Barbara Unmüßig outlines what it means for a think tank like the Heinrich Böll Foundation to systematically include multiple discrimination in educational work and to think along with all realities of life.
“Black women [remain] excluded from feminist theory and antiracist policy discourse because both are predicated on a set of experiences that does not accurately reflect the interaction of race and gender. These problems of exclusion cannot be solved simply by including Black women within an already established analytical structure: (…) any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.“ Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex, 1989
The Heinrich Böll Foundation perceives its role as a think tank between activism, academia and politics. It took some time before Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality coined well over 30 years ago was met with a serious reception by us. Anywhere and everywhere, the journey from analysing to overcoming multiple discrimination is a long one. The new and complex theoretical approach seeks, in practice, to pursue new paths, including in social alliances. Hence, we at the Foundation are also on an ongoing quest. It would be presumptuous to maintain that we were already fully implementing intersectionality in all its facets. But we are closing in on this and increasingly facing up to the challenges in our education policy work at home and abroad.
Constructing projects and events on the basis of intersectionality entails turning everything on its head. In concrete terms, this means, for example: Black women or wheelchair users cease to be the exception and thus someone who requires additional consideration and “extra” funding; instead, they and their natural participation quite 12 simply are part and parcel of such projects or events. They become a part of normality without people having to hide or even disavow their true circumstances.
Yes, mind shifts cause unease and require a wealth of resources, money included. But, in light of the global assault on human rights and the constantly shrinking spaces available to a progressive civil society, we ought to seize the opportunity: only a critical examination of what is commonly deemed to be “normal” for the democratic centre can empower it to forge new and different alliances. Only a multi-layered analysis of power relations can enable existing, tried-and-tested alliances to be enhanced by new ones. When adopting such an approach, diversity is much more enjoyable, is reassuring, is wealth.
And, so, it gives me great pleasure to see this body of work published, with all its perspectives on intersectionality. My sincerest congratulations to Kimberlé Crenshaw on this 30th anniversary of her groundbreaking concept through which so much has been set in motion: Happy Birthday Intersectionality!