The term "Intersectionality" was coined in 1989 to identify the crossroads where aspects of our identity meet or overlap. Crenshaw, a Harvard-alumni and legal scholar, noticed that where the identities of black women intersected (race and gender), there was a particular kind of oppression. She argued that antidiscrimination laws looked at race and gender separately when she examined the hiring practices of a company that appeared to provide equitable employment opportunities. The company hired both men and women and both Caucasian and African American people. The practice of hiring black male factory workers disproved racial discrimination and the practice of hiring white female office staff disproved gender discrimination. In reality, however, intersectional discrimination left no room in the company for black women.
Crenshaw is now considered one of the founders of Critical Race Theory which has given us in the Mission School District an important tool: the intersectional lens or approach. Through this lens, we can see our students as complex human beings—each one having many aspects of their identity, and each of these aspects existing upon a continuum of privilege through oppression. What this means in education is that each student is utterly unique and that it is important for students to learn about themselves and others—about what comprises their identities, about how to nurture each part and integrate each into one cohesive and healthy whole. What this means in education is that each student's voice is important—crucial to creating the larger story of what it means to be Canadian.
In coming together with this shared Canadian identity, educators need to help students build empathy, connect and engage with one another, and determine together their common purpose. Through this, students will develop other Core Competencies such as perspective-taking, planning and negotiating skills, communication skills, and problem- and conflict-solving skills in order to live harmoniously in our diverse and democratic society.