Kimberlé Crenshaw Calls for Transparency in Diversity Conversations

Kimberlé Crenshaw gives the keynote speech at Colorado State Univeristy's 19th Annual Diversity Symposium. Photo Courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Collegian.

Critical Race and Intersectionality theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw spoke about the consequences of suppressing hidden diversity and the ways that mainstream ideals can negatively affect our everyday lives during the keynote speech at Colorado State University’s 19th Annual Diversity Symposium in the United States. During Crenshaw’s opening remarks, she called out the tendency in higher education for conversations about diversity and inequity to become “sanitized” or “antiseptic.” 

Colorado State University’s Rocky Mountain Collegian reported Crenshaw’s critique and open call for transparency during these conversations came following a weekend of gun violence and police brutality in the United States.

“Trying to politely avoid the landmines that litter our terrain these days with an antiseptic discussion of diversity and inclusion is just a little bit too hard for me to pull off at this moment,” Crenshaw said. 

Kimberlé Crenshaw via the Rocky Mountain Collegian

Crenshaw began her conversation by introducing the concept of baselines. Crenshaw defined baselines as biased, often subconscious reference points for society’s ideals of equality and equity and why these are detrimental. Baselines typically favor privileged groups or groups in the majority and disproportionately disadvantage systematically oppressed groups. For those with hidden diversity, these baselines can be extremely harmful in that they can erase the struggles that come with holding intersectional identities. The intersecting identities held by those with hidden diversity can compound their experiences and the inequalities they face in day-to-day interactions.

Crenshaw illustrates her theory of intersectionality by discussing a traffic intersection. Photo Courtesy of Deb Dowd via Unsplash.

The keynote closed with a discussion about the #SayHerName campaign, a movement that aims to highlight the Black women that are killed in acts of police brutality. Crenshaw has observed that activists and allies are often aware of the Black men killed by police, as they often receive media coverage. This gap in coverage has led to the erasure of the experience of Black women, as their names and stories often are not reported in the mainstream media.

Crenshaw’s critique of the ways in which people discuss diversity is important for those with hidden diversity because it opens up opportunities for conversation. Crenshaw invites people of all identities to “talk back” to those in power and to fight against oppressive baselines.

1 comment

  1. I love this concept because as we have talked in class it’s so important to highlight those hidden diversities as it is to highlight peoples visual diversities. You can never just assume what a person’s race/ethnicity/ nationality or anything is.

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