Much has happened since the last Kim’s Corner. Many will read this from the “comfort” of their home office/desk/chair/corner. Perhaps school aged children are nearby wrestling with online activities and calling your name to unravel a seemingly unsolvable problem. You’re likely struggling with unparalleled Zoom fatigue.

Despite this new dystopian reality, there are some glimmers of hope. In response to the justifiable social and public unrest, more and more individuals have recognized the need to do something. Several funding agencies and philanthropists have issued requests for proposals with an expressed interest in supporting equity based programs and/or research. Researchers, who have narrowly considered diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, have banded together to collectively pursue these issues. Higher education institutions have announced new leadership positions, committees, and programs all of which will be singularly focused on equity and equality. These efforts are commendable and long overdue. 

Yet, in observing these movements I am troubled. Recently, CGEST’s book club completed Patricia Hill Collins’s new manuscript Intersectionality As Critical Social Theory. Affiliates and friends representing different races and ethnicity—from  Hawai’i, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and Massachusetts—virtually gathered to review each chapter. Our discussions of intersectionality as a critical social theory have encouraged me to pose the following question in light of the above movements: 

  • Are these reform efforts disrupting the discourses of power, social inequity, and transformation; or are they reinforcing the present matrix of domination by who is and how folks are recognized? 
  • Is the rush for new funding strengthening organizations that maintain a white supremacy culture?  Is a sense of urgency (not to mention other normalized characteristics) prevailing over justice (see Dismantling Racism)?  
  • For folks who intend to be allies, what kinds of self-reflective rigorous exercises, self-education about “other” groups, and meaningful interactions have they undergone?
  • Since intent is not the same as impact, how much attention is being paid to the latter?  
  • Is critical inquiry leading to critical praxis? Stated differently, is more time being spent on “empathizing” about the struggles “Others” endure than on intentionally crafting ways to disrupt the structures causing the struggles?
  • To what extent are people of color, particularly those who have written, researched, and challenged systematic oppressions, invited to collaborate with these efforts? Is our invitation to participate limited to our work being cited in grant proposals? 
  • Finally, how many of these efforts are committed to transformation-which requires a complete recognition and destruction of current unjust structural, interpersonal, cultural and disciplinary domains–versus reformation–that is simply adding on or subtracting from the status quo?

Collin’s new book artfully demonstrates how intersectionality has not always been used as a social justice resistance framework. As we conclude one of the most cataclysmic years in our lifetime, we should be careful to truthfully examine what we want, how we will acquire it, with whom, and to what end. 

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