Intersectionality as a Blueprint for Postcolonial Scientific Community Building

(This is an edited version of a speech that I gave to the Inclusive Astronomy conference in June, 2015, and an extension of thinking that began with a piece I wrote for Women in Astronomy in 2014.* For definitions of terms used throughout, please see endnote[5]. And also see my reading list on race and racism and my decolonising science reading list which include books that mention all of them. Special thanks to Minal Hajratwala for helpful discussions about editing and content and to Dean Spade who generously helped seed the idea that grew into this speech and this essay.)

1. We are multidimensional.

Sojourner Truth gave the concept of “intersectionality” its first breath in her “Ain’t I a woman?” speech to the white women-organized Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio 1851:

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

By articulating how her life had been shaped both by racism and sexism while demanding full inclusion in feminist discourse, Truth presented a revolutionary challenge to the traditionally white supremacist status quo in women’s movements at the time. A century and a half later, in 1988, Black legal scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw would first deploy the term “intersectionality” in academic literature, signaling the beginning of academic discourse about third wave feminism, which had been driven by extra-academic thinkers which include but are not limited to Audre Lorde, Wilmette Brown and Margaret Prescod.[1]

Twenty-five years forward from Crenshaw’s essay, we find that the discourse about intersectionality has grown and multiplied in both healthy and deeply unhealthy ways. So let’s start with the definition that kicked this modern discourse off. In her article, Crenshaw declares,

The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite — that it frequently ignores or conflates intragroup differences . . . Moreover, ignoring difference within groups contributes to tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that bears on efforts to politicize violence against women. Feminist efforts to politicize experiences of women and antiracist efforts to politicize experiences of people of color have frequently proceeded as though the issues and experiences they each detail occur on mutually exclusive terrains.

Extending this idea in 2009, white trans activist, lawyer and legal scholar Dean Spade told an audience at his alma mater Barnard College that in social justice organizing it is critical that we center the most vulnerable. Hearing him say this was a transformative moment for me, and over the years I’ve come to understand it more and more, both historically and in a contemporary context. Looking back on Sojourner Truth’s iconic speech it is exactly that — a call to center those who were most vulnerable, which in this country wasn’t and never has been white women. Intersectionality was developed as a necessary response to a feminism and conception of social justice that focused solely on free white women.

What we have learned is that this is true across the board along many potentially intersecting axes of identity: sex, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status, immigration status (and within that documentation status), and socioeconomic status. We should not forget however that this broadly applicable concept was initially driven by Black women in particular. One potential reason is that those women were fighting sexism while living within the legacy of being part of the only group that the U.S. Constitution openly allocated subhuman status to, Black people. When someone has built a powerful economy on your back and then your natural allies — in this case white women — tell you to sit at the back of the bus, you start to feel like push back is a necessary, life or death response.

At the same time, North American Millenials such as myself were raised in countries that upheld multiculturalism as an at least superficially valuable principle. Let’s celebrate each other’s cultures and act as if all things are equal, when for example in high schools white European and American history is mandatory, and the history of everyone else — ethnic studies, if it is even legal[2] — is relegated to an elective.

Multiculturalism pretends that identity and culture can be boiled down to days or months of celebration amidst the monolithic and forever constant normalized background of whiteness. Historically, this multicultural mythology, whatever the good intentions behind it, became a vehicle for assimilation with a smattering of tokenization. Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, Cinco de Mayo, LGBTQ pride month and a host of other moments of recognition, contrary to how they were initially conceived, have become national stand-ins for the more substantive and difficult anti-ist and anti-phobia work that would require re-examining popular mores of the era such as the war on drugs, which serially criminalizes trans and cis women and men of color especially. Multiculturalism as it has been broadly presented in both a USAmerican and Canadian context has not even been about tolerating difference from whiteness, cisness, and straightness. It has been about tolerating some Disney version of those differences, when what we really need and should be aiming for is a world where those who don’t fit the dominant paradigm are empowered to rebuild their communities, locally and globally, in a way that more fundamentally reflect their indigenous existence. Communities should have a right to do this not in a framework of difference but rather in a framework of equitable and independent and when it is wished, interlaced coexistence.

Multiculturalism is, therefore, a limited framework for race discourse and more generally discourse about marginalized peoples. While it offers an analysis of comparative difference in identities, it does not contain the seeds of destruction of the oppressive sociopolitical forces that shape the lives of marginalized people. Multiculturalism is an ideal that rather than subverting white supremacy serves to maintain it. Intersectionality as a framework offers an alternative to this in the form of an analysis of comparative difference in identities and the structural power dynamics associated with those differences, through the lens of an identity matrix rather than an identity scalar.[3] Importantly, recently the idea of “intersectionality” has been abused in an effort to deploy it as a multiculturalist concept. We must resist this effort.

2. But most of us were not here first.

Here in North America, we must begin at the beginning. First Nations/Native American/American Indian peoples, who at that point in time were facing massive land theft, warfare, and genocide — as they continue to do. I have a suspicion that this is why Native discourse of the time and even later did not take a road that parallels the development of intersectionality as an organizing concept. While Blacks were trying to figure out how to live with, among and beside a white community that had disallowed their humanity and sought to rob them of their lives and labor, Native people were, as they are still today, struggling to maintain autonomy and sovereignty in the face of American, white supremacist hegemony. The Native story is necessarily a different one and even the conversation about whether Native identity is a matter of race or citizenship or sometimes both is complicated. There is also a distinct discourse within Native communities about how gender is even conceived, and the effort to decolonize Native thinking and maintain autonomous and evolving continuity with Native traditions around gender is an ongoing effort.

Nonetheless, an intersectional analysis can provide a framework for understanding Native experiences, as we are all now tasked with living in or near the territory known as the United States. Many Native people have moved outside the semi-sovereign, autonomous borders of reservations and have in large numbers entered dominant society for a variety of reasons including that this is where the so many of resources are including resources that were once more readily accessible to them.[4] Part of the task set before them and their allies — which I hope includes everyone in this room — is to renegotiate the now traditional walls set up between Native peoples and resources in a way that does not reproduce old colonial habits.

Acknowledging this necessarily requires a revision of how most Americans typically think about themselves. Those of us whose families came to the Americas voluntarily are settlers and the descendants of colonial settlers. Those of us who were relocated here by the forces of slavery, colonialism and first-world globalization in third world spaces live with the uncomfortable reality that we are both victims of and now to some extent participants in the white supremacist settler projects now known as Canada and the United States.

We in the astronomy community have particularly butted up against this in the last several months as more people have become aware of ongoing and historic resistance to colonialism in Hawai’i as manifest in resistance to international telescope-building enterprises on Mauna a Wakea. Problematically, the international collaborations that have driven Maunakea telescopes have often been touted as making contributions to global peacemaking and cross cultural understanding, even as they occurred in the fundamentally violent context of colony. The highly contentious Thirty Meter Telescope for example is celebrated as a multicultural intersection of American, Canadian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian interests that are sensitive to Hawaiian “needs” while also necessitating the violent arrests, prosecution and criminalization of Hawaiian people who believe in their sovereign right to say no to projects on their sacred lands.

It has been asked both earnestly and with condescending suspicion why Native Hawaiians are pushing back now. As established by my own story that dates back to 2001, the presumption of the question is fallacious. Yet, in the era of widespread social media use which democratizes access to information by sometimes successfully sidestepping corporate media filters, the movement does seem bigger and more energetic. This vivacity is due in part to a burgeoning Hawaiian cultural renaissance. Decades ago, activists fought for the inclusion of Hawaiian language and culture in schools; now a young adult population empowered by these pedagogical changes are taking pride in their heritage, including relatively recent acts of resistance against U.S. military war games in sacred spaces. The Mauna Kea protectors are in fact part of a legacy of opposition to American colonialism with the verve of a people who securely believe that they are entitled to their heritage, their land and a self-determined future. The current Maunakea movement is less a new phenomenon than the latest step in a long term effort to push back against American hegemony in Hawai’i.

The story of Maunakea presents us with a practical example of the divide between multiculturalism and intersectional frameworks. The multicultural approach of telescope builders has been to create a welcome center that celebrates Hawaiian astronomy traditions that predate contact with Euro-American powers and settlers. In the debate about the TMT, pro-TMT supporters have repeatedly reminded us that the King of Hawaii once allowed a telescope to be put on the mountain and felt very strongly that this was a positive development. In the course of doing so, they have de-emphasized that the telescope was small (about 12 inches), the structure supporting it temporary, that the King made this pronouncement when the power relations were very different and that it’s a logical fallacy to extrapolate from this that he would support building a 18 story structure in the same location. But in the framework of multiculturalism, what’s important is the fact of acknowledgment that Hawaiian culture and history exists at all. An analysis of the relevant power dynamics is neither here nor there.

This is a fundamentally an assimilationist strategy. Native Hawaiian history and culture becomes a nationalist chapter in the story of the American state of Hawaii, now dominated by an American political framework and a majority non-Native population. Instead of pausing to reconsider the challenge Mauna a Wakea protectors present to the dominant paradigm, TMT and its supporters have largely charged forward, framing this project as both critical scientifically and also necessary economically to a Hawaii that has become dependent on American operating principles of economy. While I recognize that not all Native Hawaiians agree about TMT, and that in fact many are in support of it, in my view, the discourse has overall been a prime example of neocolonialism hard at work in the Pacific.

How polite the language around this has been varies: while some have used a multicultural framework to assess the value and contribution of Hawaiian culture, others have said that people against the telescope are anti-science and belong in the middle ages, while still others have questioned whether the many Hawaiians now engaged in this cause really have their priorities straight, suggesting that Jason Momoa, a Native Hawaiian celebrity, impressed star struck Native Hawaiians just that much. In case it’s not clear what’s wrong with that, the suggestion is that the majority white astronomy community is being rational while the Natives are just brainless star struck observers. Even without evidence of tremendous organizing to preserve culture and sovereignty within the community, this would be problematic and condescending. But there is much evidence of exactly that kind of organizing over many decades, which just makes it deeply condescending and racist.

It is also difficult to accede that it is reasonable to claim, as I have heard, that, “This is for their own good because they really need the education.” Is it really the case that non-Native Hawaiians know better than Native Hawaiians themselves what kind of education they need? This is not just a matter of economics but also of spiritual — psychological — survival.

Here we see that the framework of multiculturalism has operated as a means to enhance a neocolonial agenda instead of serving to break old colonial habits. An intersectional approach might have another outcome. In an intersectional assessment of the situation, the power dynamics at play and in particular the effects of economic and ethnic marginalization on the choices available to key players would be considered central to the analysis. As opposed to the multicultural approach where Native Hawaiian traditions are primarily valuable as things to be sold and bought with scholarships and jobs, an intersectional approach recognizes that the issues of Hawaiian ties to the land and Hawaiian spirituality are inseparable from the dynamics of settler colonialism, autonomy, and sovereignty. It recognizes that reckoning with the legacy of oppression, colonialism and American occupation in the context of white supremacy must be central to any discussion about what should happen next.

There is another side of this for astronomers as well: benefiting from colonialism is not particularly new for our community. Going back beyond the first installation of a telescope on Mauna a Wakea, which was done without consulting Native Hawaiians and with zero consideration and respect for Native Hawaiian perspectives on land, astronomers have been both passive beneficiaries of and active participants in colonialism on islands in the Western Hemisphere for quite some time. One example comes from James McClellan’s book on science and colonialism on Saint Domingue. Huygens and the grandson of Cassini (as in the NASA Huygens and Cassini mission) oversaw an astronomy observation program that used the French slave colony of Saint Domingue — now Haiti — to make astronomical observations that would help make the delivery of slaves and export of goods more efficient by better collocating Saint Domingue on the global map. So-called “Pure astronomy” research became one prong in the dehumanizing, colonial economy while also geographically benefiting from the sites of colonial domination. As many of you may be aware, Black Haitians went on to make Haiti the first Free country in the western hemisphere, a status France charged them dearly for, to the tune of trillions, and Haiti is now the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Astronomy is not clean. Blood and death lurk in our history too. Multiculturalism is simply not equipped to answer to this charge.


3. Science is a human endeavor.

Of course, we cannot blame the stars for the terrorism of men — and make no mistake about it, for the most part, these were men. But as physics education expert Barbara Whitten has said, science is a human construction with significant boundary conditions from nature. We make the scientific community and the scientific community determines what constitutes science and science’s priorities at any given time. This means that, for example, when Europeans arrived on foreign shores with very set ideas about the gender binary and couched them in contemporary “science.” What they were really doing was forcing Judeo-Christian gender narratives on anyone who crossed their path, but because at the time the entire European scientific community shared this world view, it was considered scientific. In essence, European scientists were prone to tautologies that are self-consistent with cultural traditions and have nothing to do with objectivity.

Put more broadly, science can be and has been part of multiple colonial enterprises, both for the sake of control and for economic benefit. The Eugenics movement is one extreme outcome of this monstrous marriage. The early development of modern obstetrics also reflects this: many Black women were effectively tortured and murdered as part of early obstetric medicine experiments to enhance techniques that were used to improve the lives of white women.

The reality that scientists must reckon with is that scientists have participated in many abuses and the legacy of these abuses has become part of community narratives of historical trauma and oppression. Stories of scientists abusing disempowered minorities are not rare but rather normative. Every year we hear a new story about scientists who experimented on indigenous people somewhere in Latin America; who abused the dead as in the case of Henrietta Lacks; who experimented on Blacks as in the Tuskegee Experiment; who sterilized Native, Latina and Black women, particularly those who were incarcerated, against their will; who continue to problematize LGBTIQA existences as a curable aberration; who refuse to treat their trans patients with basic hormonal treatments as primary care.

Medical abuses, in particular, can have an outsized impact on how people perceive science as well, because sometimes a doctor is the first and only scientist that people ever come into contact with.

When considering the impact of colonialism on science, we must also consider how colonialism has shaped the point of view that people of color and other marginalized peoples have on science. Books have been written about the suspicion with which many Black Americans look at science thanks to the abuses of medical science and also environmental racism. Science has so often been deployed to uphold white supremacy and patriarchal heterocissexism that many are suspicious about whether research scientists and medical professionals are really on their side. Some of us don’t feel safe going to see our doctors, for fear of being treated like hysterical women. Others don’t know if their doctor will invalidate their gender and sex identities when they come out or if their doctor will even know how to properly treat someone like them. I’ve definitely been in a situation where a doctor not realizing that I had African heritage presented a data interpretation problem that I had to figure out for her.

So let’s stop for a second and consider what this means for people who have been forced to live on the margins. If you grow up in a community that scientists have traditionally abused, in a body that scientists have traditionally abused, or with a heightened awareness of morally ambiguous choices that required scientists’ collaboration, then perhaps your early conceptions of science are negative. That was certainly the case for me. I didn’t know until I saw a documentary about Stephen Hawking that physicists did things besides build wildly destructive weapons.

Meanwhile, for some intersexed people their earliest relationship with medicine and therefore science is that some person assessed that their clitoris was too large or penis too small and made radical life transforming decisions for them about their gender and sex identity. We have to ask ourselves about how this can impact a person’s interest in joining the scientific community and ability to envision themselves as becoming fully fledged, respected members.

Many people with disabilities can tell a similar story about a medical community that reflects a larger society which is disinterested in restructuring itself in the interests of accessibility. While some of us can say we have always had supportive doctors who went out of their way to help us navigate life as a person with a disability, I think more often than not we have had to deal with being pathologized as fundamentally limited by physical or psychological disabilities.

Again medical abuses, in particular, can have an outsized impact on how people perceive science as well, because sometimes a doctor is the first and only scientist that people ever come into contact with. It is perhaps not immediately obvious what the connection with colonialism is here, but when we consider that so much of the success of colonialism is predicated on who has access to resources such as good health care (or an immune system that has had broader exposure to disease) as well as through violent physical domination, we start to realize that the practice of marginalization of people with disabilities relies on the same ideologies of dominance that colonialism does. Moreover, colonizer’s ideas about impairment and disability are forcibly made dominant in settler communities and the communities they have settled on.

But it is not only in medicine that we see the effects of colonial discourse on science and the participation of people in science. In astronomy, in the wake of “horde of Natives who are lying” and a sometimes deeply insensitive debate about the TMT, it is a fact that some Native Hawaiian students and other First Nations students have begun to ask themselves whether there is a place for them in the scientific community. We don’t need to ask ourselves if this is happening; we know it is.

Inasmuch as we talk about overt discrimination and unconscious bias as problems that scientists need to tackle, it’s critical that we consider how the legacy of European colonial thought about people’s skin color, their bodies, their sexual desires, their languages and their ethno-religious world views and self-conceptions have determined power relations in our community. It is only by starting there can we truly consider the possibility of full inclusion of marginalized people in the physics and astronomy communities. For the moment, the foundation of the modern American scientific community is build on rotten ideas, and the stench is chasing some people off.

4. In the end, we can begin something new.

It’s one thing to be marginalized along one axis, say, to be a white ciswoman. But the scientific community is an especially dangerous place for people who are not just marginalized along one identity axis but along multiple identity axes, people like me who are Black, cisfemale, genderqueer, living with chronic pain AND pansexual, not just one of these things.

Multiculturalism, a discourse of difference that does not attend to how power determines how difference is valued, is not equipped to respond to the reality that many of us hold complex identities with varying degrees of power attached to them.

Intersectionality holds new possibilities for us. But we must be careful. There has been an exponential increase in people using “intersectionality” to describe any number of things that are not actually intersectionality. A gender theorist I know attended a conference last summer that had a lot of talks on intersectionality. Several of them argued that things like “the intersection of feminism with the world of finance” constituted a discussion of intersectionality. This is not correct. When you hear things like this, intervene.

It may help your intervention if you have another good working definition of intersectionality, so here is one from Vivian May’s recent book:

“Intersectionality is an analytical and political orientation that brings together a number of insights and practices developed largely in the context of Black feminist and women of color theoretical and political traditions. First it approaches lived identities as interlaced and systems of oppression as enmeshed and mutually reinforcing: one aspect of identity and/or form of inequality is not treated as separable or subordinate. This “matrix” worldview contests “single-axis” forms of thinking about subjectivity and power (Crenshaw 1989) and rejects hierarchies of identity or oppression (Combahee 1983; Lorde 1984; B. Smith 1983). An intersectional justice orientation is thus wide in scope and inclusive: it repudiates additive notions of identity, assimilationist models of civil rights and one-dimensional views of power.
Focusing on the interplay of identities and the push-pull of multiple forms of power, intersectionality highlights the workings of racist sexism: for instance, its matrix model changes the terms of what “counts” as gender, race, sexuality, disability, nation and/or class issue or framework. Intersectionality also approaches lived identities, and systemic patterns of asymmetrical life opportunities and harms, from their interstices, from the nodal points where they hinge or touch.”

In other words, intersectionality is not merely the intersection of multiple identity axes, but also a framework for considering what it means to live at intersections of identity in the context of acknowledged, very real power dynamics that determine the every day of people who have traditionally been forced to the margins. Those power dynamics have been determined in part by legacies of colonialism that have treated people of color as bodies to be experimented and capitalized on and their lands and anything contained therein as resources to be collected and capitalized on.

We must be willing to adopt intersectionality as a lens in order to consider how these power dynamics are at play and causing lasting damage in our very own community.

We have to consider, for example, that many Black American students bring a legacy of generations of Black narrative and Black relationship to science with them to school. Indeed, when we talk about applied science, we talk about capitalizing on science. When we talk about basic science, we talk about discovery. But what are our earliest narratives about discovery? For many of us, they involve Christopher Columbus and tales of manifest destiny. Discovery is not always simply curious people doing interesting and harmless things.

So, there is an associative power in the language that we use, in how we as a community conceptualize ourselves. We have to admit this. Bringing intersectionality properly into the conversation means admitting that we have a problem, not just shifting old concepts onto new words. Knowing you have a problem is the first step to recovery, they say.

We can begin to unpack this by recognizing that American science has benefited from and been part of the process of colonialism and white supremacist development both here on this land and around the world. One important way that science enhanced imperialist projects through its own intellectual colonialism, insisting that there is only one scientific vision, internalist science. Most of us are trained in this point of view but probably most of us haven’t heard of it. Internalist science “claims that science is completely distinct from social influences and pure natural science can exist in any society and at any time given the intellectual capacity.” (Wikipedia)

It turns out that this is not the only way to look at the world, as Maunakea protectors have been trying to teach us. Scientists have responded with the full force of state violence behind them that this is about objectivity. But this objectivity they are talking about is a completely mythological concept that works as an effective tool of the colonial project. An externalist view would admit that socio-political environment also impacts what constitutes science and what constitutes accepted scientific truth at any particular time. Internalism has been used as a means to excluding and devaluing indigenous viewpoints, while also failing to credit medieval Muslim and Hindu scientists with developing a lot of the early physics and mathematics that are still foundational to physics 101 courses.

Intersectionality demands that we admit that whiteness and objectivity are not interchangeable and indeed that this association has been damaging. Intersectionality demands that we accept subjectivity is inherently a part of the process. Intersectionality demands that we reconfigure the scientific community to reflect this. This means confronting radical and necessary transformation. It means that instead of framing anti-racist/anti-homophobic/anti-sexist etc. efforts in the scientific community as an expedition in better preparing students to join us, we must better prepare ourselves to become a space where students, who are already prepared in their own interesting and unique ways, naturally fit in.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that all scientists must ask themselves: what do we ask people to give up in order to succeed? What requirements about social background, clothing, hair, English dialect, neurotypicality, state of (dis)ability and gender normativity do we need to excise from our community standards? How do we begin to repair the damage the dominant scientific community has done to marginalized communities and their relationship with the intellectual pursuit of understanding the world in a formal, mathematical way? How can we become more honest about the reality of subjectivity as a feature of the scientific community that cannot be eliminated? How can we promote the health and well-being of the most marginalized, for example those facing the intersection of trans identity and mental or physical difference? If everyone was schizophrenic, the world would probably be built around the needs of people with schizophrenia, right? What are we failing to imagine when we fail to understand that there is another, possibly better way? We have to challenge our most deeply held traditions to see whether they stand up to the scrutiny of intersectionality.

The question I’d like to end with is this: what new wonders will we come to know and experience when we have allowed intersectionality to run its course?


*For the moment, the WiA blog is missing a link to a crucial book that it references: All the Women are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave
[1] By Crenshaw’s own description in the article, the term arose from the work of Black women feminist activists, so she hardly takes credit for innovating the concept, although providing it with an identifiable nomenclature is an important contribution. That said it is worth noting the relative valuation of spoken contributions vs. written ones. Because Truth’s speech was an oral contribution that she could not herself record in the written word, there is still dispute over the exact wording. There have been many Black women activists like this throughout history, with legacies that like Ms. Truth’s are ones of active organizing: making the banners, running the meetings, writing what must be at this stage, hundreds of speeches. You won’t find their words in a journal or very many books and nonetheless her stamp is there. That we highly value the written word over the spoken word as evidence of scholarship or conceptual leadership is a problem. I could give another whole talk about this, but it’s important for us to consider and think about the ways we as a community measure and value contributions and work.
[2]In Arizona, it is not.
[3] A matrix is multidimensional while a scalar is one dimensional.
[4] I put it this way of out of respect for the fact that many First Nations and Indigenous people don’t share the European tradition of “ownership,” a colonial concept that was forced on many of them.
[5] Definitions (with attributions): 
1. white supremacy: the belief and promotion of the belief that white people are superior in ways to non-whites, especially Black people, and should thus enjoy dominance and privilege over all systems, institutions, and norms. This includes belief and promotion of the belief that current societies, systems, and institutions where whites enjoy structural advantage and privilege, both collectively and individually, are fair or meritocratic. (revising wikipedia)
2. racism: The belief or promotion of the belief that a system of advantage based on race is natural or justifiable. (David Wellman and Beverly Daniels Tatum)
3. patriarchy: a system in which men hold and use power to maintain advantages and to dominate non-cismen. (Wikipedia and me)
4. colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
5. autonomy: The freedom to act or function independently (Wiktionary)
sovereignty: The authority of a polity (nation, state, or people) to govern itself without any external interference (Wikipedia, slightly modified)
6. assimilation(ist): a person, group, system or institution that advocates or participates in the integration of colonized, minority, or oppressed persons and groups into the dominant or majority (“mainstream”) culture, usually by means of denigrating or otherwise discouraging maintenance of other cultures. (Merriam Webster, Wiktionary, modified)
7. Black: people who self-identify as Black in the way it is usually used by North Americans of Black African descent. There is a fairly complicated discourse about how this Blackness connects with how people in the African diaspora outside of North America, the Caribbean and UK use the term “Black.” Here we mean “people of African diaspora descent” but in my experience, many people from the continent of Africa mean something different when they say “Black.” (For example, I often don’t count, and Trevor Noah talks in a documentary about how complicated things are for him in terms of identity in South Africa.) And of course, in Australia, Aboriginal people use “Black” to self-identify and are not of African descent. I am not using that definition. (Me)
8. LGBTIQA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer (sometimes also “Questioning”), and Asexual.
9. trans: Gender identity that does not match one’s social sex assignment at birth (Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello)
10. impairment/disability: impairment is a biological, cognitive, sensory or psychiatric difference defined in a medical context in relation to what is typical. Disability is the negative social reaction to those differences. (Mark Sherry, 2007, with the caveat that I have complicated feelings about the word “impairment” but the distinction made here is helpful.)
11. heterosexism: The belief or promotion of the belief that a system that advantages persons participating in dyadic/binary opposite-sex and opposite-gender relationships is natural or justifiable. (Various, including Dr. Costello, edited by me)
12. cissexism: The promotion or support of norms that enforce the gender binary and gender essentialism resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary, and trans identities. (Wikipedia)
13. Third World: An umbrella term coined during the Cold War encompassing nations and people of color in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Expanded by people of color student movements in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s to encompass all people of color, including those living within imperial, colonial, and/or colonized states. The student movement for participatory higher education and ethnic studies during this period was often referred to as the Third World Liberation Front. (Me)
14. neocolonialism: The practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural imperialism to influence, dominate, and exploit the Third World, colonized people, and people of color.