Once a Moxie…

One week after the completion of the Moxie program I’m sitting here, wondering if this past summer was a dream. It’s not so much that my experience in New York was fantastical, but it felt like an entirely different world from the one I’m exposed to on a regular basis.

As I’ve gotten back into my routine at home, I’ve had conversations with friends and family about all that I encountered and learned on my trip. And having these conversations made me realize, how little I, and the people in my life, reflect on social issues from the unique perspective of the Moxie program. I’ve been sending my Dad nonstop articles on universal basic income and finding research on increased wages for workers funded by money spent on stock buybacks. I find my opinion of the news I read colored in a different way than it was prior to my eight weeks working for Legal Momentum. I go immediately to read news about Supreme Court decisions now, and have been looking at current events from a perspective of the impact they have on women’s’ rights more particularly.

At the same time, I find myself being more passive day to day in a way we couldn’t be in New York. The 9-to-5 schedule is something I not only got accustomed to but began to enjoy thoroughly. On top of that, the talks we went to, the films we watched, the weekly discussions we had and personal talks with each other made me live life in a reflective manner that pushed me. Working at Legal Momentum allowed me to focus my desire to do something to improve my surrounding community. The Moxie program supported that work and made me think critically about every step I was taking. I’m somewhat nervous that I will start to lose that as I move on to the next stages in life from here. But as I study abroad this coming semester in Paris and engage in a new culture, I want to not only be fascinated by history but be critical of everything that I encounter. And I want to do this when I come back to Duke, as well.

I know that I will keep in touch with my fellow Moxies (and honorary Moxie, my dear friend/mentor Lena Barsky) for long after this summer. I was happily surprised just last Thursday with a video call from Lena, who, along with the other office interns, wanted to say hi and update me on everything happening at Legal Momentum. It’s grant season — so there’s a lot of stress and hard work happening there. The Moxies have been discussing when we’re going to have our first dinner back at Duke at the end of August. It’s because of these things that I know this past summer in New York was in fact real, and the lessons of how to approach life as I move forward will stay with me even as details fade away and I continue to learn new information and experience alternative perspectives.

Thank you so much to Ada and Shannan for facilitating and enriching my life in such an impactful, life-altering way. Once a Moxie, always a Moxie. 

Unapologetic Moxie

2 months is quite a while away from home, but as soon as we hit the halfway point, the Moxie program flew by. Before I knew it, we wrote our last reading reflection, had our last seminar, went to our last enrichment activity, and it was my last official day at GGE.

I will admit that, as Moxie came to a close, I was itching to finally go home. I was sort of over the “New York rush” and was definitely fed up with the polluted, congested air making my skin break out. By the 6th week, I was ready to relax, see my parents, and eat home-cooked food.

But, now that I am home, I am realizing that my experience with Moxie was a special one that can’t be duplicated anywhere else or with anyone else. Since I’ve been back in Boston, I went straight back to working at my old summer camp. I’ve heard young people call their peers “gay” a billion times as if it were an insult. I’ve heard the boys say, “the girls should leave the pool 10 minutes earlier than us because girls take forever in the bathroom.” I’ve even heard campers say that they once wanted to be construction workers until they realized those were “boy jobs.” It has taken a lot in me to hold my tongue. But, I am in a conflicted position where, as a camp counselor, I can’t openly share my views with the young people. I can’t teach them that they shouldn’t use people’s identities as teasing mechanisms or that they don’t have to limit themselves to societal standards and gender binaries because who knows what their families support at home. It is a sensitive line that I can’t really cross.

However, Moxies don’t hold back. We constantly questioned theories and always challenged societal norms. It wasn’t until I returned to my small reality that I realized the Moxie program gave me the privilege of being around driven, change seekers who were always open to hearing different opinions about the world we live in. There were no boundaries. There were no lines.  I had the freedom to discuss stigmas and political tension. I was free to be curious. Being able to talk about women’s rights without a worry in the world of who is around is an opportunity that I will cherish forever.

Maybe my summer camp will, one day, add social justice classes to the schedule instead of devoting summers to solely sports and solving mysteries of mythical monsters designed to entertain the children. Maybe they will, one day, discipline campers through restorative justice practices rather than writing incident reports. It’s amazing to see that last summer, I didn’t see anything wrong with the way my camp ran. Ever since Moxie, however, my eyes have been unlocked to always seek change and improvements, for the better, no matter how perfect I thought it was before.

Feeling Thankful

Overall this program expanded my worldview immensely.  I did not understand the extent of white privilege in terms of how pervasive it is within all of society, in every realm.  It rocked my world daily.  I went to bed every night shook.

In my last blog post I talked about being more secure in my views and holding stronger opinions without doubting their value.  Now, after leaving the program, I feel that I have the tools to stand up and share them.  It is very scary for me to share what may be controversial opinions, but people are exceptionally receptive. I also feel less worried that other people may disagree with me.

This program matters not only for the confidence it has given me, but more importantly because it has made me hypercritical of institutions which I used to take for granted because they did not harm me in any way.  I plan to hold onto this heightened awareness as long as possible, especially as I move into the medical field.  This foundation will hopefully keep me aware of the potential hazards, such as provider bias, that could prevent me from being the best physician I can be.

When I return to Duke, I plan to use the lessons I learned on this program to work toward bettering the culture on campus to be more equitable and conscientious. As Director of Programming for Panhellenic, I want to use information I learned this summer to shape our Panhellenic semester.  Specifically, I plan to work with one of our community partners, Legal Momentum, to bring back education material to combat the predatory culture that plagues many Greek events.

Finally, I want to thank everyone in my program for helping me to change my outlook. Especially, thank you to Choices for allowing me to work so closely with the women we served and throughout the clinic.  Most importantly, thank you Ada and Shannan for making this the most incredible summer.

Embracing Uncharted Waters

It’s been an entire week since we said our goodbyes and left NYC for each of our homes, some of us back to similarly bustling cities, and some–like me–back to a much different territory.  And like when I arrived, the culture shock has been just as shocking…but not in quite the same way.

When I first arrived in the city, I was taken aback by the constant stimulation of all senses; it truly is the city that never sleeps.  And don’t get me started on figuring out the New York City subway system….

But the biggest change from my normal, every-day life came on with much more subtlety, and as much of a growing experience “cooking” most of my meals was–aka, eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon for dinner–this, also, was not it.  It wasn’t until I came home that I realized how big of an impact being a part of the Moxie project has had on my life.  The first couple of days, my overwhelming feeling was sadness; this summer I have felt my brain being stretched and twisted to a level that I am consciously aware of, something that I’ve never experienced before.  Not only this, but I have met a group of people who I never would have interacted with otherwise, but have pushed me to think about important topics in ways I had never considered.  And the relationships I have formed with everyone in my group, as well as some of the people at my internship at Sanctuary for Families, are deeper and more real than I ever expected–or in many cases, experienced–before.

To revisit one of my previous posts, something that has defined this summer from talking with the other Moxies is an acceptance and welcoming of discomfort.  I have learned that discomfort is necessary for the kinds of conversations that will get things done, enact the change that we so desperately need.   The discussions we’ve had, whether in seminar or spontaneously in the middle of the night, have been some of the most in-depth, transformative, respectful, and, yes, discomforting, I have ever been a part of.  And I mean that in the best of ways.  We are all so different, and that’s what makes our discussions productive and interesting.  This summer, not only do I feel like I have made a tangible impact in people’s lives at my internship, but I also have become more sure of my own voice and independence.  I have found a place to dwell in discomfort….but what will that mean for the future?  


The future has always terrified me.  During the last week of being in NYC, I had a surprising number of conversations about what’s important in life and not getting bogged down by not knowing exactly where your life is headed.  When I came into college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life…but I’m not sure how much that goal actually matches what I am passionate about, which this summer has helped me to see.  While I am more uncertain than ever of what is to come, I am also the most content and sure than I have felt my entire life.

But the future is important for another reason as well: how can I use what I have learned this summer in the future?  One topic in particular that stood out in every one of the discussions was the issue with the hierarchical systems that spill over into every aspect of society and government.  Yes, we always talk about problems with unequal treatment in, say, the finance world, where everything is about networking and who you know.  But something I came to realize this summer, even speaking with some of my coworkers, is that these systems exist even within the nonprofits, the last place you would expect.  And I recently discovered from one of my friends that–surprise, surprise–the same is true in the media industry; the prettier women get better jobs, often within sales, which is just so problematic on so many levels. 

How can we even begin to address these widespread problems at the very center of our societal mindset? 

That was always the question this summer.  But maybe we don’t need to have all the answers right now.  Working for the change that is necessary doesn’t have to look like some big massive movement that solves every issue in one go, and for another matter, couldn’t.   Thinking about going back to school and what will happen, how I can continue to think about the issues we’ve discussed all summer worries me. So much life was packed into that short 8 weeks, and I am not about to waste it.  I am determined to find a way to stay involved, stay aware, and stay connected, whatever that may look like. And stay open minded about where life could lead because I am less sure about the future than I have ever been, but also the most ok with not knowing. 


Culture Shock in a Familiar City

Culture shock. 

That is not something you expect to experience doing a domestic DukeEngage program. Especially not in a city your mom works in and that you visit every year. Despite the familiarity of the city, the Moxie program and Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) immersed me in environments so different than the ones that I know. The Moxie program has been the most diverse program I have ever been a part of.  I was surrounded by a diversity of race, income, family backgrounds, perspectives, and more. While Duke is fairly diverse, it’s social scene tends to be racially fractured. I am also on the rowing team, and this is an expensive sport that tends to only be available in high income areas, which can lend a lack of racial and economic diversity. Furthermore, my high school had a very serious lack of diversity (see below).

High school was comfortable, being surrounded by people just like myself. People rarely had to check themselves or check their privilege, because they were surrounded my equal levels of it. The way my parents raised me, having had come from low-income families themselves, I was aware of my privilege and that it was no coincidence that those who I lived around and went to school with looked and acted just like me. By my junior year, thanks to my American Studies class, amazing teachers, and the the book The New Jim Crowe, I had a fairly heightened social consciousness compared to those around me. In college, my political identity and activism exploded come Trump’s election, and at that point I considered myself to be “woke”. “Woke” is a political term that refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice that has become widely used since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.


But how can I be actually woke if you’re a white, straight, and privileged person who has been surrounded by people just like myself my whole life? I study issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class endlessly. I’m constantly having conversations about these issues, but often without the people who these issues are affecting. So my knowledge is overwhelmingly theoretical and academic. However, compared to a lot of others with the same white, privileged, and straight identities, I tend have a more heightened social consciousness and be more woke. Because of this, I’ve never had to check myself.

The Moxie program and Girls for Gender Equity both gave me the opportunity, for the first time, to have discussions about social justice issues with a diverse group of people. This aspect more than anything else, has led to the most learning and personal growth.  Finally, I have had to check myself.

One day at GGE, I was watching a trial against NYPD and its gang surveillance database. Parents came to the trial to share stories of the children they’d lost to this abuse of power, racism, and severe police brutality. Soon, I was crying and I turned to a fellow Moxie, to talk about it. I was startled by her response, “You shouldn’t cry, that doesn’t do anything. These are real peoples lives and realities.” Objectively, I knew my tears didn’t do anything to fix the problem. But, I knew she was saying something much deeper than that one sentence. That by crying about it, I was making it about me; the focus was being removed from the injustice to the black community to the empathy and emotions of the white woman. This interaction was coupled with our Moxie discussion concerning the role of empathy. We discussed how to advocate for people’s rights and needs, they are elevated as tokens of pain, which we will feel bad for, and if we’re privileged we’ll get a pat on the back for caring. From this, I took away an awareness of how my social activism and empathy for marginalized populations can be self-serving and how to stay away from this. Never should conversations about race be dominated by a white woman, and never should a white woman’s tear’s be weaponized to silence people of color.

During my last day at GGE, I met with my supervisor, Brittany, to wrap things up for the summer. We discussed the race dynamic, given that I was one of the very few white people at the office. She told me that my whiteness and privilege definitely stood out in the office and that is/was a very unique dynamic to have a white privileged intern under an almost all black staff. She asked how I felt being a minority in the office. First, I acknowledged the difference between being a black versus white minority and the privileges and disadvantages that those may bring. But even despite this, there was a constant heightened awareness of my identity, how I presented myself, and how I took up space. We agreed that this was an important experience for my self-awareness.

(Here’s me and Brittany-the best supervisor in the world-being cute!)

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

If I plan on pursuing social justice in my future, it’s absolutely necessary that I am able to check my privilege, be aware of the space I take up, and how I talk about the issues. While I know that I have a ways to go, I am endlessly grateful for the Moxie program and GGE for having taught me so much.

And an unrelated side note to my fellow Moxies, I love you all with my whole heart and wouldn’t have wanted to share this experience with anyone else.

Thank you to GGE, Ada, Shannan, my fellow Moxies, and DukeEngage for allowing me to have such an incredible experience.


Ready…Set…Take Action!

My world view got more focused this summer. Not in the sense that I know more specifics about politics or how to end world hunger. But it’s like I can see the world more clearly as I have grown to understand that not everything is black and white.

I learned to the importance of being critical instead of just skeptical of the systems. I believe that skepticism is rooted in not believing in a system’s ability to succeed or to benefit you. However, skepticism offers no constructive feedback to a mode of change because it spirals into apathy as we stop caring about and supporting systems that don’t recognize us. It’s easy to not care about and to not believe in systems because it prevents us from having to deal with disappointment when we can’t make the change and progress we are fighting so hard for.

On the other hand, I believe the notion of being critical is rooted in acknowledging the strides a system is making, while also questioning the narrow avenues of progress certain groups have to endure. Criticism requires one to be engage in building a better community, a better world, and ultimately, a better system. This summer, I learned that in order to be critical, I can’t sit around being angry at the world and complaining about systems that I continue to implicitly reinforce. I have to use my voice and platforms to uplift grassroots movements and communities. I have to use my mind to imagine a better way of life without being restrained by the limitations of this current one.

As I return home, I feel like a bouncing ball of potential. I feel like I’m filled to the brim with possibilities. I feel like I have overdosed on positivity and gotten as high as Cloud Ten. And there I sat wondering how I was going to get the rest of the world up there with me. Then, I got overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems that I couldn’t just blow away. Eventually, I calmed down and realized that I can still make significant strides in my personal life as well as my campus community. With that said, I plan to build programming and initiatives to help low income, first generation students which I will call the First Gen Collation. And, in my personal life, I plan use the new ideals of restorative justice and mediation to figure out what justice looks like for me without blindly relying the problematic systems of punitive justice.

From the Big Apple to Sportsman’s Paradise

Last Friday, around 11PM, I was frantically throwing things into either a suitcase or a trashcan. I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t sleep because I needed to be up by 3AM anyways to catch my flight.

This Friday, around 11PM, I am sitting at our kitchen counter, drinking tea, and only rushing to meet the deadline for this blog post. I adjusted to the fast pace life of New York City, but I also quickly adjusted back to the slow pace life in Louisiana.

In New York City, surrounded by my fellow Moxies, we had conversations of racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and every type of -ism you could think of. In Louisiana, I witness and live those -isms every day.

Before experiencing the Moxie program and New York City, I knew that these -isms existed everywhere, but I don’t think I was equipped with the necessary scholarly literature as well as discussions to pinpoint exactly what was wrong. I had grown up around these things, so they seemed normal to me, until this summer.

This summer turned the normal to unnormal. It made conversations harder to participate in without pointing out someone’s biases or trying to understand why they thought the way they did.

To be honest, I had to catch myself from making this face multiple times before going on a rant about neoliberalism or identity politics or how the way our society is set up is not all rainbows and butterflies. Shocker. This summer made me hyperaware of all of the injustices that take place everywhere – not just certain communities or the deep south.

This summer also taught me about the importance of integrating experiences with what you can learn in a classroom. An individual with an infinite amount of abbreviations behind their name can explain all of the struggles within our society, but it isn’t until you fully immerse yourself within a specific community do you truly understand what is going on.

At Brooklyn Defender Services, the work I did sitting at my desk was just as equally important as when I would interact with individuals; however, it’s the interactions that have stuck with me. It was the seeing lawyers day in and day out fighting for the best for the clients and their clients struggling to navigate and unjust justice system that will remain with me.

I can’t provide you with a step by step plan on how I plan to integrate my Moxie experience into my life at home or at Duke. There is still some unpacking, both literally and figuratively, that has to take place. I can confidently say, though, that Moxie has impacted my view of not only the world I live in, but how I function within those spaces.

8 Weeks in Less Than 800 Words


In reflections about the last eight weeks, I’ve found myself sounding like a broken record.


Well, I’ve talked endlessly about how much I’ve learned. No, really. I cannot imagine exactly how many times I’ve mentioned that I’ve learned something or learned a lot from this experience.

(Proof: this reflection I recorded for the end-of-program celebration we had.)

But saying that I’ve learned a lot really does encompass what I’ve taken these last eight weeks to be about.

To be clear, I don’t mean to use “learning” to mean some kind of route memorization of information.

When I say that I’ve learned a lot, I mean to say that I’ve been extensively engaged in conversations that were (are?) way above my head, so much so that all I could do at the time was sit in the space and try my best to grasp as many pieces of the conversation as I could.

During one particularly salient seminar we had, we talked about the limitations of pinning all of our hopes for social change on empathy and storytelling. This was crazy. To me, this was unheard of. In all the circles that I had been exposed to, the common thread was narrative and storytelling. More specifically, I had accepted that it was important to bring life to perhaps abstract issues by using stories, by tapping into people’s empathy. I had told myself before that the world’s issues would be solved if people just tried to picture themselves in each other’s shoes.

What had become such a commonsense understanding for me was being challenged. Not to say that storytelling and empathy had no value, but that storytelling and empathy by themselves as some sort of panacea was a theory with some limitations. Limitations of which were important to note, to think about, and to use as a foundation to brainstorm alternative ways to change the world.

When I say that I’ve learned a lot, I mean to say that I did a lot of things for the first time. I experienced a lot and was exposed to a lot in just the span of eight weeks. Furthermore, many of these things I did, experiences I gained, and things I was exposed to were far beyond what I would have ever imagined for myself.

For example, although I’m reluctant to characterize myself as shy, I’ve been rather quick to say that I’m an introvert. I practically never go out of my way to talk to strangers in any setting without a good reason. And even with a good reason, I always look for alternatives so I can avoid interacting with people I don’t know. Also, there’s something about not knowing what to say or what to talk about that makes me a little anxious.

Still, every now and then during those last eight weeks, you could find me in some park in one of the New York boroughs, going up to nannies to talk to them about their rights as nannies in New York and about NDWA, to ask them for their information so that we could keep in contact with them, to listen to their stories and opinions about domestic work and other relevant experiences.

(Proof: this photo taken during one of the outreach sessions!)

I just shared a couple snippets of my summer to get across the ways in which I’ve learned – in the full sense of that word. But how could I completely articulate the immersive experience that I just came out of? All I can say is that I realized how much learning there still is. In that learning, there is also so much self-growth and self-discovery and discovery in general that is to be done.

However, this kind of learning and discovery doesn’t happen by itself.

It requires action. It requires not only staying open to your perspectives and understandings of the world being challenged, but also open to changing those perspectives and understandings. More than that, it requires the act of seeking out new experiences to learn from. It requires a kind of attentiveness that keeps a person thinking and analyzing – even if all the thinking goes against their commonsense. Sometimes, it’s not even commonsense that is challenged, but ideas built on time, training, indoctrination, etc.

So how would I sum up eight weeks in eight words? Oh, that’s hard. But I’ll say these last eight weeks have been about

challenging deeply held ideas; making space for learning.

Well, it would be something more or less along those lines.


Here’s to the Future.

Before I started Moxie I was very “low-key” about how I felt about certain topics. I would never willingly divulge anything to just about anyone about most topics i.e. anything. I never understood why. As I grew, learned, listened, and contemplated during this summer, I realized it was because I thought I wasn’t political enough and I didn’t know enough.

At our first seminar this idea came up, but it wasn’t me who was saying it–back to my low-key stature. I agreed with the idea that I never wanted to be wrong or have my own beliefs challenged because in what world is anyone comfortable with being wrong? It was then that I realized I was being silenced before I could even use my voice.

So many times, I’ve wanted to click the “share” button on Facebook, but I knew how many people would be upset with my thoughts. So many times, I wanted to comment and say “that’s not right,” but I knew an argument would definitely happen. For so long I’d been holding my tongue, my clicks, my shares, out of fear of the world. If you asked me three months ago to share something political on my Facebook feed, yeah, it would have had to be a “no” from me, but as I have grown and seen that no matter what I’m not always right, I’ve started to be bolder. In my town, my thoughts are seen as “radical.” Oh well someone has to say it. Why not me?

Being home is WILD. I have literally begun to see how problematic everything is. When I got home this man asked my father to speak to ME. He then proceeded to tell me I thought I was too good for everyone here. I was SHOOK. One, this 2018, I will talk to whoever I want and be going to my dad won’t help your case. Two, if I don’t want you in my space you won’t be in it. Three, I OWE YOU NOTHING. Over the summer we spoke so much about how the blame of the world is given to women, but nothing is placed on the male perpetrator. I didn’t start viewing my home world in this light until I came home. “Men” feel so entitled to discuss what you are, what you will do, and what you won’t do because I know they still see women as a “property.”  It’s about time men learned that women aren’t your property. You won’t tell me what I will do and you have no control over what I do to my body. Wow. It’s so “funny” seeing these things now. I think truly I’ve always seen them, but now I speak on them. I’m ready for the future because here goes nothing…

Through Moxie I’ve found my voice, my power, and everything in between. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get back to Duke, but I’m thinking about it. I want to thank Ada & Shannan for being the BEST supervisors out there. Y’all are such positive & great women! I’m so happy I got to spend this summer getting to know you and I can’t wait for the future. If you’re thinking about applying for Moxie DO IT! It will be a hard 8 weeks, but it will be worth everything to see how you grow and become different. I see the world differently. I see myself differently. I wonder what else will happen?

Conquering My Own “Contradictions” With Conviction and Connections to Seminar

Centuries ago, I was considered property. In 2018, I am still objectified for the agendas and desires of others, but at least I am generally considered a person. This observation is unfortunate, yet still a frustrating reality.

I have dedicated much of my blogs, journals, and reflections to discussing my frustrations with my position in the world around me. As the summer has progressed, I realized that my anger is more than just a surface level reaction to everyday grievances and mistreatment because it has become embodied within the essence of who I am and how I move about the world. My anger is an ongoing discontent with having to conform and comply to the assumptions, expectations, and standards of persons outside of my lived experiences because of my identity labels; it is also an emotional frustration with people universalizing their unique perspectives and experiences to an entire population, i.e. I regret having an abortion and will never have one again.Therefore, no woman should be able to have an abortion because all women will regret it.







My anger manifests when people’s ideas about who I should be restrict who I can be and how I get to be. In my most frustrating experiences, people have refused to accept who I want to be, and blamed me for their traumatic transgressions against me. By doing so, people have diminished the true weight I carry as black queer woman in this society. Many people I have encountered would rather get upset about having to adjust their behaviors and actions to recognize and respect my humanity than get upset about the injustice that myself and other marginalized minorities experience daily; this pattern of behavior often prompts “movements” like #NotAllMen and #AllLivesMatter that take valuable space in conversation about Women’s Rights and police brutality.

When privileged people take up valuable space in conversations regarding social justice, women of color experience multiple avenues of marginalization due intersectional oppressions. In an article we read last week for seminar called “Mapping the Margins”, Kimberlé Crenshaw coins the term intersectionality to describe how race, gender, class and other identities interact to shape multiple dimensions of a person’s experience. Women of color often reflect on feelings of craziness before becoming consciousness of sexual politics and patriarchal rule because they are expected to identify themselves as either “woman’  or a “person of color”. Crenshaw argues that positioning of race against gender leaves women of color at an intersection where their stories aren’t heard nor are the women represented. Crenshaw analyzes that sexual oppression is just pervasive as class and race in lives of women of color. Her notable example was the history of rape of black women by white men for political repression; in this example, one can how see intersections of race, gender, and class shape the trauma and experiences of Black women. I agree with Crenshaw that feelings of craziness stem from women not having a voice or the freedom to exercise it in society.

By voice I mean the ability to use one’s innate potential and developed talents to determine, define, and declare things about themselves and how they see the world around them. Crenshaw emphasizes how women of color are obscured and potentially jeopardized by  political strategies of movements that require them to split their political energies between at least two subordinate groups with often conflicting political agendas, i.e. Black rights vs. Women’s Rights, so what little voice they do have is diminished.

The Combahee River Collective Manifesto (another reading from seminar last week) offers a different but related outlook on identity politics. They argue that identity politics is a political dedication to fighting to end your own oppression instead of someone else’s. Women of the Collective reject pedestals that tokenize them, queenhood where their person’s are fetishized under the guise of power, and walking ten paces behind to support someone else’s movement. They simply wish to be treated as levelly human.

In contrast to the Crenshaw’s and the Collective’ notion of identity, Wendy Brown (our final reading from seminar) argues that labels generated through oppression do very little to help groups achieve liberation beyond recognition. Brown is critical of the way people have to identify with pain and suffering to gain recognition from the government. I’m not sure I agree with this, as I believe that identifying with one’s pain is a method to gain empathy in the fight for justice.

Furthermore, returning to the idea of intersectionality, I argue that there are important social consequences to combining certain labels. For example, I am bisexual and Christian, so people commonly question how I reconcile my spirituality with my sexuality. I stress that these fundamental parts of my identity do not exist in opposition, but share space in my world. I have chosen to live in a world in which God loves all his children as I love him, all sins are equal in weight, and one should love thy neighbors rather than living in one where gay is “sin”, God hates me as I should hate my ‘lifestyle’, and I have to hide who I am. I chosen to love who I am in the face of God. To build a better intimate world for myself, I molded my Christianity into a private conversation between me and God instead of complying to the politics of the Church whereas my Bisexuality has transformed into a public conversation between me and the world.

In short, I defined my labels instead of letting them define me.


I identify as a black, bisexual, feminist, [Christian] woman in S.T.E.M.