Image courtesy of Kimberlé’s Twitter
The term intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and scholar, describes the overlap of social group categorizations (race, gender, social class, etc) and its relationships to systems of oppression and discrimination.
The term intersectionality as it relates to mental health is important as the term can help minority groups describe our experiences as we navigate our social and political worlds. As Kimberlé noted in her TedTalk, when we are unable to name an issue, we are unable to fix the issue.
Intersectionality and Mental Health
Minority groups already have a clear understanding of what it feels likes to not belong to a dominant culture. We know what it feels like to be unrepresented in certain circles. One of our most basic psychological need is belonging. When we feel like we do not belong to groups, we experience feelings of invisibility, unworthiness, loneliness, and low self-esteem and self-worth. Over prolonged periods, these negative emotions have lasting impacts on our mental health.
The importance of intersectionality is that it recognizes that people do not always only belong to a single minority group. For example, black women experience dual minority status (being black and being woman). Another example is a black lesbian woman; this person would experience a triple minority status (black, lesbian, and woman). Lastly, I’ll use myself as an example. In college, I quickly learnt that I was a triple minority. After much discourse with my African American female friends, I quickly began to understand my social status. I am a triple minority [black, woman, and immigrant (Jamaican)].