What is Intersectionality and White Privilege?

During Black History Month – and all year round – Surrey Place is committed to becoming better allies to Black clients, staff, and community members. In today’s article, we’re sharing information on intersectionality and privilege, which are two important concepts to understand when thinking about anti-Black racism and allyship. 

What is Intersectionality?

The term “intersectionality” was introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering scholar of civil rights and critical race theory, in 1989. Intersectionality looks at the multiple identities and experiences of individuals and communities, and the way those identities interact and shape how people are treated. Through intersectionality, we can recognize that people’s experiences of racism and privilege are different depending on the social identities they hold. Some examples of social identities are race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status. 

Intersectionality shows us how some identities result in privilege and more opportunities, while other identities result in oppression and/or additional barriers. It’s important to understand that people can hold more than one identity that puts them at risk of discrimination. For example, a white woman living with a disability may experience sexism and ableism, while a Black transgender woman living with a disability may experience sexism, racism, ableism, and transphobia. While these two women both live with a disability, they will have different experiences due to their intersecting identities. 

When another marginalized social identity, like race, intersects with a disability, it shapes how a disabled individual is treated. For a Black person living with a disability, their identities cannot be treated as separate; being Black and living with a disability means they are at risk of multiple forms of discrimination and face multiple barriers to access. 

At Surrey Place, it’s crucial for us to apply an intersectional lens to our work in order to create inclusive, accessible, and safe spaces for Black clients, staff, and community members. 

What is Privilege?

Privilege refers to the advantages that an individual receives from belonging to a certain social identity group. One common form of privilege is white privilege, which refers to the unearned power that white people experience solely due to their skin colour. In other words, white privilege means that a person doesn’t experience racism or discrimination because of their skin colour. 

What can you do about White Privilege?

The first thing you can do is become aware of your privilege and identify the daily effects of white privilege in your life. You can start thinking about this by completing Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege Checklist. The checklist includes things like: 

I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. 

If I believe there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position. 

I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race. 

When thinking about your privilege, it is important to understand that not everyParagraph 1 (P1) has the same privileges or experiences as you. 

The first plan of action: once you understand your privilege, you can take concrete action by building your capacity and increasing your knowledge on issues of race, privilege, and intersectionality. 

Other important terms to know

Anti-Black Racism: Prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping and/ or discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization. 

#BlackLivesMatter: A movement that was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. 

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc.: A global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, they are winning immediate improvements in the lives of Black individuals. 

To learn more about how Surrey Place plans to actively work against racism, check out this message from our CEO, Terri Hewitt and be sure to follow us on social. 

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO