I’ve been depressed/angry/busy, and not had much energy for writing these past two weeks of diving deeply into the meaning of Intersectionality. But I am still here, and understanding the meaning and manifestations of Intersectionality has been one of the main things on my mind as I go about my life.
One of the main things I’m really getting now is a deeper level of the fact that intersectionality is never not important. The threads of our histories — all of them — are always part of us. The social, economic and cultural systems of past and present, and the relative access to power based on our social locations is always active. We can work to address those systems, but we can’t bypass the fact that all our identities determine some things about our access to power. This is happening for each of us, which can weave a very complex tapestry when more than one person is involved. Can we listen deeply to truly honor everyone’s lived reality? Can we make the needed adjustments to really bring everyone with and leave nobody behind?
I notice that some people really want to bypass it, to erase history and social context. To narrow our identities down to one. Or none. If only it were so simple. Holding intersectionality requires us to allow the complexity in each moment, each person, each interaction, each group. People with different social locations have different access to power, which gives different lived realities and possibilities. It’s not a choice. I am not white one day and fat the next. I am always both. Both realities show up wherever I go.
I’m thinking of the phenomenon of spiritual bypass, and the way it shows up as an attempt to erase oppression. A typical thing that happens in a very white spiritual community I know is that if a person calls out racism or another oppression, the response is often to point to the delusion of the focus on material experience, and the more “enlightened” focus on how ultimately our identities don’t matter. “We are all one.” “Just let go.”
I am grateful for the communities I am part of where collective liberation includes looking clearly at power dynamics, actively working to acknowledge, change, heal from and mitigate the impact of internal and external systemic oppression. Knowing we can’t bypass the work. Knowing that our spiritual practice necessarily includes turning the lens of clear seeing we cultivate in meditation onto the internalized AND external social structures in which we live. Listening carefully not just to our own minds, but to our relationships to power and the ways they condition our thoughts and actions, and to the complex and different lived realities of others.