Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)

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The paper attempted to mitigate the widespread misconception that the intersectional experience is solely due to the sum of racism and sexism.

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So this is in continuity with that. In particular, women were only discussed in literature and poetry classes while men were also discussed in serious politics and economics. Crenshaw's focus on intersectionality is on how the law responds to issues that include gender and race discrimination.

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The particular challenge in law is that antidiscrimination laws look at gender and race separately and consequently African-American women and other women of color experience overlapping forms of discrimination and the law, unaware of how to combine the two, leaves these women with no justice. The law defines discrimination of singular cases where you can only be discriminated based one thing or the other so when enforcing the law they go solely by the definition and if discrimination cannot be proved based on the single definition of one discrimination or the other then there is no crime committed.

Crenshaw realized the idea of racialized sexism and gendered sexism.

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She broke down intersectional analysis into three forms, 1. Structural, which addresses racism and patriarchy in association with violence against women. And 3. Representational, which addresses the intersection or racial and gender stereotypes. Crenshaw's participation in paradigms of identity which are mutually exclusive is one of rethinking identity politics from within, in general through systemic legal exclusions.


Crenshaw often refers to the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors as an inspiration in writing, interviews, and lectures. In DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, a group of African-American women argued they were receiving compound discrimination excluding them from employment opportunities. They contended that although women were eligible for office and secretarial jobs, in practice such positions only were offered to white women, barring African-American women from seeking employment in the company.

The courts weighed the allegations of race and gender discrimination separately, finding that the employment of African-American male factory workers disproved racial discrimination, and the employment of white female office workers disproved gender discrimination.

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The court declined to consider compound discrimination, and dismissed the case. Crenshaw also discusses intersectionality in connection to her experience as part of the legal team for Anita Hill , the woman who accused then-US Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The two lines of argument focused on the rights of women and Hill's experience of being violated as a woman, on the one hand, and on the other the appeal to forgive Thomas or turn a blind eye to his conduct due to his opportunity to become only the second African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Crenshaw argued that with these two groups rising up against one another during this case, Anita Hill lost her voice as a black woman. She had been unintentionally chosen to support the women's side of things, silencing her racial contribution to the issue.

It was a defining moment. So sexual harassment is now recognized; what's not doing as well is the recognition of black women's unique experiences with discrimination. The problem now, according to Choo and Ferree, is how an intersectional analysis should be carried out. A nationwide initiative to open up a ladder of opportunities to youth males and males of color. This campaign has received a lot of support from all over letters signed by men of color, letters signed by women of color and letters signed by allies that believe in the cause.

In an interview on the Laura Flanders Show Crenshaw explained that the program was introduced as response to the widespread grief from the African-American community after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of his shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin , an unarmed African-American teenage boy. She describes the program as "feel-good", and fatherly initiative but does not believe that it is a significant or structural program that will help fight the rollback of civil rights; the initiative will not provide the kinds of things that will really make a difference.

She believes that because women and girls of color are a part of the same communities and disadvantages as the under-privileged males that are focused in the initiative, that in order to make it an effective program for the communities it needs to include all members of the community girls and boys alike. The letter is signed by women of all ages and a variety of backgrounds including high-school teens, professional actors, civil rights activists, and university professors commending President Obama on the efforts of the White House, private philanthropy, and social justice organizations to urge the inclusion of young women and girls.

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One can only conjecture. Maybe it is a foggy conception of the moral law, maybe a hangover from slave days when men and women were mated like cattle or the later age of common law love, maybe a demonstration of the fact that when human beings are denied normal and licit pleasures they descend to those which are natural but illegitimate.

Through the centuries my people have been a starry-eyed happy people of hope-hope for the future and for better days.

Thea Bowman's ancestors were indeed people of hope. During the century before the Civil War, itself a century before the Civil Rights Movement, the "old folks," ancestors so loved by Thea Bowman, came into Mississippi, slaves to their white plantation owners. This is the land of King Cotton. It is the land of magnolia trees and mockingbirds, of a mild climate north of Jackson, subtropics to the south.

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Although cotton's ascendancy had once rocketed the state to one of the nation's wealthiest, the wealth was not shared widely. In the decades after the War Between the States, Mississippi became known as a poor state, and is now ranked consistently among the poorest in the nation. Into this land of plantations and slaves, Thea's ancestors came as slaves. In her cadence, Thea wrote:. Most of my ancestors came to the Americas in chains, from thousands of towns and villages, from many racial stocks and many tribes-from the spirited Hansas, the gentle Mandingos, the creative Youlas, the Ibos, Efiks, Krus, the proud Fantirs, the warlike Ashantis, the Dahomeans, the Binis, and Sengealese.

Some were captured in nature wars and sold to Europeans. Some were kidnapped. Some were sold into slavery for infractions of native laws. They came to this hemisphere and met with the other side of my family-island dwellers from Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Caribbean, French traders, and Native Americans with whom they mixed and married; Spanish conquistadors and Portuguese traders and owners and overlords who claimed their bodies as well as their labor.

In America, no matter what their percentage of Negroid blood, they were called sambos, niggers, nigras, colored, negroes, blacks, and this is what I am. We came to North America as chattel labor-chained, stripped naked and examined, sold and branded. Having no property, owned, not owning, we were found everywhere, but chiefly in Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, those states where cotton was king.

We were valued because we were strong. We could work in un-shaded fields where noonday temperatures reached degrees. We planted and harvested your cotton, cooked your food, washed your clothes, reared your children, built the antebellum mansions in which you take so much pride. Even after we were freed from slavery by law and fought your wars and helped to build your nation less than 15 years ago, many of us were, by law, denied equal opportunity, the right to equal education, even the right to vote.

The day I was born, my father went out and started a separate bank account for my education. As far back as I can remember, education was a top priority in my family on both sides. My mother's mother was a teacher and a school principal. Even today, the school she founded in Greenville is still named after her.

And, my father's father was a slave, but he managed to go to school through the second grade. So, the expectation was that education was important, not just for yourself, but for your family and your community. And it brought [the] responsibility to try to help somebody else. That's a different kind of teaching from what many families believe today. I grew up in a community where the teaching of religion was a treasured role of the elders-grandparents, old uncles and aunts, but also parents, big brothers and sisters, family friends, and church members.

Many of the best teachers were not formally educated. But they knew Scripture, and they believed the Living Word must be celebrated and shared. They did not struggle to ask, 'Did this Biblical event occur?

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When or how did it happen? They asked only, "What does this story mean? What did it mean in Biblical times? What does it mean in our lives today? What does it call me to do? Their teachings were simple. Their teachings were sound. Their methodologies were such that, without effort, I remember their teachings today: songs of Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Miriam, David, Dives, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, John, Mary, Jesus: his birth, his life, his teachings, his miracles, his disciples, his Passion, his glory, his promise to us all of eternal life.