Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is the lawyer, professor and civil rights advocate who developed the theory of “intersectionality” and coined the term three decades ago.
Intersectionality is the theory of how overlapping or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination.
Her wisdom was also essential in the development of intersectional feminism which examines the overlapping systems of oppression and discrimination to which women are subject due to their ethnicity, sexuality and economic background.
Canton, Ohio-born Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality in 1989 in her paper written for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”.
The main argument of the paper is that the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood in terms of being black and of being a woman considered independently, but must include the interactions between the two, which frequently reinforce each other.
The paper attempted to mitigate the widespread misconception that the intersectional experience is solely due to the sum of racism and sexism.
Created to help explain the intersecting forms of oppression faced by African-American women, Crenshaw’s term is now firmly embedded in the cultural zeitgeist and used widely in discussions of racial inequality and various forms of social justice.
It has also been cited as helping inform the Constitution of South Africa.
Crenshaw is a full-time professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues. She is also the founder of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) and the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), as well as the president of the Berlin-based Center for Intersectional Justice.Tags: feminism, Gender Equality, intersectionality, Race