Women of Color, Shirley Chisholm and Intersectionality
An Intersection, a Crash, and Where the Hell Did It Come From?
Shirley Chisholm was the first U.S. Black woman to be elected into the House of Representatives in 1961. She becomes the political embodiment of the needs and wants of the poverty-ridden neighborhood Bedford Stuyvesant of Brooklyn. This challenged the traditional ways of the patriarchal democracy of the United States. Additionally, if this did not scare the patriarchal strings attached to the stagnation of progress in the black community, she decided in 1972, to be the first African American woman to seriously run for the presidency as Democratic nominee.
Being raised in a strong-headed Caribbean household, she was able to dedicate her life to transforming, not only the lives of the black community, but also the community of black women who are triply oppressed because of class, race, and sex. Intersectionality is a term that defines this triple hardship that black women face. In the article, Black Feminism and Intersectionality by Sharon Smith, the author shares this description of the concept intersectionality by stating that “Intersectionality is not an abstract notion but a description of the way multiple oppressions are experienced” (Smith, 1). Shirley Chisholm understood and experienced this intersectionality and wanted to transform the values of the patriarchal political system by incorporating values of feminism that I believe confronted the world of its male-centered thinking; ultimately, being able to give black women a sense of liberation; these oppressed black women, whom, from the abolishment of slavery should have been given the liberty and freedom that the very framework of this nation loves to implement. Furthermore, in the film, Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed by Shola Lynch, the director examined Chisholm's presidential campaign during an era where black people were fiercely being discriminated against. Why was this film an integral part of my understanding of intersectionality and the identity of women in American culture? Because this film is evidence of the ways Chisholm sparked political feminist movements and also, unfortunately, how she herself was discriminated against due to her blackness, femininity, and her fearlessness, regardless, of the class she was born in.
In this film, Chisholm outstandingly states, “It is not female egotism to say that the future of mankind may very well be ours to determine. It is a fact. The warmth, gentleness, and compassion that are part of the female stereotype are positive human values, values that are becoming more and more important as the values of our world begin to shatter and fall from our grasp.” I agree with this statement, because I don't believe that the desire for a better future for women and other genders will be individually manifested by a white middle-aged male running for presidency or any other political authoritative role. I don't believe that it is selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, or egotistic for a woman to want a prosperous, brighter living status for humanity, than the constructed and twisted up ways distribution of power in our political standing now and for the future. Additionally, I believe that in reality a woman who constructs a platform of feminist thinking policies around all political realms, for example social justice, the environment, education, working conditions, transgender rights, etc., will be truthful to the needs of mankind. Furthermore, these very stereotypes that Chisholm refers to are the same characteristics that are ideal when dealing with an unjust and unequal patriarchal, male-centered, system of government.