On Thursday night the Hemmingson Ballroom was packed awaiting the entrance of Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia as well as the creator of the term intersectionality.
Opening the event was Jacob Rooksby, the dean of the School of Law who introduced this talk as the inaugural event of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Gonzaga Law.
Rooksby said Crenshaw’s work is “intimately tied to Gonzaga’s mission and the mission of Center of Civil and Human Rights.”
“[This event is also acting as a] prelude for the introduction of the critical race and ethnic studies minor,” Rooksby said.
Crenshaw began her talk saying that this could not be the a more important time to refresh our commitment to civil and human rights.The point of Crenshaw’s talk was based in her term intersectionality.
“[Intersectionality is] an effort to draw a picture so people could see that some people are impacted by racism and some are impacted by sexism, but some are impacted by both,” Crenshaw said. “So, rather than seeing these things as parallel it was trying to shift how people perceived what happens when these things come together. So, it was literally just an everyday thing that comes together that we can use to scaffold onto a greater understanding about this thing that people seem to not have the ability to understand.”
“I want to confront what has been lost in translation,” Crenshaw said in reference to the public’s interpretation of intersectionality. “What I want to do is amplify the discovery of intersectionality.”
To do this Crenshaw used three stories to “offer up a travelogue of intersectionality.”
“I liked her stories. She incorporated some commentary into it and she’s really good at speaking about the issues while also making it entertaining,” said Lindsey Anderson, a sophomore at GU.
She began with a story about being a child and not being chosen to play the coveted role of Thorn Rosa in her kindergarten class.
“I was a child but I wasn’t stupid,” Crenshaw said. “The cold reality I was learning was that even fairy tales are racially segregated.”
She then went on to talk about her experiences working with her father who was studying to be a lawyer, the influence of Martin Luther King Jr. and living through the civil rights movement. She also spoke about how the death of these two figures and how they were deeply impactful and a big reason as to why she became a lawyer.
Her last story had to do with her being accepted into a club at Harvard that was traditionally made up of men. Crenshaw and her friend went to the club ready to debate over their race but when she was told to go through the back, and he was not she realized the intersectionality between her race and gender.
“I swore never to go around to anyone’s back door again,” Crenshaw said.
“I trace intersectionality to talking back. To talking back to the world we inherit, to talking back to the different ways that things that happened to us tend not to matter to anybody.” Crenshaw said. “Talking back to higher education that rationalizes racial thinking by calling it color blind. It’s a long sort of trajectory that I take all the way back to when I was 5. Intersectionality itself as a term was a word picture that I was trying to use to draw attention to a particular thing that was invisible to courts.”
She ended her talk by saying: “this reminds me to not ride or die for politics that will not ride or die for me.”
“I think it was a big deal when she was talking about how it’s important for people of all types to understand that [intersectionality] crosses through all spectrums,” Anderson said.
During the Q&A portion of the talk Crenshaw was asked “how” to do a lot of things. She never told the audience how to fix an issue but rather how to look at it.
“Be cautious about what is happening. Be careful about demands and be critical readers of the media,” Crenshaw concluded.