In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar, coined the term “intersectionality.” (You can read her rather academic paper here and view a TED talk she offered on the notion of “intersectionality” here.)
Crenshaw recognized the much more profoundly damaging impact that can occur when overlapping or multiple discriminations are experienced. For example, racism and sexism can collude to foster even more egregious injustices for women of color. When a woman of color is also an impoverished trans woman, the resulting experience of injustice is exponentially more severe. Crenshaw’s notion of intersectionality serves to remind us that we all have overlapping identities and experiences that may engender a complex web of oppression, discrimination, and injustice for some of us.
Within our congregation, we focus on intersectional justice as a way of considering how overlapping forms of oppression are at play in our society. As such, we seek to deepen our understanding of cultural, economic, environmental and racial injustices. And we endeavor to translate our understanding of these intersecting injustices into work as accomplices with partners in the larger community.
Core Groups and Annual Congregational Focus
Our work in Intersectional Justice begins not with action in the larger community but with learning, intentionally preparing ourselves by developing a deepened understanding of the ways in which injustice is rooted historically and expressed structurally.
On alternating years, members are offered the various opportunities to reflect deeply on either
- Environmental Justice and Racial Justice
- Cultural Justice and Economic Justice
The most intense form of this exploration takes place in our Core Groups, learning groups that meet for monthly sessions and then engage in reading and discussion between sessions. Offered from September – June, our Core Groups require a deep commitment on the part of participants.
For those unable to commit to a Core Group, the focus of much of the programming for children, youth and adults alternates still offers the congregation’s participants the opportunity to learn in other ways. Services, classes, experiential learning, and community involvement all offer ways to understand the impact of structural injustice on all of our lives.
Engagement Groups and Guiding Principles
Some members of our Core Groups are invited to participate in our Engagement Groups. These groups are charged to help identify potential partners in the larger community. They are guided by both their deepened understanding and by our aggregated Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles seek to assure ongoing attention to our learning by expressing particular qualities we seek in our partners. Our partners are the ones who both name the injustice and define our work through intentional opportunities to play the role of accomplices in their work.
Members of our Core Groups in 2017 – 2018 and in 2018 – 2019 identified these Guiding Principles:
- share our historical understanding of, our analysis of, and our focus on solutions to systemic injustice
- be led by those most affected by the injustice (recognize that those directly impacted have more authority on this issue)
- be open to our spiritual focus (recognize that these are moral issues)
- understand the importance of intersectionality
- understand collective liberation* (*Collective Liberation: “I understand that my liberation is tied to yours.”)
- have transformation as their ultimate goal by offering something other than charity
- be supported by and have a high level of participation from the community they serve
- challenge existing institutions
- offer the potential to develop a long-term, trusting relationship with sustained congregational engagement
- allow us to do work that aligns with our principles, our vision, and our mission
- allow us to focus on working in solidarity*, opportunities to be more than just allies (*Solidarity: “an act of bonding with people struggling for their liberation. The solidarity is with resistance fighters, those who are carrying out the resistance struggle. The resisters initiate the struggle. We respond with our solidarity.”)
- reflect demonstrated effectiveness and a local focus/impact with the opportunity for our involvement to make a difference
- offer multiple levels of participation
Intersectional Justice Team
The UUCC Intersectional Justice Team is our “umbrella” entity charged with comprehensive leadership of the congregation’s efforts in the areas of Societal and Environmental Transformation. This team exists to provide essential leadership in our efforts to embody our ambitious Vision, Mission and Ends.
This team works to:
- integrate our work in Societal and Environmental Transformation with our work in Spiritual Transformation
- facilitate the creation of both Core Groups and Engagement Groups in our focal areas and support the development and optimal functioning of each group
- evaluate groups’ effectiveness in accomplishing their particular goals and in embodying our Vision, Mission, and Ends
- educate the congregation about the meaning of our commitment to Societal and Environmental Transformation and about particular opportunities for participation
- coordinate and integrate the work of all Core Groups and Engagement Groups
- communicate with the congregation and to the larger community about our efforts toward Societal and Environmental Transformation
- evaluate and coordinate congregational engagement in Societal and Environmental Transformation efforts that fall outside the scope of our primary areas of focus