Intersecting Modes of Domination

Racial domination does not operate inside a vacuum, cordoned off from other modes of domination. On the contrary, it intersects with other forms of domination—those based on gender, class, sexuality, religion, nationhood, ability, and so forth. The notion that there is a monolithic “Arab American experience,” “Asian American experience,” or “White experience”—experiences somehow detached from other pieces of one’s identity—is nothing but a chimera. Researchers have labeled such a notion “racial essentialism,” for such a way of thinking boils down vastly different human experiences into a single “master category”: race ~Harris 2000!. When we fail to account for these different experiences, we create silences in our narratives of the social world and fail to explain how overlapping systems of advantage and disadvan- tage affect individuals’ opportunity structures, lifestyles, and social hardships. The idea of intersectionality implies that we cannot understand the lives of poor White single mothers or gay Black men by examining only one dimension of their lives— class, gender, race, or sexuality. Indeed, we must explore their lives in their full complexity, examining how these various dimensions come together and structure their existence. When we speak of racial domination, then, we must always bear in mind the ways in which it interacts with masculine domination ~or sexism!, hetero- sexual domination ~or homophobia!, class domination ~poverty!, religious persecu- tion, disadvantages brought on by disabilities, and so forth ~Collins 2000; Crenshaw 1990; Mohanty 2003!.

In addition, we should not assume that one kind of oppression is more important than another or that being advantaged in one dimension of life somehow cancels out other dimensions that often result in disadvantage. While it is true that poor Whites experience many of the same hardships as poor Blacks, it is not true that poverty somehow de-Whitens poor Whites.

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