Introduction

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how the intersections of different aspects of identity create unique experiences of discrimination and marginalization. Kimberlé Crenshaw first conceptualized the theory of intersectionality in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” Intersectionality unites ideas from critical race theory and feminist theory to center the unique social identity of individuals who experience the effects of interlocking systems of oppression. Specifically, Dr. Crenshaw was naming the reality that Black women face a unique kind of discrimination in a society that is both racist and misogynist. Intersectionality as a concept can be extended and applied to all intersecting identities and experiences of discrimination and oppression, making it a crucial theory of inclusive social justice. Every person has intersecting social identities that place them in a unique position in society depending on the social structures of power. Intersectionality in practice is about seeing students as complex human individuals living within a society of intersecting structures of oppression.   

Resources

Teaching about intersectionality must include conversations of identity and oppression. Approaching the subjects of identity and oppression can seem difficult, but an intersectional approach to education simply makes explicit those social structures and systems of oppression that are always present in and out of the classroom. To best educate future civic leaders on the social identities that influence our lived experiences, teachers must approach this topic with integrity and compassion. Demarginalizing the countless intersections of structural oppression is a crucial step towards dismantling those systems of oppression and empowering individuals with intersectional marginalized identities.

Lesson Plans

  1. Toolkit for “Teaching at the Intersections”: This toolkit from Teaching Tolerance provides resources, essential questions, and readings for teaching intersectionality and practicing anti-bias education. These resources focus on building student understanding of identity and oppression, the two essential conceptual elements of intersectionality. This toolkit includes examples of essential questions, literature, and discussions about intersectionality, identity, and justice for each age group from grades K-12. 
  2. Understanding Intersectionality: This inclusive lesson plan from PBS is an excellent resource for approaching the topic of intersectionality with students. This resource provides material accessible for students from middle school to college. The lesson plan includes additional strategies for including ELL learners and a link to the same lesson plan in Spanish. This lesson is part of a larger collection and can be utilized separately as an introduction to intersectionality as a social concept. 
  3. Social Identity Wheel: This lesson plan centers on students personal and social identities, taking an interactive approach to learning about intersectionality. The site includes further resources to facilitate classroom discussion and links to other relevant lesson plans and activities. This link also includes a video demonstration of how to utilize the social identity wheel in context of other activities regarding identity and society.
  4. La Mission Movie Discussion Lesson: This lesson based around the movie La Mission provides a substantial and engaging plan of learning about intersectionality centering on the identity realms of sexual orientation, race, and culture. This approach to educating about intersectionality allows students to relate to a story and empathize with a character who faces unique struggles as a gay Latino man. The discussion questions are excellent bases for conversation  

Articles

  1. Teaching at the Intersections: This article from Teaching Tolerance about practical intersectionality is an excellent resource for educators. The article includes a case study of an empathetic and intersectional approach to students, a breakdown of how power, privilege, and oppression shows up in the classroom, a video on Intersectionality 101, and resources for effectively teaching and  intersectionality within the classroom.
  2. Intersectionality 101: This article from the Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy provides a comprehensive explanation of intersectionality. This is a great resource for educators who want to understand the key elements and unique characteristics of intersectionality as a social theory. The key message of this article is to show how intersectionality can fundamentally alter the way social problems are experienced and change the conceptualization of social justice to be inclusive of all lived experiences.  
  3. What’s Intersectionality? Let These Scholars Explain the Theory and Its History: This article from Time Magazine honors the legacies of many intersectional feminist scholars by discussing the history and theory of intersectioanlity.  Specifically, this article highlights the 28 scholar-activists of the Feminist Freedom Warriors Project and features the voices of Angela Y. Davis, Linda Carty, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. This article offers an excellent explanation of the history of feminism, the development of the concept of intersectional feminism, and the theory of intersectionality. 
  4. What Is Intersectionality and Why Is It Important?: This academic article from the American Association of University Professors gives a detailed description of intersectionality and an overview of many different contextual applications of the theory. For educators who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the concept, this article provides a comprehensive explanation of how intersectionality can be applied across many distinct contexts and realms of social identity. 

Informational Sites

  1. The Urgency of Intersectionality: Kimberlé Crenshaw presents a moving and compelling call to action in this TEDTalk. Dr. Crenshaw explains the concept of intersectionality, details the reality of interlocking systems of bias, and urges the public to recognize this phenomenon in order to act back on intersectional oppression. An essential resource for learning about intersectionality from the creator of the concept herself. 
  2. Feminist Freedom Warriors: The official site of the Feminist Freedom Warriors offers access to an archive of intersectional feminist scholarship and speeches from the women who are leading sources of wisdom and inspiration in the intersectionality movement. This is a fabulous resource to learn about intersectionality from the scholars working on the frontlines for intersectional feminism. The site includes excellent resources for an expanse of relevant topics related to intersectionality, including the topics of Afro-Asian relations, AntiRacism, Chicana Feminism, and many more. 
  3. A Primer on Intersectionality: This guide from the African American Policy Forum details the necessity of intersectionality and includes the transcript of a powerful speech from Kimberlé Crenshaw titled “What Kind of Ally are You?.” This resource takes a stand for the inclusion of intersectionality in politics and advocacy, and can be used by educators to bolster their own understanding of intersectionality as a crucial theory for the pursuit of educational equity. 

Conclusion

Intersectionality explains how lived experiences are uniquely influenced by the combination of multiple social identities. Educating students about intersectionality provides a theoretical foundation for understanding how their own lived experiences, as well as the lived experiences of others, connect to a larger social system of privilege and oppression. Students will have countless varieties of intersecting social identities, and intersectionality is an inclusive theory that makes sense of even the most complex and marginalized social positions. Educating about intersectionality and with an intersectional lens moves society towards a future where each student values the personhood and individuality of themselves and others. Creating new social structures based on equity,  justice, and empathy can begin in the classroom and continue in the world with students who learn to be change agents and civic leaders. 

Additional Resources

  1. Intersectionality Self Study Guide: This site lays out an overview of intersectionality before offering a variety of resources for self-study in the application of intersectionality as a social theory. The resources provided are accessible and helpful for anyone learning about intersectionality and can be utilized as classroom materials depending on the context. A list of suggested academic scholarships is included along with links to videos and articles. 
  2. Kimberlé Crenshaw: Instructors’ Guide to Intersectionality: This comprehensive guide compiled by the Boise State Gender Studies program contains a multitude of links to different kinds of resources on intersectionality. This is a great resource for those who wish to dive deeper into the many realms in which intersectionality can be applied. This site provides a sort of bibliography of intersectionality resources and is very helpful for investigating scholarship relevant to different academic disciplines and social realms. 
  3. Diversity and Inclusion Resources for Curricula: Intersectionality: This is a compilation of resources for teaching about intersectionality created by the Social Justice, Equity, and Teaching Transformation Faculty Learning Community at Salisbury University. It includes many of the resources annotated on this page as well as recommendations for books, articles, and blogs. A great resource for educators and learners alike. 
  4. Self-Care: It is important to keep in mind that learning about police brutality and living through moments of unrest can be mentally and emotionally taxing for students and teachers. Check out our page on teaching about self-care to find resources for helping students develop tools for taking care of themselves. Other great resources include The LoveLand Foundation and Black Emotional And Mental Health (BEAM) Collective.