Say Her Name: Nia Wilson - What is intersectionality?
In honor of Nia Wilson's tragic death last week, I recorded a video to honor her and to explain what I could about #SayHerName and what intersectionality is. I'm copying my notes from the video below.
Hey everyone. I wanted to jump on to honor the life of #NiaWilson, who was murdered by a white supremacist while riding the #BART in San Francisco on Sunday night. There was a vigil in her honor today, and I hope you have seen all of the posts honoring her.
Nia Wilson was 18 and a rapper. She was going home with her sister Latifa from a family function, when they both were attacked and stabbed. Her sister survived.
Interestingly, the press releases have noted that the terrorist who attacked them was a white supremacist, but it’s unclear whether he was motivated by race. You have to wonder whether a Muslim or a black man would be given the same presumption of innocence in the media.
So, what people are doing now is deliberately creating public conversation in honor of Nia Wilson. The research shows that there is a disturbing silence around violence against black women. While black women are just as likely to be murdered by the police as black men, the media covers stories of black men and ignores black women. I’ll post below a great article explaining this. (NOTE: Here's the article.)
The reason this happens is because of “intersectionality.” Intersectionality is the word we use to describe when social characteristics interconnect with each other. So, this is important because discrimination, in itself, is not illegal. The law only looks at certain characteristics and protects them. For example, gender, race, physical ability, sexual orientation, and religion are some of the most commonly protected.
Every person has an interconnection of those characteristics. So, for example, I have gender, race, physical ability, sexual orientation, and religion. Because I am a white woman, my race characteristic (white) is the dominant one in the United States. My gender characteristic (woman) is non-dominant.
When a person has 2 or more of the non-dominant version of a characteristic, they tend to become invisible to employers, the media, and the legal system. This is actually documented in legal cases. So, for example, right after it became illegal to discriminate against employees based on gender and race, there was a case against General Motors, where 5 black women sued. The judge actually said that they weren’t allowed to sue because you could not “combine claims.” They had to pick whether they were being discriminated against as women or because they are black.
This is still a problem today in the way we treat anyone who has more than one of the non-dominant characteristics. It is hard enough for us to talk about one element of discrimination, but our brains basically short out when it comes to more than one.
We have to deliberately overcome that. Nia Wilson is our sister and our neighbor. We need to deliberately honor and remember her. Especially white women and black men. Wherever we have a dominant characteristic, we have leverage that we need to honor and use to help others.
Homework: Do something to honor Nia Wilson like you would honor a sister. Notice where you have dominant characteristics and where you have non-dominant. How can you use both to create exactly what you want in the world?