account ones social identity. It also looks more at society’s response by no longer forcing people to be one or the other when they can be both or all. Intersectionality allows for greater inclusivity, by no longer isolating based on one identity.

People should be seen as individuals and recognized for their multiple social identities. It is through these identities that we can truly appreciate the experience of one’s oppression and/or privilege. Intersectionality can help not only see a person for the sum of their parts and all the discrimination they face, but it can help form better affirmative action plans for companies, schools, and other organizations to maximize the inclusivity of their members and employees. By looking at the individual parts you will never see the impact of the whole on the individual.

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