Open Thread: On Interlocking Privilege and Oppression

by Latoya Peterson

While I was at Web of Change, I proposed a caucus to discuss issues of race, class, gender, ability and access online. I gave a quick presentation outlining why technology is not neutral, and then opened it up to questions, comments, and discussions.

One of the attendees, Pam, brought up the term intersectionality. From the blank looks, I received from the rest of the room, I determined that this word has not gone far outside of the feminist blogosphere or feminist academia. I defined the term, then explained that sometimes we use this term to discuss our interlocking oppressions, or parts of our identity that cannot be separated from others.

Another attendee, Andrew, had a lightbulb moment and asked “Well, what about Interlocking Privilege and Oppression?”

Hmmm.

Good question.

Much of my focus is on cross-cultural organizing between various groups. Andrew had pointed out earlier, in another session that while I could identify potential allies based on visible minority status, he was rendered invisible by this type of organizing. (Andrew actually attended all three sessions we hosted on access.) After mentioning how he as a poor white person who organized in rural areas defined community, we started to bat around two core ideas: How do we organize to achieve similar goals among disenfranchised people while taking into consideration the very real issues of racism/classism/gender oppression/ableism that keep us divided? And two, how do we deal with interlocking privilege and oppression, which is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to organize along class lines?

(Image Credit:  shho)