by Leyla Hashi

Intersectionality is a word you’ve probably seen in your newsfeed or heard in speeches. You might be curious about why this word is so popular and what it means.

What is intersectionality?
To put it simply, intersectionality is the idea that all oppression is interconnected. Yes, interconnected. Interconnected in the same way that links of a chain are interconnected. Intersectionality acknowledges that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression, and it forces us to consider everything and anything that can marginalize people – such as race, gender, class, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, and so on.

Why does intersectionality matter?
Intersectionality reminds us that oppressions are linked. They cannot be tackled separately. The more time we spend getting to know someone for who they truly are, accept that no two people are the same, and stop trying to fit people into one societal box, the better off we will be as a human race. We need to look through the lens of intersectionality to eradicate injustice and inequality, or we will continue to support systems based on inequalities.

What are examples of intersectionality?
For example. I am a Black woman. I might face discrimination from a place of business not because of my gender (because the business does not discriminate against white women), and not because of my race (because the business does not discriminate against Black men), but because of a distinctive combination of these two factors. When I experience misogyny and racism, my experience of misogyny differs from that of a white woman, and I experience racism differently than a Black man. When someone who belongs to multiple minority groups feels discriminated against, the complexity can make it difficult to figure out how to help.

How Can I Help?
We know that our most marginalized groups are victims of intersectional discrimination and efforts to silence them. You can work to be an intersectional ally. Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen and learn: At the core of intersectionality is learning and understanding the views of marginalized individuals. Listen so that you are able to meaningfully collaborate with diverse groups. And remember – it’s not the responsibility of marginalized groups to do all the work of educating others about what they experience.
2. Check your privilege: Every one of your social identities plays into your “privilege” – even if you did not ask for them. Reflect on your identities and ask yourself how they impact the discrimination you do and don’t experience.
3. Make room: Sit down and ask yourself if you’re the right person to speak up about certain issues. Remember that sometimes it’s best to let those who experience discrimination and injustice speak. Do not speak for them and do not speak over them.


Meet the newest member of our team… Leyla Hashi

Leyla Hashi has joined our team to produce a video podcast series, “Moja Africa,” a series of lively interviews about important topics featuring guests from Maine. A May 2020 graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Hashi plans a career in broadcast journalism. Hashi discovered her interest in journalism on a 2016 trip to Somalia – her first since leaving there at the age of four. While in Somalia, her uncle’s connections got her access to a live production of the evening news. The anchor was a woman, and Hashi was transfixed. “I wanted to feel what that news anchor was feeling, sitting in that chair. I liked the fast pace, the camera, the angles – the anchor wasn’t fazed by all the action going on around her. She commanded the space.” While at USM, Hashi held an internship at WMPG, the university’s radio station, and produced and aired her first podcast series, “Refugees of Portland.” That’s where she got her first taste of helping others tell their stories, and she couldn’t get enough. “I want to tell stories of people whose stories don’t get told that much. I want to tell their truth. I believe there is magic in each person’s story, and I know their story is their identity,” she said. The first episode of Moja Maine will air in the near future. Hashi will also write a monthly opinion column for Amjambo Africa. Her first column, about identity and intersectionality, appears on this page.