Edgy Education 101

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December 31, 2016

Edgy Education 101

Portrait of woman smiling at camera while colleagues working in background

Some questions are hard to ask. Others can be really difficult to answer. YWCA GLBR seeks to uplift, engage and educate for the benefit of women everywhere. To that end, the Racial Justice committee has a new project coming — Edgy Education 101. The RJC hopes to pose and answer some of those sticky questions that we may have become afraid to engage with. Some of the answers might challenge you. Some of the questions might surprise you. But you will always come away better, faster, and smarter. And hopefully, a better advocate for the women in your life (including yourself).

So without further ado, Edgy Education 101!

Intersectionality /ˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/

A phrase most recently articulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia, which indicates that identities can and do intersect within human beings. And that these identities can have a material effect in the social world. This means that the whole can be more than the sum of the parts. Or that a person cannot parse off bits and pieces of herself.

For example, when advocates celebrate the Suffragettes victory that won women the right to vote (19th Amendment, August 18th, 1920), they often forget that women of color were not included in that celebration.

Native American women were denied the right to vote in most of the United States until 1924. Some states barred full suffrage until 1962.

Most African American men and women were excluded from voting into the mid-20th century by various means despite the work of the 14th and 19th Amendments.

Asian American (specifically Chinese, Filipino and Japanese) women were held in voting limbo in many states until the 1950s and 1960s.

Women are Japanese. Women are Native American. Women are African American. And to say that “Women received the right to vote in 1920” denies millions of women their actual lived experience.

Intersectionality calls us to reconsider our definitions. What if you are woman of color who was denied the right to vote in 1920? What if, additionally, you are a women of color who was poor? Differently abled? Multilingual? You may have been denied the right to vote until 1964.

Intersectionality asks us all to think of the people in our world as complex, multi-dimensional creatures. And to become more and more aware of our assumptions of the norm.

My grandmothers couldn’t have voted in 1920. Could yours?

– Chey Davis, YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region RJC Chair

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