The Organization of Black Unity (OBU) hosted a campus discussion on “Intersectionality and the #SayHerName Movement,” on Wednesday, April 4, in the Thompson Student Activities Room (TSAR).
The event was centered around a Ted Talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw called “The Urgency of Intersectionality.”
OBU and SVSU faculty, such as history professor Kenneth Jolly, worked in conjunction with the Underground Railroad to create the event.
“The brainchild of this event was the #MeToo movement combined with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s material,” said Allie Martinez, the prevention education coordinator at the Underground Railroad. “Dr. Jolly and I decided that there was no better way to have this conversation about intersectionality on campus than to view the Ted Talk and talk about it. When students are allowed to engage in these types of discussions, it empowers them to engage others in this type of discussion as well.”
In the video, Crenshaw began by asking everybody in the audience to stand up and to sit down again when she said a name that they did not know.
The list consisted of the names of several African American men who had been killed by police brutality.
Then, she listed another set of names, after which almost nobody in the audience was standing.
The second list was the names of African American women who had been killed by police brutality.
Crenshaw believes the video’s audience members did not recognize the names of the African American women because of the role intersectionality plays in society.
Intersectionality, as Crenshaw defines it, is the overlap of social justice issues, creating layers of injustice for marginalized groups of society.
Learning about intersectionality and The African American Policy Forum report titled “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women” has helped shine light on the layers of injustices Crenshaw cited.
In fact, since the report went public, the #SayHerName movement has grown to spread awareness about the African American women who have been killed by police brutality.
After the Ted Talk on intersectionality, a panel answered questions and facilitated a discussion regarding the intersectionality of gender, race, sexual orientation and sexual assault and violence.
On the panel was sociology professor Dawn Hinton; Kimberly Lacey, a professor of English and gender studies; communications professor Brittany Collins; Melissa Garmo, a criminal justice professor; Lucy Mercier, a social work professor; and Allie Martinez from the Underground Railroad.
Students such as psychology freshman Kierra Crockett were surprised that they knew so few of the African American female names that Crenshaw had listed in the video.
In fact, one of the women listed was from Crockett’s hometown, Detroit.
“I was assuming that, because I’m a woman, the police might not be as aggressive with me.” Crockett said. “When I talked about police brutality, I would talk about my little brother, my father, my uncles. I wouldn’t talk about myself, my sister or my mother. It gave me better insight into my own struggles that I didn’t know I had before.”
Crenshaw’s Ted Talk also stated that media portrayals of black women as aggressive is a huge part of the problem, which Crockett also noted.
“There’s nothing about black women that is seen as good in the media,” Crockett said. “When you do see it, it’s made by black women for black women. It makes sense for black women to be treated badly because they’re portrayed as bad people. That’s how we end up in the situation we’re in today.”
Crockett also stressed that media coverage is an important influence on how minorities are viewed by the majority of the population.
“The country is only 13 percent black,” Crockett said. “That means there are several communities of just white people. These communities have a perspective of black women that only comes from TV. That shapes so many opinions. Even if someone doesn’t think they’re racist because they don’t think they’re better than a black person per se, that doesn’t stop them from being scared of a black woman when they see her. They don’t know why. They might not even accept the fact that they do, but it’s been conditioned into them.”