If I can offer a piece of study advice to students, I offer this: Ask yourself what you still do not understand. And then find a way to understand.
Upon finishing the readings about intergroup dialogue and intersectionality for this week, I felt as though I was in over my head. The term “social justice” is relatively new to me. So, anything that follows is going to be a stretch. I have never dabbled in conversations that use vocabulary like “antiracism” or “identity politics.” I will allow you to imagine how much rereading I did this week; however, I do have hope that I will be challenged in ways to grasp these topics faster throughout the course and semester.
Despite the examples and analysis in each of the articles, I still did not understand what intergroup dialogue and intersectionality were really getting at. Good ol’ Google brought me to this article, which then led me to the following video:
* I hope you will watch before reading on.
I watched this video in Starbucks and cried, especially when Martinez Sutton, Rekia Boyd‘s brother, spoke about how his sister’s death was “justified.” Are you kidding?! So, I rewatched this video. And I cried some more.
I was glad the video put a face to Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991); put a face to the narratives she described in her writing. Her article “Mapping the Margin: Intersectionalty, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” was published in 1991. This YouTube video comes to us over a decade later. And the issues presented in her article are the same issues that come up in the forum. At what points in time and space will we overcome these injustices? At what points in time and space will we stop waiting to do something? I am genuinely aggravated by how these behaviors and excuses continue to devalue individuals, especially women of color.
Crenshaw opened in the video by stating, “We don’t wait to start talking. We don’t wait to get an invitation from the White House or from the Caucus to come and tell our stories.” And that is how I figured out what the real point of intergroup dialogue should be about. Dessel, Roegge, and Garlington (2006) defined intergroup dialogue as “a facilitated community experience designed to provide a safe yet communal space to express anger and indignation about injustice” (p. 303). They later added that it “enables participants to speak and listen in the present while understanding the contributions of the past and the unfolding of the future” (p. 304). The YouTube video I stumbled across certainly demonstrates that definition. The forum is organized and allows individuals to openly share anecdotes that relate to more serious issues faced by society at-large. And they don’t wait.
A friend of mine recently told me about a white male acquaintance of ours who was sentenced to jail for statutory sodomy. She also detailed all of the stories she heard from white college women who interacted with him when he was in college. Honestly, I was appalled. The young women who had a story to tell, told their stories to college administrators. AND NOTHING HAPPENED. My friend added that it was almost as if administrators sided with him. They gave him the benefit of the doubt.
As the Graduate Assistant for Community Standards and Greek Life at Illinois Institute of Technology, I cannot even begin to discuss all of the Title IX and responsible employee issues that follow this situation. I will table that discussion for now. Two comments I do have on this: 1) Imagine how much this young man would have learned and how much he may have grown and how many women would have been protected if something had been done sooner; and 2) Imagine if he were a black male. He would not have graduated from college. That’s for sure.
I think this week’s readings and my what-I-do-not-know findings pose too many conversations for one blogpost. I hope that I can explore more through the blogs and diaries of my peers. Above all, I hope we don’t wait. I hope we don’t wait to have these types of conversations–the ones that will lead towards change and action.
PS: I would like for us to provide permission to each other to comment on one another’s public blogs/diaries. Our conversations and reflections should not stop here.
References & Readings
African American Policy Forum. (2015, February 20). African American Policy Forum: Breaking the Silence (2014) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9WLbPC9vDrM
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford law review, 1241-1299.
Dessel, A., Rogge, M. E., & Garlington, S. B. (2006). Using intergroup dialogue to promote social justice and change. Social work, 51(4), 303-315.
Schoem, D. (2003). Intergroup dialogue for a just and diverse democracy. Sociological Inquiry, 73(2), 212-227.
Wijeyesinghe, C. L. & Jones, S. R. (2014). Intersectionality, Identity, and Systems of Power and Inequality in Mitchell, D., Simmons, C. Y., & Greyerbiehl, L. A. (Eds.). (2014). Intersectionality & Higher Education: Theory, Research, & Praxis. New York, NY: Peter Lang.