Developing curiosity: applying intersectionality to our work for justice

Prayers for Reconciliation and Healing of Racism
January 26, 2018

Developing Curiosity: learning to apply intersectionality


A word that has been coming up a lot in recent years regarding racism is “intersectionality”, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 as a way of describing how anti-racism work benefits from the consideration of other systems of oppression such as classism, sexism, ableism and heterosexism. In an effort to look more deeply at the barrier to addressing racism that Bryan Massingale surfaces when talking about racism – “We don’t know what we are talking about” – let’s take a look at intersectionality, exploring what it means and how we can effectively apply the theory into our work for justice.
“Intersectionality describes the overlapping or intersecting social identities and their related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Intersectionality expresses the exquisite pain of how gender oppression intersects with racial oppression within women of color; when we are also lesbian or transgender, the possible violence is multiplied.” – Inez Torres Davis, “How to Erase a Person – the Blind Intersection of Race and Gender

“The qualities and skills that matter most for intersectional leadership are curiosity, listening, openness and creativity. By asking questions, we can look at a problem not just through the lens of our own experience, but also those of others whose identities might make them vulnerable to harm. Find out who else might be experiencing the problem you’re solving, seek them out (or respond when they seek you out), listen to them deeply, share your truth and apply that new understanding to your strategy.” – Rinku Sen, “How to Do Intersectionality”

Prayer for Centering

Lord God,
You are ever curious about all people.

As the gospels share,
in your living on earth you were always wanting to take in those around you for who they were.

When you met the sick, or ostracized.
When you met the oppressed or unknown.
When you met minorities or the unwelcome
Even when you met the powerful and elite.

You took the time to sit.
To welcome.
To talk.
To know people.

In the spirit of your curiosity about people of all kinds
May we become like you.
Embracing others out of a deep desire to know them.
To understand.
To move away from our preconceived notions.
And to become people of peace.

In the spirit of taking risks to be with people
May our gathering today inspire future conversations.
Depth of understanding
Richness in friendship.

In the spirit of your living, dying and rising
May we become people
Committed to love.
Prophetic in word.
Authentic in our striving for peace.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Written by Rachel Doll O’Mahoney

Invitation to Silence


The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.


Weekly Reflection Questions:

1) We don’t know what we are talking about. Let’s begin by reflecting on ourselves: What are my identities? How do those identities benefit/hinder me? How do they encourage or discourage me from asking questions? Am I willing to share the truth of my identities with others?

2) We don’t know how to talk about it. How do I talk with/ or react to people with other identities? Do I interact with curiosity and openness, or prejudice and already knowing their reality? Does this change with different people? What is one thing I can change in my interactions with people of different identities that can help me be more open, a better listener, more curious, willing to learn?

3) We don’t really want to talk about it. What keeps me from staying open to another person’s reality – how do I benefit from making quick judgments? What keeps me from challenging the generalizations people make about other people, even when I know them not to be true? When have I been motivated to speak out?


Upcoming events:

JustFaith Information Sessions – JustFaith invites you to encounter Jesus in our midst, in the lives of people who are poor and vulnerable. It seeks to live out God’s vision of justice and reconciliation. Information sessions (no pressure, no commitment) will be held at the following times:
– Sun.., 1/28, at 10:00am at Old St. Mary Parish Center (after the 9:00am mass)
– Mon., 1/29, at 6:00pm at Three Holy Parish Office (St. Hedwig site)
Please contact Andrew Musgrave (271-6577) if you are interested but can’t make one of these sessions or have any questions.

Marquette Mission Week – February 5-10, 2018 will include opportunities to reflect on truth, reconciliation and peacemaking.

March 10, 2018, 5:15 PM – A Healing Mass for the City of Milwaukee, co-presided by Fr. Tim Kitzke, Vicar General for Urban Ministry and Fr. Mike Hammer, Archdiocesan AIDS Ministry

Articles Linked in this Mailing:

Bryan Massingale, Racism is a Sickness of the Soul – Can Jesuit Spirituality Help Us Heal

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics

Inez Torres Davis, How to Erase a Person – The Blind Intersection of Race and Gender

Rinku Sen, How to do Intersectionality

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