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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 Fourteen: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Ignoring Intersections and Supporting Silence in Elite Liberal Arts College Classrooms


← 157 | 158 → CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Ignoring Intersections and Supporting Silence in Elite Liberal Arts College Classrooms


The scene had become an all too common one. I slid the tissue box closer to Tabatha as she attempted to capture the frustration and exhaustion she felt at being one of a relatively few Black women on this campus. “I just realized that who I am here, in this body and where I’m from is not at all the ‘normative’ student here. No one seems academically or socially interested in listening to my understandings of things.”

She gestures to herself and I take in her curvy figure, the rich red-brown tones of her skin, the magenta highlights of her hair twists, and listen to the slight Southern cadence that peppers her speech. She continues, “This body and what I learned from home doesn’t fit here. I’m just really tired.” On this New England campus, where the “normative” female student is more often a thin White Woman with long, straight brown, blond, or red hair, who hails from the East Coast, Tabatha doesn’t fit. Instead, her brown skin, physical type, geographic home, and gender intersect in ways that simultaneously make her visible and invisible. In the weeks leading up to this meeting with Tabatha, our campus had been mired in the very issues that point out the urgency of enacting inclusive education: education that recognizes the complexity of identity and the interlocking systems of...

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