HRC Blog

At the Intersection of Progress and Justice

The following post, part of HRC's Black History Month blog series, comes from Janaye Ingram, Acting National Executive Director of the National Action Network:

There’s always been a saying that the only thing worse than being black in this country is being a black woman. Not only do you face racism and prejudice, but you have to deal with sexism and misogyny. It’s a double whammy of discrimination. But let’s face it, being a black lesbian adds an entirely different set of challenges. Not only does one have to deal with the types of bias mentioned above, but one must also deal with discrimination because of sexual orientation. It can be a hard road to tread; as Wanda Sykes called it, a “trifecta of discrimination.”

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw developed the idea of intersectionality in 1989, though the general concept can be traced back to the 1800’s. The theory explains that as a whole person we do not experience injustice and inequality independently, rather, we experience them through the intersection of our total being. Put another way, black gay women who deal with discrimination may not always know whether the source of discrimination is their race, gender or sexual orientation. Their interactions with bias are received in all forms and cast through a lens of a single person.

As a black woman, I know the struggle that I face each day. It is the intersectionality of that struggle that led me to dedicate my life toward working for a more just world. But I often wonder what my lesbian sisters endure. As an ally, even though I have dealt with glass ceilings, pay inequity, being followed in stores, I can marry whatever man I want, anywhere I want and I know that if I am looking for a job, that I am protected against discrimination. There have been fights to win these gains and legislation or decisions to protect them. As we reflect on the contributions of Blacks in the building of this nation during the month of February and leading into the month of March where we recognize the efforts of women, I take a special moment to reflect on those women whose experiences will lead them to have more fights than I’ve had or will have. Though it’s hard to compare traumas or struggles, I believe that my lesbian sisters have a longer road to win the good fight for equality.

Just last month, America won another battle. Staci Michelle Yandle was nominated by President Obama for the Southern District of Illinois. It’s a win for us all, not just for blacks, women or lesbians. Ms. Yandle’s nomination proves to all of us that we are progressing as a nation. There will be a day when a black lesbian judge being nominated won’t make the news, but until then, we celebrate the steps in the right direction.

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