This post is part of a series called Perspectives, written by Circles members. Perspectives will highlight the various experiences and identities of individuals from their unique worldview.
BY KATHRYN GOODMAN
I’ve always had a strong belief in the individual. Every individual has a unique perspective and achieves maximum potential by being their fullest self. It’s part of why I’m passionate about diversity. It’s part of why I feel an obligation to invest in others. I also recognize that it’s not easy for everyone to discuss their full unique perspectives because of a fear of judgment, bias or discomfort.
When I was originally introduced to intersectionality, I have to admit, I was a little bit intimidated by the topic. I’m a middle-aged white woman. It did not feel like I had an abundance of dimension to add to the topic for discussion. Additionally, while I value other’s dimensions, I don’t always know how to approach or discuss different identities. Different is sometimes hard and uncomfortable, and frankly, I felt inadequate about my ability to relate, feeling responsible for and knowing there were bigger social injustices at play. I had built up the concept of intersectionality to be about fixing the world’s woes, rather than exploring individual identities.
I shared my hesitation with a good friend and mentor. This is where the wisdom of a true friend proves its weight in gold. She pointed out this hesitation was, in essence, the privilege that is most often associated with my white identity. She helped me understand that appreciating individuals is the fabric that weaves up the tapestry of intersectionality. She also, ever so kindly, reminded me that guilt doesn’t do anything other than justify inaction. I realize that I need to continue to own my various dimensions, give space for others to express theirs, and ENGAGE in supporting the dimensions in which I may not identify or relate – even if I was uncomfortable.
I explored my own dimensions: appreciation for art, blues music, and scary movies. Mother. Wife. Daughter – the youngest of six. Pet lover and enthusiast. Backyard gardener. Someone who moved across social brackets. Believer in education. Social justice advocate.
I explored dimensions of others:
-The neighbor who cans her vegetables because she loves independence and never wants to go hungry
– The student whose parents were deported and is living with his aunt
– The chef who looks forward to every Saturday when he gets to spend time with his son
– A friend fasting through Ramadan to show devotion
I walked around with this newfound knowledge and simply invested the time in getting to know those around me. My eyes were opened to the various ways and possibilities that intersectionality can take shape. It’s not just about gender, race, or religion – although that is a part of it. It is a million different experiences that have culminated into one amazing being. It is helping me learn more ways support those around me who may not have had the privileges that I have had in my life. Just like fingerprints, no two are the same. In order to appreciate them for their value, you have to take the time to closely observe how all the elements come together. While not always easy, intersectionality is hugely important, and in the process, you grow.