One White Person’s Road to Intersectional Education

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to reveal truth. Specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means when something that has been kept quiet or in the background or out of the direct line of sight finally crashed through into the spotlight — like, no denying this any-fucking-more. In many ways, the recent conversations about race and sexuality and gender have done this. There’s no more excuses for not speaking up when someone makes a blatantly racist or homophobic or transphobic “joke.” There’s no more pretending you didn’t hear someone say “All Lives Matter” and going about your day. There’s no more acceptability for not speaking up about causes you align with or which directly impact you, even in the face of possibly well-meaning people who either intentionally or unknowingly shit on something you believe in. A friend posted this image on social media recently and it just resonated with me:

It resonated with me because my voice has shaken while I’ve told my story and explained my beliefs and shared my experiences about really vulnerable, private, triggering events from my life. It takes a great deal of bravery to explain your how and your why to people who you know disagree with you or might not believe you or — even worse — might believe you but still not give a fuck. Maybe because I’ve done this work myself, I’ve been challenging the “All Lives Matter” people since long before this moment in our history. I’ve done it without my voice shaking — because I’ve done it in alliance and agreement with the populations who are being harmed by this notion as well as others related to it. I’ve done it so that maybe, just maybe, impacted populations have to say it less — that people with greater social power (like, say, a cis-gender white woman) can do the work of changing hearts and minds in our own demographic and make it easier for those not in power to have maybe just one less person they need to justify themselves to.

I know — for a fact — that my desire to be more outspoken, more engaged, more amplified about these topics is because I know — for a fact — what it’s like not to be valued, believed, or have people align with me on a deeply painful life experience. I never want anyone to go through what I went through, so I do not remain quiet on these matters. I speak up.

Truthfully, I wasn’t always this way. I wasn’t always this militant about it, certainly. That’s why I look around at these people in their twenty’s and thirty’s and maybe even younger (and maybe even older!) with a little bit of empathy when they respond with blank stares and platitudes they clearly don’t understand. Until you have experienced trauma, it is very difficult to relate to other people’s trauma. It’s that simple. If it’s never impacted you, why would you care? And frankly, none of us have the time to be super educated and empathetic about all of the world’s and all of humanity’s problems. We have to be selective or we will, quite simply, go mad. But in these moments, that’s when we look to the experts, we look to the educators and the storytellers and the ones who have had the experience and we just listen. We learn what we can. But to ignore and deny? That is where the line of unacceptability is drawn.

I wanted to take the time to share some of the educational tools that have helped me better understand minority and intersectional experiences. Intersectionality refers to the crossroads where multiple minority statuses meet: like being both black and a woman or LGBTQ+ and wheelchair-bound. The boundaries created by our social learning have classified minority cultures as violent, ugly, less-than, a drain on resources, uneducated, disposable, and inferior to any and all of the patriarchal norms established by white men. FACTS: Minorities make less money than white men. They own less. They hold less power. Their voices are underrepresented in local, national, and global decision-making bodies. The more I took the time to listen, learn, study, and read about life through the lens and perspectives of those I had been taught not to pay attention to for most of my life, the more I understood how corrupt and unjust not only many of our laws, policies, and systems are but how little I knew about how my white skin provided me with unspoken advantages.

I am still learning. I am not an expert.

But I am digging in and doing the work. I wanted to share with you resources that I have compiled over the years. These lists are incomplete — but they’re a start.

Please note: a) these resources are listed in no particular order and b) while the majority of these are related to black and brown lived experiences, some are also about womanhood/feminist and LGBTQ+ perspectives.

***WHAT I’VE READ:

One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson (nonfiction)

White Rage by Carol Anderson (nonfiction)

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, & Benjamin Ajak (memoir)

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya (memoir)

Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong (memoir)

Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Brown (nonfiction)

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

Represent: The Women’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World by June Diane Raphael & Kate Black (nonfiction)

You Can’t Touch My Hair — And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (essay collection)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris

Shrill by Lindy West (essay collection)

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy (nonfiction)

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (nonfiction)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (young adult fiction)

***WHAT I’VE WATCHED

Paris is Burning (documentary)

Good Trouble (documentary)

Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops (documentary)

We’re Here (reality television show)

Legendary (reality television show)

RuPaul’s Drag Race (reality television show)

Disclosure (documentary)

I Am Not Your Negro (documentary)

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality (documentary)

13th (documentary)

Pose (television show)

Dear White People (Netflix original show)

The Urgency of Intersectionality (TED Talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw)

Just Mercy (movie)

Black-ish (television show)

A Different World (television show)

Malcom X (movie)

Selma (movie)

Fruitvale Station (movie)

Crown Heights (movie)

When They See Us (Netflix limited series)

American Son (movie)

The Hate U Give (movie)

Moonlight (movie)

Hidden Figures (movie)

Orange is the New Black (Netflix original series)

The Uncomfortable Truth (documentary)

Nanette — Hannah Gadsby (standup/one woman show/Netflix special)

GLOW (Netflix original show)

***PODCASTS I LISTEN TO

1619

Intersectionality Matters

Keep It

Code Switch

Sibling Rivalry with Bob the Drag Queen & Monet X. Change

Race Chaser with Alaska Thunderfuck & Willam

Pod Save the People

Lovett or Leave It

In the Dark (especially Season 2)

Serial (especially Season 3)

Why Won’t You Date Me? with Nicole Byer

Catch and Kill with Ronan Farrow

The Rearview

***WHO I FOLLOW

World of Wonder — @worldofwonder

Black Lives Matter — @blklivesmatter

#FosterCare — @hashtagfostercare

Say Her Name — @sayhernamefilm

Crooked Media — @crookedmedia

The Black School — @theblackschool

Fair Fight Action — @fairfightaction

Pose — @poseonfx

My Brother’s Keeper — @mbk_alliance

Ayanna Pressley — @ayannapressley

Basheer Jones — @basheerj

The Bail Project — @bailproject

EMILY’s List — @emilys_list

Swing Left — @swingleft

Rock the Vote — @rockthevote

Race Chaser — @racechaserpod

Giselle Buchanan — @gisellebuchanan

Stacey Abrams — @staceyabrams

March for Our Lives — @marchforourlives

The Slacktivists — @theslacktivists

Adrienne Maree Brown — @adriennemareebrown

The Sweet Feminist — @thesweetfeminist

Ibram X. Kendi — @ibramxk

The Slow Factory — @theslowfactory

Janet Mock — @janetmock

Latrice Royale — @latriceroyale

Everytown — @everytown

Austin Channing — @austinchanning

Alexandria Ocasion Cortez — @aoc

Campaign Zero — @campaignzero

Check Your Privilege — @chkyourprivilege

Black History — @blackhistory

Miss Peppermint — @peppermint247

Know Your Rights Camp — @yourrightscamps

Human Rights Campaign — @humanrightscampaign

Kamala Harris — @kamalaharris

Mayhem Miller — @theonlymayhem

Brittany Packnett Cunningham — @mspackyetti

Michelle Obama — @michelleobama

Barack Obama — @barackobama

Monet X. Change — @monetxchange

Shea Coulee — @sheacoulee

Bob the Drag Queen — @bobthedragqueen

Move On — @moveon

Color of Change — @colorofchange

Mj Rodriquez — @mjrodriquez7

NAACP — @naacp

RuPaul’s Drag Race — @rupaulsdragrace

Kimberly Latrice Jones — @kimberlylatricejones

Ava DuVernay — @ava

No H8 Campaign — @noh8campaign

Women’s Public Policy Network — @ohiowppn

Delino DeShields — @lindodeshields

Dear White People — @dearwhitepeople

Nasty Feminism — @nastyfeminism

THERE ARE SO MANY MORE. I am constantly being introduced to new resources and will update this list as my learning continues.

The world is big. Life stories matter. Make space for those who don’t typically get to stand in the spotlight. Amplify those voices, make them echo, insist they be heard. Doing this work makes it undeniable that dismantling centuries’ worth of systemic racism and oppression is what’s next. It’s time to give a fuck. It’s beyond time. So let’s go.

…has an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has written daily since January 1, 2011. Visit for more specifics.

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