Principles for Working with an Intersectional Analysis

[A version of this content was originally presented at a Roots of Justice workshop at the Wild Goose Festival, June 2014.]

  • Explore differences and similarities so that individuals can form connections and eventually relationships and trust.
  • Build authentic relationships across boundaries (of social locations and organizational entities) so that coalitions are based not only in common cause but thickened, lasting relationships that sustain people and processes.
  • Be aware of the friendship paradox. Personal relationships embedded in accountability are the ties that bind, are where personal transformation happens, and are critical, but are not instrumental. In other words, you don’t make friends just because you happen to want to work on something with that person, or to ensure your work has their involvement. Friendship and trust are authentic and precious. Not commodities.
  • Use inclusive multi-issue framing: North Caroloina’s Moral Mondays movement are a good example. As you frame, see who is not there. Find ways to bring the table and the mic to their voices and realities.
  • Work on multiple fronts in response to your local survival issues: violence and employment discrimination against trans* people, criminalization and incarceration of LGBT youth/youth of color, inclusion of immigrants in the prison industrial complex, lack of access to safe housing and education.
  • Explicitly identify intersections in individuals’ lives and how they reinforce social oppression and disempowerment. Use intersections as connection points with other people and communities.
  • Use cultural expressions – storytelling, testimonies, public art making and sharing – to enable the voices of the invisibilized to speak for and represent themselves. Use public spaces and creative cultural production: performance, video, music, dance.
  • Avoid compartmentalization; welcome people’s whole selves by encouraging self-affirmation of all aspects of their identities. Understand the need to create an internal welcome – to feel ourselves welcomed – in order to welcome others.
  • See how the intersections are represented in economic/class situatedness, immigration status, relationship status, and access to resources.
  • If part of an organization with a primary approach, explore or connect with an organization using another approach: community building, organization, service provider, arts/cultural, advocacy … widen your view, your analysis, your approach.
  • If part of an organization with a primary focus, get out of your issue silo: learn from your constituents what the multiplicity of their issues are, and begin to connect through relationships. Celebrate resistance to oppression, overcoming, and restoration of dignity.
  • Call on resources of religious traditions, organizations, spiritualities. Use the spaces of religious places.
  • Do your own work: engage in self-reflection to work on issues of internalized inferiority or superiority.
  • Know your history and the history of your place. As Southerners on New Ground describes the context of their work: “building a political home across race, class, culture, gender and sexuality,” means knowing themselves to be in a “land thick with what came before us—colonization, slavery, Civil Rights Movement, migration for labor, traditions of struggle, resilience, and beauty.” See who has been working on your issue already.
  • Consider the healing that is needed on individual and communal levels. Explore practices that can enhance that healing: speaking and listening, telling stories and restorying, practicing resistance and trust-building, environmental restoration, finding strength and imperatives for justice in spiritualities.

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