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date: 10 April 2021

Race and Gender Intersectionality and Educationfree

  • Venus E. Evans-WintersVenus E. Evans-WintersIllinois State University

Summary

When recognizing the cultural political agency of Black women and girls from diverse racial and ethnic, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds and geographical locations, it is argued that intersectionality is a contributing factor in the mitigation of educational inequality. Intersectionality as an analytical framework helps education researchers, policymakers, and practitioners better understand how race and gender intersect to derive varying amounts of penalty and privilege. Race, class, and gender are emblematic of the three systems of oppression that most profoundly shape Black girls at the personal, community, and social structural levels of institutions. These three systems interlock to penalize some students in schools while privileging other students. The intent of theoretically framing and analyzing educational problems and issues from an intersectional perspective is to better comprehend how race and gender overlap to shape (a) educational policy and discourse, (b) relationships in schools, and (c) students’ identities and experiences in educational contexts. With Black girls at the center of analysis, educational theorists and activists may be able to better understand how politics of domination are organized along other axes such as ethnicity, language, sexuality, age, citizenship status, and religion within and across school sites. Intersectionality as a theoretical framework is informed by a variety of standpoint theories and emancipatory projects, including Afrocentrism, Black feminism and womanism, critical race theory, queer theory, radical Marxism, critical pedagogy, and grassroots’ organizing efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and other women of color throughout US history and across the diaspora.

Intersectionality as a Mitigating Framework and Analytical Tool

The complexity exists; interpreting it remains the unfulfilled challenge for Black women intellectuals.

— Patricia Hill Collins (1990, p. 229)

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework and mode of analysis used to understand the multifarious ways race, class, gender, and other social categories overlap and intersect with one another to shape individuals’ and groups’ perspectives and collective experiences. In this article, Black girls are centered in the discussion on the possibilities of intersectionality for educational policy and discourse. Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) first coined the term intersectionality to accentuate how racism in employment excluded Black women in ways that diverged from that of Black men, and at the same time, sex discrimination in employment manifested in the lives of Black women’s differently than it did for White women. Similarly, Black girls’ experiences in schools are simultaneously similar yet different from the experiences of Black boys; and Black girls’ schooling experiences unfold differently from that of White girls.

Although ideologically the concept of intersectionality has been a part of Black women’s onto-epistemology (see Barad, 1999, for discussion on onto-epistemology and agential realism) for centuries, in the post-civil rights era, scholars have been considering the role and implications of intersectionality in theories, methodologies, and approaches to praxis in K-12 education. Suffice it enough to say here, Black feminists and other feminists of color in social science disciplines have a tradition of grappling with race and gender in academia (Perkins, 1993; Mirza, 2014; Evans-Winters, 2015). For this discussion, the usefulness of intersectionality and other related paradigms proffered by women of color will be considered with Black girls in mind.

The intent of theoretically framing and analyzing educational problems and issues from an intersectional perspective is to better comprehend how race and gender overlap to shape (a) educational policy and discourse, (b) relationships in schools, and (c) students’ identities and experiences in educational contexts. First, by placing Black girls’ at the center of analysis, it becomes obvious who is erased from so-called progressive education reforms. Second, situating Black girls at the center of the analysis seeks to combat both historical amnesia of the role of Black women’s thought in theorizings of intersectionality and begin to (re)locate Black girl students in educational theory and discourse. One of the biggest challenges critical theorists face in education is the assumption that educational policy, discourse, and concepts are neutral, and therefore, germane to all students. Another challenge is the erasure of Black women’s contribution to social theory and Black girls’ agency in the face of politics of domination. Following a brief historical contextualization of intersectionality, throughout the discussion an overview of intersectionality is put forth to illuminate the significance of race and gender in educational policy and discourse.

Intersectionality is a term that is becoming more widely used in education scholarship and discourse. Because of the wide use of intersectionality in academic parlance, more people are claiming to be “intersectional” or assume that there is a shared understanding of what intersectionality means and what it entails. First, people are not intersectional; instead theoretical perspectives and interpretations of the social world are intersectional. Second, like with most standpoint theories, without a critical examination of the socio-political aims of the theory (i.e., intersectionality), those who embrace intersectionality for its criticality or as a tool of resistance will fail to meaningfully serve and protect the exact groups from which the critical framework and praxis derived.

For the purposes of this discussion, an explication of intersectionality is offered with Black girls at the center of the analysis. Public education in a democracy is arguably a mitigating factor in social inequity. When recognizing the cultural political authority of Black women and girls from diverse racial and ethnic, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds and geographical locations, it is argued that intersectionality is a contributing factor in the mitigation of educational inequality. Intersectionality as an analytical framework helps education researchers to better understand how race and gender intersect to “derive varying amounts of penalty and privilege” (Collins, 1990, p. 226). Race, class, and gender are emblematic of the three systems of oppression that most profoundly shape Black girls at the personal, community, and social structural levels of institutions (e.g., schools, religion, judicial, workplace, and so on). These three systems interlock to penalize some students in schools while privileging others.

With Black girls at the center of analysis, educational theorists and activists may be able to better understand how “politics of domination” (hooks, 1989, p. 19) are organized along other axes like ethnicity, language, sexuality, age, citizenship status, and religion within and across school sites. Intersectionality as a theoretical framework is informed by a variety of standpoint theories and emancipatory projects, including Afrocentrism, Black feminism and womanism, critical race theory, queer theory, radical Marxism, critical pedagogy, and grassroots’ organizing efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and other women of color throughout US history and across the diaspora.

An example of Black women’s early protestations against subjugation in all of its forms is when in 1863 Sojourner Truth (1851) proclaimed, “Ain’t I a Woman” at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. At the convention, Sojourner Truth illustrated the ways in which African women were rendered invisible in debates about both Black citizenship and deliberations on women’s suffrage. Speaking as both an African and a woman, Sojourner Truth openly professed how she bared the harsh physical labors enforced on all enslaved people, regardless of gender; and expectantly performed the gender roles assigned to women without being accorded the privileges and sanctity of White womanhood, including the privilege of being able to protect, rear, and care for her own children. The interlocking oppressions of racism and sexism rendered her to a subordinated position in both the private and public spheres, and simultaneously, as a Black woman at once vulnerable and scrupulously formidable.

Enslaved African girls endured the harsh realities of physical labor, beatings, rape, racial terror, and having their offspring stolen away from them. Girls of African ancestry, undoubtedly, learned early on in US history their quandary as Black people and as girls under White supremacy patriarchal rule. Throughout abolitionism and the women’s suffrage movement, Black women actively participated in political campaigns against chattel slavery, White racial terrorism, and the political disenfranchisement of Black people; and Black women simultaneously created their own or collaborated with women suffragists’ organizations (Davis, 1981; hooks, 1981). Like Sojourner Truth, Black women understood that their freedom was grounded in both Black people’s full citizenship rights and women’s enfranchisement.

Throughout the times of the transatlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, and slave revolts, and the Jim Crow Lynching period, Black women conscientiously chose to struggle alongside Black men to protect themselves, Black men, and children. Notwithstanding, during the suffrage era, Black women did not take for granted the importance of the vote for all women and gender equality under the law. Their plight was fundamentally tied to that of both Black men and White women. Socially located at the nexus of race and gender politics of domination, Black women’s modalities of political activism as a matter of course had to be intersectional. Intersectionality as a mode of analysis synchronously represents Black women’s multiple consciousness as raced and gendered subjects as well as Black women’s conscious strategies for navigating socio-political forces.

How can intersectionality help education activists unveil the multiple realities of Black girls while drawing upon Black girls’ ways of knowing to solve education problems? Pertinently, how does either/or theoretical constructs complicate the struggles of Black girls in their schools? “Either you fight on the side of racial justice or you fight on the side of gender justice,” is a common retort young Black women social justice advocates in education hear. Intersectionality calls for a “both/and conceptual lens of the simultaneity of race, class, and gender oppression and of the need for a humanist vision of community” (Collins, 1990, p. 221). A humanist vision of community will include (re)imagining school communities as spaces that contribute to human freedom and progress for all students.

Moreover, keeping in mind historical and contemporary forms of Black women’s political activism, intersectionality is also a useful framework for better understanding the ways in which Black girls cope with and resist race and gender domination inside and outside schools, and how they come to develop a collective consciousness. As Evans-Winters (2011) illustrated, Black girls attended school in a district that systematically underserved Black students and students from poor families for generations. Further, it was reported that at school Black girls were perceived as less attractive, less intelligent, and more aggressive than White middle-class girls.

However, Black girls in the study and the women in their lives recognized the need to view girls from working-class neighborhoods as members of the Black community and as girls with distinct cultural and education needs. From their perspective, Black girls required education prevention and intervention programs that were gender and culturally responsive. School resilience was fostered among Black girls who received support simultaneously from Black women caregivers, Black women role models at school and in their communities.

Simultaneously, the adult social actors in the students’ lives understood the significance of race and gender in the formulation of a positive student identity and achieving self-actualization. The study mentioned utilized Black feminist theory to attempt to grasp how race, class, and gender intersected to impede on the schooling experiences of Black girls. As evidenced in the cited study, Evans-Winters (2011), an intersectional analysis recognizes and advocates for processes and relationships that foster resilience, culturally responsive resistance to structural inequality, and collective action to change inequitable school structures.

Collective Responsibility and Intersectionality

Attenuated concentration on individual responsibility and motivation in the face of adversity is endemic of Eurocentric western philosophies of individualism and liberal feminism’s focus on personal autonomy which is diametrically opposed to Black feminism’s ethos of care and community (Lane, 2018). Intersectional conversations on vulnerability and resilience studied within a socio-cultural context are important epistemological shifts in education research that regularly ignores the racialized and gendered experiences of Black girls in schools, pathologizes the Black community, and generally deems Black students somehow culturally deficient or intellectually inferior to their White counterparts. Meanwhile, the theorization of Black girls’ schooling experiences is lost in the shuffle as race scholars push for anti-racist policies and feminists advocate for gender-based school policies.

In these dichotomous approaches to school reform policy, all the girls are White, and all the Blacks are boys. For example, President Barack Obama gave unprecedented attention to the educational neglect of Black boys during his tenure as the first Black commander-in-chief of one of the world’s most powerful nations, and a nation that has been besmirched morally for its history of racial injustice. To address the opportunity gap faced by boys and young men of color, the president implemented the “My Brother’s Keepers” initiative, which focused on a wide range of topics such as mentoring, workforce development, and early literacy programs.

Without a doubt, Black boys and other boys of color who experience relentless structural barriers certainly need policy agendas that serve to protect and advocate for their developmental needs. Nonetheless, some saw this initiative as a missed opportunity for the first Black president, who with this initiative was clearly forefronting a racial agenda, to also address the egregious education opportunity gaps that girls and young women of color face. For example, compared to their White female peers, Black and Latina girls were more likely to be suspended from school (Inniss-Thompson, 2018), Black and Native American girls received harsher discipline for minor offenses and typical childlike behaviors (Onyeka-Crawford, Patrick, & Chaudhry, 2017) and/or endured surveillance and harassment for being Black girls (Evans-Winters & GGENY, 2017), and disproportionality come in contact more with police after a referral from school authority (Morris, 2016).

In the case of private and public initiatives like “My Brother’s Keeper,” the assumption is that if boys and men of color were okay, then girls would benefit from the trickle-down effect of boys’ increased education and career opportunities (Crenshaw, 2014). Most policy interventions myopically focus on unilateral variables (e.g., race + intervention = an outcome) as opposed to intersecting, multiplicative, and fluctuating variables (race x gender x class x (y) + intervention = outcomes) in students’ lives. Without attention to the multiplicative (Wing, 1997) nature of Black girls’ identities, the dynamism of Black girls’ schooling experiences go under-theorized and unexplored.

The purpose of intersectionality, among others, is to facilitate a multidimensional non-binary policy analysis that contemporaneously frame vulnerability and oppression alongside agency and resistance in approaches to educational interventions. First, although many Black girls and women have a commonly shared experience due to the nature of race, class, and gender oppression (and colonial education), it goes without saying that Black girls are not one monolithic or homogenous group. Second, girls of African ancestry represent a multitude of personal and cultural experiences, identities, and social realities. It is from these multiple and co-existing realities that Black girls’ and women’s intersectional praxis emerges.

The Combahee River Collective (CRC, 1983) statement written by a group of Black feminists and lesbians gathered in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, captured the multivocality and intersectional framework of Black women’s politics and praxis. Pointedly, the collective called for struggles against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression and critiqued sexual oppression in the Black community and racism within the mainstream feminist movement.

In their articulation of the intersection of multiple oppressions (and admittance that tokenism accorded some Black women more privilege), CRC set the contemporary tone for Black women’s organizing efforts. Specifically, they asserted that racial politics and racism are pervasive factors in Black women’s lives, and sexual politics and patriarchy are as pervasive as class and race. They also collectively rejected the stance of lesbian separatism and biological determinism. And like Black women activists before them, they called for political work in coalition with other progressive movements and organizations with similar interests to dismantle White supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism, and capitalism. Further, they openly proclaimed to be “concerned with any situation that impinges on the lives of women, Third World and working people” (CRC, 1983, p. 3). Finally, women activists believed that with democratic and non-hierarchal relationships, they could look to their collective knowledge and power to combat the social issues confronting Black women and similarly situated people.

In the contemplation of intersectionality as a tool of analysis, what can be learned from the CRC statement to address educational disparity in the lives of Black girls? The CRC statement calls to mind that Black girls’ realities are constructed by multiple historically intersecting oppressed identities such as race and ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, immigrant status, age, geographical location, language, mental health, (dis)ability, and other social characteristics. How do these same politics play out in the lives of Black school girls who are multiply marginalized? To begin with, data from the Educational Policy Institute recently suggests that Black girls are more likely than their White peers to attend schools highly segregated by race and ethnicity and to attend high poverty economically segregated schools, which places them at greater risk of school underperformance (García, 2020).

Furthermore, using data from the Office of Civil Rights, the National Women’s Justice Institute discovered that although White girls were more likely to be bullied or harassed on the basis of sex, Black girls were more likely to report being bullied or harassed on the basis of race (Inniss-Thompson, 2018). Ironically, more girls were disciplined for bullying based on sex than they were for bullying based on race (Inniss-Thompson, 2018). Once again, Black girls’ needs for protection were not considered. If the plight of Black girls in schools is analyzed from an intersectional perspective, the intricacies (as called out in the CRC statement) of Black girls’ identities begin to reveal themselves.

For example, in 2013–2014, nearly 10% of Black girls were subjected to out-of-school suspension, compared to only 2% of White female students, according to most recently reported data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2017). In that same school year, Black and Native American girls were more likely than any other group of girls to receive corporal punishment at school, to receive one or more suspension or expulsion from school, and/or to be referred to law enforcement. Black girls were also more likely to be involved with a school-related arrest (NCES, 2017). And Black girls with a disability were multiply jeopardized by their disability status; in many cases, following their Black boy peers, these girls had higher rates of one or more in-school and out-of-school suspensions than boys and girls of other races and ethnicities and ability groups (NCES, 2017). Being poor, Black, and a girl with a disability unveils how interlocking systems of oppression impedes on Black girls’ educational opportunities and treatment in schools. Girls of color with a disability are an invisible minority overlooked and rendered as non-citizens with no consideration for self-determination (Erevelles & Minear, 2010).

Heterosexism also plays a role in harsh school punishment. In fact, evidence suggests that Black girls are punished in schools for non-conformity to gender role stereotypes, which are grounded in White middle-class heteronormative notions of femininity (see Crenshaw, Ocen, & Nanda, 2015; Morris, 2012). For instance, in 2020, a GLSEN and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) report found that nearly half of Black LGBTQ students (44.7%) experienced some form of school discipline, such as detention, out-of-school suspension, or expulsion; over half of Black LGBTQ students (51.6%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 40.2% because of their gender expression, and 30.6% because of their race or ethnicity; and many Black LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault at school based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation (65.1%), gender expression (57.2%), and race and ethnicity (51.9%) (Truong, Zongrone, & Kosciw, 2020).

Societal perceptions of Black people and women undoubtedly affect the treatment of Black girls in schools, but anti-discrimination policies neglect to devise reforms that explicitly address the unique discrimination that Black girls endure at the juncture of race and gender. For example, anti-discrimination policies, such as efforts to reform school-based discipline policies fail to account for students who are members of multiple social categories. Most education policy, including the 2015 reauthorized Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA), fails to not only recognize students’ multiple intersecting social identities, but also acknowledge how the intersection of multiple interlocking identities at the micro level (e.g., interpersonal relationships, classrooms, or districts) reflect multiple and interlocking structural (macro) inequality at the larger societal level.

Although the policy called for the protection of racial minorities students, students with a disability, or lower-income students for example, it did not require administrators to put special protocols in place to protect Black girls specifically from unfair discipline policies that disproportionately affect Black students (e.g., longer out-of-school suspensions) and those that disproportionately affect girls (e.g., dress code violations). Consequentially, these same anti-discrimination policies do not offer an accountability and transparency process for documenting the unique discrimination that Black schoolgirls encounter.

Intersectionality of Race and Gender in Education: For the Some of Us Who Are Brave

Racism, sexism, and classism at the societal level permeates throughout all levels of the education system, and conversely, schooling processes reproduce social inequality. Even though federal and state education policy serve to protect students from racial discrimination and gender discrimination, anti-discrimination policies fail to understand how Black girls’ multiple identities crisscross to leave them susceptible to the racism and sexism and other forms of oppression. Society’s deeply entrenched stereotypes and controlling images of Black women, Black children, and Black people all together along with societal expectations of girls and women in general transverse to shape school actors’ perceptions of Black girls.

Historically, for instance, young Black women were valued as producers of future labor (as an enslaved woman giving birth to future “profits”), domestic workers or “the help” (e.g., nanny, housecleaner, or cook), and objects of desire (e.g., singer, dancer, or sex worker). Infiltrating social institutions (e.g., education, law, or science) and propaganda (i.e., print, visual, and social media), dominating culture engrains into the psyche of society images and narratives of the oppressed that serve to continue to promote and sustain the dominating culture’s ideals, perceptions, and norms to maintain its power. Accepting the notion that White supremacy and eugenics science established its roots into all levels of education, intersectionality unveils how contemporary forms of racial violence play out in educational settings to uniquely impact Black girls who exist at the intersection of race, class, and gender oppression.

An intersectional framework allows educators to better comprehend the complex and multilayered ways schools reflect and reproduce societal inequality as well as conceptualize, critically analyze, and generate policies that are more inclusive. Intersectionality as an analytical framework recognizes that identities are mutually interlocking as well as relational (Berger & Guidroz, 2009). In educational policy and discourse with Black girls in mind, intersectionality is ideal for capturing how multiple identities intersect and interact to (a) inevitably and distinctly shape Black girls’ experiences in schools, (b) their relationships with school authority, (c) academic achievement, (d) beliefs about schooling, and (e) their student identity.

The core ideas of intersectionality are social inequality, power, relationality, social context, complexity, and social justice (Collins & Bilge, 2016). Collins and Bilge (2016) explained that “Intersectionality is a way of understanding and analyzing the complexity in the world, in people, and in human experiences,” and they further asserted, “Intersectionality as an analytic tool gives people better access to the complexity of the world and of themselves” (p. 2). Drawing upon these core ideas of intersectionality and placing Black girls at the center of an intersectional analysis, education scholars are easily able to recognize how social factors, such as de facto school segregation, housing inequality, pay inequity, mass policing in poor and Black neighborhoods, sexual violence, racial terrorism, and inequity in the healthcare system, collude to distinctly shape Black girls’ personally and as a social group.

Existing at the nexus of Black and girl, and possibly multiple other social categories (e.g., poor, queer, immigrant, and so on), Black girls experience multiple realities across social contexts. How can scholars and social justice advocates adopt intersectionality as a framework and analytical tool to mitigate and interrupt dehumanizing school practices, deculturalization, and the perpetuation of social inequality? In the case of Black girls, an intersectional analysis unveils (a) some taken-for-granted assumptions (and politics) about singular social categories, (b) the presumed symbiotic nature of human relationships in schooling and education, and (c) how power and domination permeates all aspects of society, including education.

Once the education problem can be located within its socio-cultural context(s), the education problem can be solved more justly. Traditional conceptualizations of racial and gender identity theorized individuals’ and social groups’ identities as additive and ordinal, with one primary identity influencing access and opportunities. Consequently, even critical theories of education that grappled with cultural hegemony and dehumanization processes imagined social identities to be additive or ordinal as opposed to interlocking, dynamic, and complex. Black schoolgirls social identities fall along a continuum, and simultaneously in multiple locations, in systemic stratification.

Intersectionality provides more comprehensive insight into how multiply situated identities positions students’ proximity to power and authority differently. Intersectionality is an ethical intercession for meditating asymmetrical relationships in educational settings and to promote more equitable relationships and inclusive learning spaces.

Furthermore, intersectionality in its contemporary form was proliferated via critical race feminism as a legal theory (Wing, 1997). Critical race feminism entailed contending with race, gender, and justice, and concurrently imaginings of racial liberation, gender equity, and cultural emancipation(s). With a focus on justice, intersectionality as theory and praxis requires an examination of how Black women, Indigenous women, and other people of color navigate social systems, interpret the social world, and resist oppression. There is a tradition of devaluation and erasure of Black women’s and other women of color’s intellectual labor and cultural productions in seemingly liberal institutions, including K-12 schools, higher education, and even in women-serving organizations.

The so-called “browning of America” has not equated to the browning or decolonization of curriculum, pedagogy, or policy. Intersectionality advances critical race feminists’ attempts to identify, acknowledge, and center the long tradition of women of color’s cultural knowledge and intuition in pursuits of educational equity. Education scholars, too, have a responsibility to examine how Black girls not only persist in schools, but also draw upon their own cultural knowledge and intuition to form a unique student identity and collective consciousness as a form of resistance in the face of hegemony.

Although intersectionality centers the experiences of the marginalized, it also prompts critical self-reflection for all involved in the educational process, including Black girls, researchers interested in the lives of Black girls, and policymakers. How does race, class, and gender influence how education scholars perceive educational problems, which education issues are worth exploring, and who, according to scholars, should be protected in schools? To seek and think more intersectionally, there is a need for collaborative research with Black girls and other girls of color that studies education from their perspective.

In these collaborative relationships, raising youth’s and people’s own collective consciousness while also participating in self-reflexivity throughout interactions with Black girls is sought. From an intersectional approach, the purpose of collaborative research projects is to: (a) create opportunities for coalition building; (b) facilitate more symmetrical relationships with student participants; and (b) contemplate ways to mediate or combat oppressive schooling. These social justice pursuits must draw upon girls’ and Black women’s multiple ways of knowing the social world and performing culture (Brown, 2013) with the intent to collaborate with girls and young women to generate more socially just educational policy and programs.

Future Implications of Intersectionality in Education

Reflecting on the critical stance of intersectionality and the tenets of Black feminism, racism and sexism are normal and deeply entrenched in education policy and discourse. Racism and sexism affect relationships and practices inside and outside schools; and both are recycled and re-consumed in school practices and beliefs, co-constructing new generations of racialized and gendered subjects. Born out of Black feminism, intersectionality as a theoretical framework and analytical tool is critical to the continual development of Black women’s and other women of color’s socio-political thought as well as critical theory in general. Knowledge is constructed through collective meaningful contemplation, and in the case of Black women, in the face of marginalization and systematic oppression.

In agreement with critical race feminist Crenshaw (1995), “Because women of color experience racism in ways not always the same as experienced by men of color and sexism in ways not always paralleled to experiences of white women, antiracism and feminism are limited, even on their own terms” (p. 360). For Black girls, intersectionality is a way of life, a way of seeing the world, and a way of navigating the social world. Born out of oppositional knowledge and standpoint theory, intersectionality concerns itself with power and privilege as much as it does with the ways in which women of color resist various forms of oppression. As a theoretical framework, intersectionality takes on an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon historical knowledge (from the vantage point of the marginalized and oppressed), psychology, cultural studies, gender and ethnic studies, the humanities, economics, and legal theory (e.g., critical race theory and feminism). Finally, after placing Black girls’ school experiences at the center of the analysis, the usefulness of intersectionality for grappling with race and gender in education is summarized as follows:

Intersectionality as a theoretical lens and tool of analysis reveals that Black girls’, Indigenous girls, and other girls of color’s schooling experiences are distinct from that of boys of color and White girls;

Intersectionality born out of Black women’s and other women of color’s praxis centers the lived experiences of girls of color who are confronted by multiple forms of oppression, due to the mutually interlocking identities of race and ethnicity, gender, social class, age, and other social factors within an education system that privileges and sustains White supremacy patriarchy capitalism;

Intersectionality recognizes the multiple identities, collective, and personal knowledge, and cultural intuition that Black girls possess and rely on in their daily lives; this knowledge informs efforts to confront gender and racial domination.

Intersectionality is multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary in knowledge pursuits;

Intersectionality as a theoretical framework privileges girls’ and women of color’s histories and narratives to contextualize the dynamics and resourcefulness of gender and racial domination in the lives of women and girls of color;

Intersectionality as an analytical framework synchronously excogitate upon racial and gender oppression alongside women’s and girls’ strategies of resistance against all forms of oppression.

The student population in the United States is becoming increasingly more diverse and yet many educational practices and policies remain the same. In 2017, the percentage of US school-age children who identified as Black or African American was at 15% (a 2% decrease). Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2017, the percentage of school-age children from other racial and ethnic groups increased. Specifically, Latinx children increased from 16 to 27%; Asian children increased from 5 to 7%; and children of two or more racial identities increased from 4 to 6%. In that same period, the percentage of White children decreased from 61 to 48%. The percentage of school-age American Indians and Alaska Natives remained at 1%, and the percentage of Pacific Islanders remained at less than 1%% during this time (NCES, 2019). As US student population becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, the teaching force is becoming whiter (DOE, 2016). With Black girls making up nearly 16% of the student population, the lack of teacher diversity puts Black girls at greater risk of race and gender discrimination. With the noted demographic shifts, as well as the current waves of health pandemic and national protest, in mind, intersectionality as an analytical framework, born out of Black women’s, Indigenous women, and other women of color’s onto-epistemology, is an entry point for radically reimagining how educational research, policies, and pedagogies can reflect the multiple realities of Black girls, and thus, protect them.

Further Reading

  • Blake, J. J., Butler, B. R., Lewis, C. W., & Darensbourg, A. (2011). Unmasking the inequitable discipline experiences of urban Black girls: Implications for urban educational stakeholders. Urban Review, 43(1), 90–106.
  • Brown, R. N. (2009). Black girlhood celebration: Toward a hip-hop feminist pedagogy. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Collins, P. H. (2005). Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and new racism. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Crenshaw, K. W. (1995). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women’s of color. In K. Crenshaw, N. Gotanda, G. Peller, & K. Thomas (Eds.), Critical race theory (pp. 357–383). New York: The New Press.
  • Edwards, E. B., & Esposito, J. (2019). Intersectional analysis as a method to analyze popular culture: Clarity in the matrix. New York. NY: Routledge.
  • Epstein, R., Blake, J. J., & Gonzalez, T. (2017). Girlhood interrupted: The Erasures of Black girls childhood. Georgetown Law.
  • Evans-Winters, V. E. (Ed.). (2015). Black feminism in education: Black women speak back, up, and out. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Evans-Winters, V. E. (2019). Black feminism in qualitative inquiry: A mosaic for writing our daughter’s body. New York: Routledge.
  • Heitzeg, N. A. (2009). Education or incarceration: Zero tolerance policies and the school to prison pipeline. Forum on Public Policy Online, 2.
  • Morris, M. W. (2019). Sing a rhythm, dance a blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls. New York, NY: The New Press.
  • Morris, M. W. (2016). Pushout: The criminalization of Black girls in schools. New York, NY: The New Press.
  • Winn, M. (2010). “Betwixt and between”: Literacy, liminality, and the “celling” of Black girls. Race, Ethnicity, and Education, 13(4), 425–447.

References