The concept of intersectionality has been around for three decades, but many people haven’t heard of it, or if they have, aren’t familiar with the meaning. Intersectionality is a complex term that describes the interconnected nature of social categories such as race, class, gender, and more – and how they create overlapping and interdependent systems of advantage or oppression/discrimination.

It explains why, for example, black women may face challenges that neither white women nor black men face – because the sum of their intersecting social categorizations can create a more extreme level of discrimination than other women or other black people. It also helps explain why being a white man can bring certain advantages that aren’t available to other white people or black men.

It’s a challenging topic with nuances that require a willingness to listen and learn. Even amongst ourselves we found that we have approached this topic from a variety of perspectives and levels of understanding. We’ve each grown a little, learned a lot, and understand our responsibilities more.

In this toolkit, we explain the origins of the term intersectionality, including who coined it and how it came about, and how its use has evolved in the roughly 30 years since its introduction. We discuss the complicated nature of identity politics and how sometimes avoiding identity politics isn’t as simple as we’d like. We highlight a local black activist who had a lasting impact on major legal decisions that helped shape the discussion about race in this country. And while we want each of you reading this to form your own opinions and beliefs about what all this information means to you, we provide you with lots of resources in the hope that it will prompt you to consider new perspectives, have thoughtful discussion, and ultimately arrive at informed opinions – whatever they may be. Finally, because we fully support the North Carolina NAACP and how it uses concepts of intersectionality to work towards advances that will benefit black people and society as a whole, we spotlight their 14-Point People’s Agenda.

Join us as we journey together.