'Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe': Heart-to-heart talk on intersectionality in sports, politics and community
With all four speakers hailing from different backgrounds and careers, it only seemed right to kick off the talk by addressing the critical dialogue on intersectionality
Over two months later, the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement are still sweeping the nation as people swarm the streets in thousands demanding justice and equality for the Black community. The winds of change are blowing across America and spreading far and wide across the world. Amid this revolution, an important talking point that has emerged focuses on intersectionality. HBO's new talk show special hosted by soccer star Megan Rapinoe engaged in this conversation with eminent guests. US Representative for New York's 14th congressional district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, comedian and fronter of Netflix's 'Patriot Act' Hasan Minhaj and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones comprised the panel.
The point of the special was to help shape the current cultural discussion that has been taking place during a crucial time in American history. With all four speakers hailing from different backgrounds and careers, it only seemed right to kick off the talk by addressing the critical dialogue on intersectionality. The word, derived from Latin roots, means "to cut asunder" or "divide into parts". Adding the suffix 'al' leaves you with the adjective which translates to existing between sections and elongating the word with another suffix, 'ity' leaves you with 'intersectionality'. A modern sociological term, 'intersectionality' has been used widely in recent times, yet it is often not understood.
The term was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist, and legal scholar. She wrote in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum about traditional feminist ideas and anti-racist policies excluding Black women because they face overlapping discrimination that is idiosyncratic. "Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated,” she explained. In simple words, intersectionality is the concept that all oppression is linked to.
'Intersectionality' quickly became part of the vernacular and was officially included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, which called it a sociological term. The dictionary defines it as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise". And just as Hannah-Jones concurred, it is important to "take into account oppression intersects into people's lives". The Black Lives Matter movement has opened avenues for the conversation on the intersectionality of race, class and gender identity.
In fact, co-founder of the movement Alicia Graza adopted an intersectional approach to police brutality and systemic racism affecting the African-American community and other people of color across sexual identity, immigration and gender. She did so by advocating for a movement against police violence which comprises the voices of black queer people, undocumented black people and black immigrants. Sports is also an impetus to discuss intersectionality in the current traction. Despite evident successes, athletes continue to face both subtle and obvious discrimination, based on aspects of their identity, be it in forms of sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, disablism or a combination of any of these.
Megan Rapinoe can attest to that. She is a highly visible LGTBQ+ athlete and openly credits her sexuality as the core of her success. In addition to that, she is an ally to other marginalized groups and her activism is intersectional that reached far beyond just the queer community. A notable incident to recall would be the time that she made international headlines when she took a knee during the National Anthem in the 2016 world cup in support of Colin Kaepernick. Rapinoe's ability to draw the world's attention towards pressing matters of social, economic and political significance has inevitablly transformed her into the country's most recognizable and admired advocates for change.
Appearing on 'Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe', Ocasio Cortez spoke about intersectionality as an elected official and leader of a congressional district that is mostly comprised of the population. She delivered the hard-hitting truth that her district displays the highest number of affected people and fatalities of Covid-19 in the whole of New York. In another incident, on July 24, a video of Ocasio-Cortez went viral, where she addressed the verbal accosting made towards her by Rep Ted Yoho, on the House floor. On July 21, Yoho reportedly attacked her calling her a "f***ing bitch". Yoho allegedly acted this violently and unprofessionally towards her not only for being a woman, but also because she is a person of color.
Minhaj, as a comedian, uses his platform to address some of the community's urgent issues. The "honesty of comedy" is instrumental in his conversation for intersectionality. As a man of color and as the son of immigrant parents, he believes that this is an important conversation to have. As a political commentator among growing diverse voices, Minhaj has time and again spoken about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, while also emphasizing the need to empower minority performers.
'Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe' airs on August 1 at 10 pm on HBO and will thereafter be available to stream.