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Intersectionality & Higher Education

Theory, Research, & Praxis

Donald Jr. Mitchell, Charlana Simmons and Lindsay A. Greyerbiehl

Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. A scholar of law, critical race theory, and Black feminist thought, Crenshaw used intersectionality to explain the experiences of Black women who – because of the intersections of race, gender, and class – are exposed to exponential forms of marginalization and oppression. Intersectionality & Higher Education documents and expands upon Crenshaw’s ideas within the context of U.S. higher education. The text includes theoretical and conceptual chapters on intersectionality; empirical research using intersectionality frameworks; and chapters focusing on intersectional practices. The volume may prove beneficial for graduate programs in ethnic studies, higher education, sociology, student affairs, and women and gender studies alike.
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Chapter Two: Racial Privilege, Gender Oppression, and Intersectionality


← 19 | 20 → CHAPTER TWO


In higher education, student affairs professionals work with college students in multiple settings to promote student learning, engagement, and development. Although students of color represent a growing proportion of the contemporary college-going population, the majority of the student affairs profession remains White and female (Olson, 2010; Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008; Taub & McEwen, 2006; Tull, 2006). Practitioners and scholars have been right to insist on the need to recruit and retain more people of color and members of other historically underrepresented groups in the profession (Olson, 2010; Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008). Still, educators too rarely scrutinize the structures of power and privilege (Brookfield, 2005; Johnson, 2006), especially White privilege, that undergird the historical underrepresentation of people of color in student affairs (Bondi, 2012). Remaining silent about White privilege in student affairs “may unwittingly contribute to the universalization of Whiteness, and consequently, the marginalization of non-White racial identities” (Ortiz & Rhoads, 2000, p. 81) in the profession.

One way to disrupt the universalization of Whiteness in student affairs is to facilitate racial consciousness among White professionals in general, and White women in particular, given their overrepresentation in the field. Ortiz and Rhoads (2000) found that for White student affairs professionals, developing racial consciousness requires coming to terms with one’s White identity. Students in higher education and student affairs (HESA) graduate preparation programs may study theories of White racial consciousness and identity (e.g., Hardiman, 2001;...

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