Identity and Equity

Why Society Must Address Intersectional Discrimination

June 14, 2021  • Tabitha Walton & Alexis Saunders-Davis

What should every American know? This question has long been debated, discussed, and deliberated. And while answers need to come from all of us—not just a powerful few—young people have often been excluded from these conversations. A partnership between Chicago Public Schools and the Aspen Institute’s program on Citizenship and American Identity aims to change that. Together they seek to elevate youth perspectives, beliefs, and values as vital to our national conversation of civic purpose. 

The following blog is part of our series featuring perspectives from Chicago young people, interrogating and exploring key terms identified by Chicago Public School Participate Civics students. Tabitha Walton and Alexis Saunders-Davis are 11th graders at Orr High School. In this piece, they explain why society must address intersectional discrimination—the dual influences of racism and misogyny that affect women of color, particularly Black women.

Many Black content creators speak out on the daily injustices that we as Black people face on a regular basis. Yet when they do, their videos are removed from the platform and they face backlash for sharing their experiences and opinions on race. This frustrates us as Black women because we know what it’s like to have your feelings invalidated due to hatred over your skin color, gender, or both.

This country is built on systems propped up by sexism, racism, and white privilege—as Black women we encounter this every day. It’s time to recognize and call out white supremacy for what it is. When white people are held up as the superior race, it results in the oppression of Black people and other minority groups. Historically, this is why the civil rights movement was so important. Black leaders marched, protested, preached, and sacrificed their lives to demand that Blacks be treated fairly. Ida B. Wells and Daisy Bates were key figures in this ongoing movement. Wells was a Black investigative journalist who reported on and educated people about lynchings in the South. She faced both sexism and racism throughout her career but she didn’t let that stop her from speaking out against the injustice happening all around her. Daisy Bates was the head of Little Rock’s NAACP and owned a statewide newspaper with her husband. Because of the sexism within the civil rights movement, Baker lost her position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. These are just two of the names we know. There are so many other Black women throughout history who have been overlooked but played critical roles in social movements for justice.

This country is built on systems propped up by sexism, racism, and white privilege—as Black women we encounter this every day.

Like both Bates and Wells, Black women continue to experience a duality of discrimination: misogyny and racism. We think it is important for everyone to understand how race and gender discrimination intersect because as Black women, we face both regularly. Black women are often stereotyped and oversexualized at a young age. What we wear and how we act are constantly policed.  We also face double standards. While being tan is admired in places like Hollywood, Black women everywhere experience colorism— the discrimination against those with darker complexions. This is the legacy of slavery and colonialization. White supremacy has imposed eurocentric beauty standards declaring those with lighter skin and looser hair textures to be more attractive. Black women and girls are constantly put down or bullied because of the way we look—and this loathing is internalized, too. There are stories of Black women bleaching their skin because they hated their darker complexions. Yet when other people, especially fairer, non-Black folx, appropriate our hairstyles and facial features, they become the new standards of beauty. This all takes a mental toll on our self-perception.

In order to promote social change around issues like misogyny and racism, we need more people to get informed. If Black and brown communities understood the way in which our historical oppression continues to affect Black people today, more people would be willing to stand up against all forms of injustice and oppression. By learning about activists and movements, we can develop a consciousness around the issues that we care about. The more you understand your rights and powers, the more you can act on them. It gives you the courage to stand up against any injustices you see or experience. It leads to real change.

Juneteenth Is a Day of Reflection for All Americans
June 19, 2020 • Kristina Saccone