Intersectionality and Representation
An intersectional framework in an education context requires that we reflect on the ways that multiple social identities interact and compound to affect the learner’s experience of what we represent in our education environments.
In doing so, we are then required to learn about our own individual social identities (or socially constructed binaries), especially when one or more of our own individual identities represent the constructed (mythical) norms of dominant culture.
Deaf and hearing interpreters advocate for intersectional representation: Humanifesto (Runtime: 8:12 min).
Our social identities play a significant role in determining our values, the ways in which we are affected by established norms, and the ways we also participate in establishing these norms. When our values come from a place of power, it is easier to internalize them and take them for granted.
An intersectional framework can help us to acknowledge the ways that historically ingrained prejudices are built into our institutions, creating barriers and limiting opportunities for many. The term intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw as a way to describe how gender, race, and class intersect to create an interdependent system of discrimination and differential access to resources. This definition is now in wide use, recognizing that the combination of various social identities, together, produce something unique and distinct from any one form of discrimination standing alone (OHRC, 2001). As Crenshaw says, “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there.
What Is Intersectionality? (Runtime: 1:55 min).
Many times, that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things” (Crenshaw, 2017). In the Learn More here, Kimberlé Crenshaw applies the theory of intersectionality to systems and outcomes in education.
Take a moment to reflect on your own intersecting identities. You can use this chart to do this: Power/Privilege Wheel.
Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally (Runtime: 6:45 min). CC is autogenerated.
When we understand the potential obstacles and discrimination that some groups experience over others, we can act. All of us involved in education, faculty, administrators, student support professionals, librarians, interpreters, and so on, can advocate for change in our sphere of influence.
A Professor Facilitates a Self-Reflection on Intersectionality with Colleagues
>> Okay. So we are going to have our warm up activity. I don't know if you're familiar with the wheel of power and privilege. We have the link there where you can find it. So what we are going to do? I will invite you to look at this wheel and look at the 12 categories that we have there. We have skin colour, formal education, ability, sexuality, neuro-- neuro diversity, mental health, body size, housing, wealth, language, gender, and citizenship. If you look at the centre of the wheel, this is where power resides. And the farther you are from the centre, the less power and less privilege you have. So I will invite you to look at this wheel of power and think of yourself. How—think about all the facets and social identities that we all have. And try to find where you would-- where you perceive. I'm going to share with you my own wheel. I did it about a month ago. And I have to say that I was surprised with the results. And they affected me deeply. They affected-- in the way I see myself now in my community and I am-- I can tell that I see-- that it affected me as a teacher, the way I see my students. So.
We have a few steps here. First, we are-- we have-- I want you to look at the-- the wheel of power and see where you find yourself. This is a private activity, a personal activity. You do not have to share. I will have-- I will share my wheel with you and I will share what I learned from it. But I would like you to do-- to have this experience and don't feel the pressure to share. If you want to share, I'm going to have a few questions that you can try and answer. And you are more than welcome to do so but don't feel pressured because this is a personal, private experience. So let me share with you my wheel.
Look at that. I am an immigrant. I am from Brazil. I arrived here in the year 2000, so 21 years ago. Twenty one years and a few months. And until a month ago, I saw myself-- I am an immigrant woman. English is not my first language. This is how I perceive myself and this is how I operated in the world here in Canada. And then I did this. And I cannot tell you how shocked I was with the amount of privilege and power that I have. It affected me deeply. And I'm going to share with you how it affected me after you do your own. So I invite you to do it. To look at yourself. And after you do yours and think a little bit, and if you want to share your experience, do so. Let’s take about two minutes for you to look at your wheel and work on your own.
Alright. So two minutes have passed and if you haven't finished because this is an experience, an exercise that we have as we look at ourselves. So it's okay if you haven't finished just keep looking at the wheel and think about how you perceive yourself. I, I added a few questions in the chat. I added, did anything surprise you? How can this knowledge inform your new knowledge, inform your practice? So I'm going to share. I have already told you that it did surprise me because I didn't know that here in Canada-- I know I have a better understanding in Brazil but I didn't know that even in Canada, where I am an immigrant woman, English is not my first language, how I still hold so much power and privilege. So how can this inform my practice? Well, in so many ways. I'm not going to tell you that I have changed and everything is beautiful in my classroom because this is something that takes time. But I am aware and I keep my wheel in the back of my mind all the time.
A Professor Facilitates a Self-Reflection on Intersectionality with Colleagues - Runtime 6:07min
Modelling our own reflection on challenging topics is a great way to represent content to students. Also, as mentioned in Module 1, when we consider our own social identities along with the social identities of our learners, we can find opportunities to stretch, (re)learn, and identify ways to challenge Eurocentric materials and delivery methodologies in our curriculum. We can strive to honour the diverse identities of our colleagues and learners.
Queer in the Classroom: Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education (Runtime: 5:18 min). CC is autogenerated.
At the same time, it is “never acceptable to place those whose voices are marginalized by the very theories we are critically investigating to bear the responsibility of educating the class" (Ridgley, 2015).
We can strive to honour the diverse identities of our colleagues and learners. As educators, we especially have a role to play when it comes to supporting any of us who are engaged in advocacy with our institutions. Educators also experience identity threat. Educators and support professionals who also navigate individual, systemic, and structural racism and could also benefit from supports and resources similar to those that they provide to students.
Andratesha Fritzgerald full keynote: Pathways to Success (Runtime: 1:27:12 min).
Institutionally, the social identities of learners, educators, staff, and college leaders all have a bearing on the ways we proceed when designing our educational spaces. In this recent (and first) Ontario address, Andratesha Fritzgerald was asked by Nadia Richards about the connections between intersectionality and UDL.
Join us for a conversation and reflection about how we, as educators, can foster inclusion and belonging for all learners.
Pathways to Success: Inclusion, Equity, Empowerment
NADIA RICHARDS: All of us, including learners, educators, staff, and college leaders, have many intersecting identities such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and beliefs. How do you see anti-racism and the UDL lens taking intersectionality into account?
ANDRATESHA FRITZGERALD: This question made me think a lot about a culture of power. And when we acknowledge the culture of power, we'll see that one of the tenets of a culture of power is to keep the culture that is not in power or the cultures that are not in power, divided and against one another. When we think about intersectionality, it is not a competition of suffering. It is not one group's rights over another, but the universal design lens helps us to see each person as an individual and then create learning environments and spaces where every learner is free to take the space they need to be well and to use the supports that are available to be successful. That means that we have to design that way. And what does that mean? We have to make sure that our learning environment is safe. And when I say safe, when I think about safety for Black, Brown, Indigenous, racialized learners, that means that we see ourselves in the curricula and who is upheld as an expert and who is on staff and faculty, and how the system navigates and not just who's in the advertisement, but who is really upheld in the culture, who is celebrated.
Andratesha Fritzgerald: Connections Between Intersectionality and UDL - Runtime 1:51 min
Intersectionality: Multiple Identities Exploration
Complete this activity on the Universal Design for Learning websiteOpen activity
The intersectionality activity is an opportunity to explore your various social identities.
If using a mouse, trackpad, or touch device, press the checkbox button or label on the answer that applies to you.
If using a keyboard or screen reader, press the Tab key to navigate between checkboxes, and use the and the Space key to select an answer. To get your results, focus on the Submit button and press Enter to submit the form.
All questions are optional.