Intersectionality, what is it for Me?

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The first time someone told me to “check my privilege,” I’ll be honest, I was defensive and maybe even a little off put. I never thought that my life had been particularly easy, especially single I grew up with a single father and had a rocky relationship with a drug abusing mother. However, as I got older, I grew to realize that “checking my privilege” does not discount any of my struggles. It instead acknowledges the struggles I have not had to encounter because they are particular to certain marginalized groups of people. These are but a few examples of the privilege that I have on a daily basis…

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I am white. I have access to books, movies, and cartoons with characters that look like me. When I go to the store to buy nude underwear, it matches my skin tone. I’ve never been called a racial slur. When I walk into the dining hall at Wellesley, I can find food I am accustomed to. I am heterosexual. I have never had to hide my sexuality from my parents, church, or friends. My gender matches the one I was assigned at birth, and I have never tried to change my gender. There is a place of worship for my religion in most towns. I’ve never been hungry and not had access to food. I go to an elite college, which was an expectation, not a lofty dream. My dad pays for my tuition. If a police officer pulls me over, I can be sure it was not because of my race. I am healthy and able-bodied. My family goes on vacations. When I get sick, I seek medical attention instead of hoping for it to disappear. I have comfort in knowing I will not be banned from this country.

It can be hard to admit privilege because no one likes to believe they have been given a leg up in life. The truth is, whether it’s being white, male, cisgender, or even just having eyesight, most of us have some kind of “cultural currency” (Taylor 268). Understanding privileges and oppression is not only for activists and educators, but vital in understanding politics, and the individuals that surround us. Within this massive framework of these privileges and oppressions, there are multiple layers of interconnected discrimination that creates various identities. Recognition of this intersectionality is vital because if these layers of discrimination are seen as separate, often the less privileged will be ignored. With intersectionality, it is possible to “focus on the complexity, rather than the singularity of the human experience” (Dill and Zambrana 2). When it is assumed that singular identities are the baseline, it erases the experiences of those which exist beyond the binary.

When I was younger, and maybe even before I started taking this class, I thought of privilege as something able to be measured; I thought that there were those who were privileged, there were those who were not, and it was easy to tell who is more privileged. In reality, it is “relative and contextual” (Gay 3). Many of those in United States have privilege with access to free speech, iPhones, and the internet; however, that does not mean that immense struggle is nonexistent (Gay 3). Intersectionality taught me that it is impossible to compare, rank, or quantitate privilege because individuals are all made up of unique identities that cannot be separated.

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Intersectionality, What Is It for Me?. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved December 6, 2022 , from
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