Anti-racism, ‘intersectionality’ command virtual Q&A session

Nov 17, 2020

People have a lot of questions about race and racism in America, and Tri-town and Beyond Community Read put together a lecture and Q&A session on Nov. 17 to clear some of the air.

To a remote crowd of 45, Rebecca Correia played an original song written as a response to those who reply to “Black Lives Matter” with “all lives matter,” singing “If we all deserve love, then give it out now,” at each chorus. 

The Q&A brought speakers like Dr. Shanna Howell of Bristol Community College and Marlene Pollock, co-founder of the New Bedford chapter of the Coalition for Social Justice. 

Pollock said that the coalition has been part of every effort to raise the minimum wage since 1988. The coalition also does heavy outreach by phone, and calls on lawmakers for legislation it supports. 

Pollock went on to criticize the Massachusetts “prison industrial complex,” another focus of her advocacy, saying “there are red states that have better criminal justice systems.” 

When Dr. Shirin Edwin of BCC took the floor, she focused on power structures, and their effect on everyday lives. From large power structures like the government, to basic ones like family hierarchies. 

“Even the smallest micro-unit of our lives is structured by power,” she said.

Edwin expanded, saying that the way people identify plays into power. From gender to religion to sexual orientation and even age, she said a person’s identity is “intersectional.” And different intersections carry different weights.

But Edwin’s main focus was on decolonizing academic syllabi, since teachers, who are often white, choose what gets taught in schools and colleges. She said leaving out thinkers and knowledgable people of all races and backgrounds is to participate in racism and discrimination. 

“We don’t live in an isolated environment,” Edwin said. 

She said people live globally, and that all are bound to meet someone from another walk of life eventually. So, to exclude any background from the classroom is to do a disservice to academia. 

Edwin said it’s especially pertinent that society begin to become more inclusive in its teachings of children. 

For more information on the subject, Edwin recommended writer Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, a gay woman writer who focused on intersectionality throughout her life. 

During the Q&A portion, one person asked how to explain to someone that a certain amount of shame for the actions of those in their heritage is warranted, and how to handle that feeling. 

Jordan Latham of the New Bedford YWCA took the question, saying “to be an anti-racist, that is a lifelong commitment.”

She added that there’s no certification absolving anyone of racism, but that it’s something to be worked on every day and that white people should do their part to call out racism when it rears its head.