Time and time again, I find myself supporting a cause or rallying behind a certain platform, only to later find that the supposed ‘cause’ is either oblivious to or unconcerned about the rest of me.
This is intersectional invisibility. This is a thing.
Intersectional invisibility plagues many types of women. Women living with disabilities, of varying sexual orientations and identities, and other minority women.
The intersection of multiple identities creates a burden of allegiance, deeming it necessary for these women to ask themselves, “Which part of me is most important today?” Each must consider the interests of their total self when claiming a social stance.
I was first introduced to the term by a soror.
After reading the commentary on one of my debate igniting Facebook posts, she shared an article written by Valerie Purdie-Vaughns and Richard P. Eibach, introducing the theory that those who identify as a member of multiple subgroups could be worse off than those with a single identifier.
Their intersecting identify classifies them as invisible.
She often found herself, as I do, in the middle of debates; defending the disparagement of women, the plight of African-Americans, the adversity faced by college educated millennials, and the disappearance of the working middle class – all at the same time.
Women’s rights and the rights of African-Americans are at pivotal points, often forcing the African-American female to choose between the interests of her melanin and the interests of her genitalia; two things she has no control over.
It took the Presidential Race to show me just how invisible I really am.
Imagine me, all steamed up from my experience as a young African-American voting to elect the first black President of the United States of America. Able to change the world by exercising a right that was long denied to women and African-Americans.
Voting was my super power.
I was enthused by the possibility that I could make history again in 2016, supporting the potential first female President; excited that once again my vote would count and my voice would be heard.
Now imagine a tall, cold glass of milk spilled all over a black and white tiled floor.
The disappointment rang like school bells in my ears when I learned that the Clinton campaign’s top fundraisers were also lobbyists for some of the most lucrative private prisons in the country. The Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group employ the same “bundlers” that the Clinton campaign deems necessary for fundraising.
The overrepresentation of African-Americans in the American prison system is no secret.
Former President Bill Clinton has readily admitted to his misadministration in supporting harsher punishments and lopsided sentencing policies for non-violent offenders. Mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, and the war on drugs are legislative policies that disproportionally affect lower income African-American males.
Some call this modern day slavery.
In some ways, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for those whose industries thrive as a result of the incarceration of my King. As the Queen, it is my duty to protect not only my King, but also the best interests of the kingdom. Voting for the first female U.S. President would make me an oppressor.
This is my intersection. This is where I become invisible.
I want to fight the good fight for African-Americans and women with the same satisfaction.
I want men, women, and children of color to receive the same consideration as our white counterparts.
I want women to earn an equal wage and not have the government impose legislature on feminine wellness and healthcare.
I want to be a woman and Black at the same time, without feeling like I’ve neglected ANY parts of me.
I also want to be visible. I want women like me to be visible.
In a video circulating online, the ever-controversial Dr. Umar Johnson describes the conflicting agendas of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. He describes a historic exchange between the two, in which Anthony insists that the Negro did not deserve to be granted voting rights before women, white women presumably.
As the final seconds played, a light bulb went off and shined brighter than ever. Visibility over invisibility for me and other Black women was imposed centuries before anyone knew what an ‘intersectional invisibility’ was.
The plight of the conscious Black woman and her allegiance to her gender is the most intense tug-of-war that I’ve ever experienced. The struggle between the two is why I often claim the “fake feminist” moniker.
I cannot attach myself to something that will not willingly attach itself to me. All of me.
So here I am, a woman in the modern era wanting to unabashedly support Jennifer Lawrence and demand equal pay for women.
And here I am again, an African-American watching images of Laquan McDonald being savagely murdered by a police officer.
I am at a crossroads, and I am not lonely at all. Women of all walks find themselves caught at a self-identification intersection of some sort.
Am I a feminist at the cost of my cultural identity, or am I pro-Black at the cost of my gender identity?
Society is forcing me to decide whether the woman in me deserves more than the African-American in me.
Who should win?
Black, Female, and Invisible
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