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BLAC club panel discuss black feminism, intersectionality


Students, teachers, and their relatives discussed how feminism often disregards race and the experience of being a black feminist during a virtual panel organized by North’s BLAC club e-block Friday, June 4.

The panelists discussed respectability politics, which they defined as when marginalized groups conform to mainstream appearance and behavior in order to protect themselves from discrimination and be accepted in conversations. “It says in order for you to step into this game you have to be presentable, which means your hair should look a certain way, your tone should be a certain way, your body, you should dress a certain way,” said panelist Kathy Lopes, the district’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Code-switching can refer to when a person switches between dialects or languages frequently depending on the situation to be accepted, like switching from African American Vernacular to Standard English in order to be better received. Code-switching is a part of respectability politics. “I’ve found that when I’m code switching, it’s because I’m in need of safety and it’s for survival reasons,” said senior Arsema Kifle, co-president of the BLAC club along with senior Bailey Evans-Williams.

The webinar also showed a video that gave a brief overview of black feminism, and then moved to a discussion on how feminism frequently leaves out intersectionality. “I’ve often heard the question, ‘what comes first: being black, or being a woman?’” added Kifle.  Lopes said, “Depending on the space I’m in, the identity that I feel is not most represented is the identity that I feel the most.”

The webinar concluded with ways non-black feminists can try to understand intersectionality and the experiences of black women. “Be open minded about everyone’s experience, don’t make it smaller than the way we feel it is,” said sophomore Hidaya Bukenya. Senior Chika Udemagwuna added, “Please don’t label me as angry when I’m expressing an opinion.” 

The club also provided a list of resources on black feminism and intersectional feminism for others to read and learn more.

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