Editor’s Note: Our introductory post to our series on race & intersectionality indicated that we would include other ethnic minority experiences, and we wanted to clarify that we will publish those stories in future months. Our original post below has been adjusted to more clearly reflect that we will exclusively feature African American voices during Black History Month. Our sincerest apology for any offense caused by our initial approach.
This February, we are excited to celebrate Black History Month. We acknowledge the incredible contributions — many of which were paid for out of tremendous sacrifice and bloodshed — of African Americans towards civil rights, conversation, and culture.
What is Intersectionality?
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches…. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles…. And ain’t I a woman?” 1
In 1851, Sojourner Truth delivered these words in her famous speech, pointing out a double-standard: because she was a black woman, she was not treated like a woman at all.
A century later, in her bestselling autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou shed light on the complexities of being black, female, and even questioning her sexuality as a teenager.
Law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw cited both Truth and Angelou in her critique on feminist theory as a black woman2 — the paper in which the term “intersectionality” was first coined. In the paper, she argues that conversations regarding victimization on the basis of race and of sex cannot be held independently: the two often influence and reinforce each other. In other words, the discrimination experienced by women is not homogeneous when considering added difficulties experienced by black women because of their race.
Scriptural and Missiological Basis for Intersectionality
It follows, therefore, that we cannot have conversations about gender issues while ignoring the nuanced circumstances facing ethnic minorities. Doing so will make us blind to a person’s unique needs and challenges, and thereby prevent us from truly loving our neighbor and working towards justice (Mark 12:31, Zech. 7:9).
We can see examples of this phenomenon throughout Scriptures, particularly with regards to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Both Samaritans and women were already seen as inferior to the male dominated Jewish contemporaries of Jesus’ day, and it is clear that this woman is viewed as even more of an outcast in her own town. Jesus’ radical love displayed through crossing both racial and gender boundaries made this interaction and transformation even more powerful. We see that God desires to not only give Jewish women a voice (consider the prophetess Anna in Luke 2:36-38), but also Gentile women.
This and many other examples throughout Scripture of God’s heart for the marginalized is the basis for our desire to begin conversations about intersectionality. We have a missiological mandate from God to know, understand, and better serve cross-culturally. Without understanding, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no proximity. Without proximity, we cannot reach people where they are at with the Gospel, nor can we protect the vulnerable.
We have a missiological mandate from God to know, understand, and better serve cross-culturally.
Protecting Vulnerable Youth: Understanding Sexuality and Race
Since Crenshaw’s contribution, intersectionality has been broadened to incorporate a number of categories that can cause a person to experience victimization in increasingly complex ways, including race, gender, sexuality, wealth, and education. In order to work towards justice and reconciliation, this concept urges that we learn from and give voice to minorities who exist within this intersection.
In the same way, Lead Them Home works to protect vulnerable LGBT+ youth, and we thereby acknowledge that a person’s ethnicity can contribute to further and more unique sources of mistreatment, shame, and trauma. In order to establish a kingdom that embodies the diversity of God’s people (Rev. 5:9-10), we are called to educate ourselves on each other’s unique cultural backgrounds.
We are excited to introduce a blog series on race and sexuality that will extend into the coming months and incorporate the voices of different ethnic minorities. This month we will specifically be hearing from African American LGBT+ people about their experiences in celebration of who they are and their contributions to our American history and culture. Essentially, the question we wish to ask is “What was it like to grow up African American and LGBT+, and how can we uniquely care for other African American LGBT+ people?”
We are excited to introduce a blog series on race and sexuality that will extend into the coming months and incorporate the voices of different ethnic minorities.
In the coming week, keep an eye out for our next post by Thomas Starchia, who serves on our writing team for this series and was a heavy contributor to this introduction. We are excited as Thomas opens our eyes to some of unique challenges African American LGBT+ people face. His insights will invite us to reflect on our own ability to protect and empower those more vulnerable than ourselves. We are grateful that he will be leading the way in our series as we explore the LGBT+ experience for different ethnic minorities.
We are indebted to the work of black women such as Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, and Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw — and we are looking forward to embarking on this journey together.
Happy Black History Month!
2 Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989, 139–67.
- Race & Sexuality | Introduction: Intersectionality - February 6, 2019