At a crossroads of identity: the manifestation of intersectionality
I spent a majority of my 25 years a radical. Though, I denied any inkling of the idea that I might be a feminist, until I realized very late in life that I was one. (I’m using “late in life” very loosely) I always thought feminism was for white women (note the racial exclusivity and opposition to Black women liberation in books including The Feminine Mystique and in their clubs including the history of the National Women’s Council—oh and their suffrage marches and campaigns!). So for the purposes of adhering to my race and the issues that are born thereof, I now use the term womanist. But, for so long, I thought being a Black advocate was in staunch contrast to fighting for women’s rights, for, in my mind, the two could not coincide. It had to be one or the other for me. At the time, I adopted such a revolutionary persona that I was nicknamed Assata by my English teacher in high school (shout out to Dr. Smith—blame her for any grammatical errors). And if I chose to fight for the cause of women’s equality, then that meant I was turning my back on the Black cause and the fight for racial equality. (And I mean real racial equality, that equal budget for public schools in New York City sort of equality). In doing so, I unknowingly devoted myself to the goal of solely liberating Black men. This is how privilege plays out. It is not always on purpose; it is a societal norm. Identifying myself as a Black woman, as silly as it sounds, came within the past few years. Because, for so long I was just Black. Womanhood was for other groups. It was the bitching and moaning for rights that wasn’t worth learning about. I was conditioned to believe women wanting rights was "bitching"…and moaning. face palm As I grew older, I fortunately had the wool removed from my eyes. Dedicating myself solely to the Black cause, in reality, meant that I was ignoring the movement toward Black women’s rights. It’s a movement that needs specific attention; it is seldom included in Black liberation movements. It’s unfortunate, but my perspective has since changed dramatically, so don't kill me. This new identity brought enlightenment, sadness, and most of all curiosity. There is a unique experience for those who occupy the intersection of race and gender and I was one of those people.
Gradients exist in the movement toward racial equality. There are variations and myriad interpretations of what it takes for Black people to advance in the United States. But, there is also male privilege that can take root in these movements (and, of course, other privileges). Male privilege is the first child of patriarchy. It has created a norm that once challenged, places the opposer in a margin—an unpopular, disregarded, dismissed margin. Once mentioned, walls go up, and it becomes rather difficult to scale thereby making it difficult to be a Black feminist-womanist in revolutionary circles. And though, as a result of oppression, the person charged with scaling this wall is usually a Black woman, it is worth it in the grand scheme of liberation.
This article has been re-published. The author is no longer 25, though sometimes she wishes she was.