The overwhelming oppression is the collective fact that we do not fit, and because we do not fit we are a threat. Not all of us have the same oppressions, but we empathize and identify with each other’s oppressions. We do not have the same ideology, nor do we derive similar solutions… These different affinities are not opposed to each other. In El Mundo Zurdo [the left-handed world] I with my own affinities and my people with theirs can live together and transform the planet.” —Gloria Anzaldúa, “La Prieta”
The major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives.” —The Combahee River Collective, 1977
Intersectionality has edged into the peripheral field of that institution of institutions, Merriam-Webster. But not everyone who uses the term cites its source, legal professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, or engages writing and analysis from the women of color who preceded her.
So it can be easy to imagine that the concept of social domination being “interlocking” or “intersecting” is new. It isn’t.
The Combahee statement is almost forty years old and yet writers are still having to argue for the assumption that oppressions are connected, that they create “the conditions of our lives,” and that their impacts on individual people vary based on which other social forces flow through our lives.
It’s not new, in other words, to start attending to one justice issue and then notice ways it’s hooked into others. One person tracks racism to environmental justice to class. Another, as Martin Luther King, Jr., did, tracks labor to civic discrimination to voting rights to war and militarism. Still another tracks LGBTQIA justice to anti-Muslim prejudice to support for refugees.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll start with one issue and inevitably trace its connections to others. This works as it does because domination systems are unoriginal and repeat themselves with new targets.