Reflection #8: Intersectionality with Matthew Weimann

By Barbara Bray

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This guest post is a cross-post of Matthew Weimann’s post on Intersectionality from his website, The Captain of Class along with our reflection.

An idea popped into my head about a year ago that symbolized my realization of privilege. In the spring I wrote a blog that I published in The Captain of Class, titled “Green Lights.” It is about a white guy–I don’t say he’s white in the allegory–who drives straight through the heart of a city, rather than taking the highway that would typically allow him to bypass all of the downtown traffic. In my make-believe story, I propose the reason being he has to buy something at a specific store; One only located in the middle of the city.

The point of the tiny tale is to illustrate the unconscious privilege people experience. Through it, I was exploring the unveiling awareness of my own privilege. In the story, this white guy curiously does not have to stop at even one red light, his whole way through the city. Strangely, he doesn’t even have to wait in line when he goes to make his purchase at the in-town store! By the end of his fascinating journey through town, the ease of his travels strikes him as an interesting peculiarity, but little more. He simply thinks of it as a lucky drive.
The driver’s perspective
In my story, I mention a few goings-on along the periphery of this driver’s travels. There is an accident that barely tempts his attention. Another vehicle is broken down. A jaywalker gets arrested. These occurrences hardly cause the hero to lessen acceleration.
At the very end, though, I revisit the intersections where, unbeknownst to the white guy driving straight down the middle of an empty avenue with nothing but green lights, there had been an unimaginable tragedy. People had been waiting so long they had starved to death. Untreated medical conditions caused others to perish from lack of treatment. There were individuals who thought that the traffic light would change at any moment for one too many moments, and their vehicles ran out of gas, causing even more problems for everyone behind them when the light did finally change!

“Intersectionality” is a metaphor
from Kimberle Crenshaw

The people at these side streets are the people for whom the term “intersectionality” applies. Why are they there? Each individual stuck on the side street has his or her own purpose for needing to cross the “Green-Lit” avenue. Many of these reasons intersect. Perhaps there is a hospital on the other side of the street. An elderly woman might be going to visit her husband who is recovering from heart surgery, while a couple is rushing a woman in labor to deliver their first baby into the world. Maybe someone else is on their way to the hospital to be tested for COVID-19.
If there were a vehicle several cars back from the intersection whose sole passenger was a man who had experienced a serious cut on his leg,