Black women have and continue to be leaders in the movement to end sexual and domestic violence.  

Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the phrase “intersectionality” in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” and overlap. The theory allows deeper understanding of racism and sexism in context of the mission to end intimate partner abuse.

For example, how does the intersection of race, gender, and economic oppression contribute to research that finds Black women experience domestic violence at rates higher than white women? Similarly, how do historic racist representations perpetuate today’s higher arrest rates of Black women who are defending themselves from intimate partner abuse?

Professor Crenshaw explains, “If you don’t have a lens that’s been trained to look at how various forms of discrimination come together, you’re unlikely to develop a set of policies that will be as inclusive as they need to be.”

Her groundbreaking work to amplify the voice and visibility of Black women who have survived intimate partner abuse makes our movement, mission, and work stronger. Without understanding the oppression survivors of color face, we can’t provide the necessary support. To effectively serve survivors, we must understand that anti-oppression work is anti-violence work.

Kimberle Crenshaw is Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California. She is co-founder of the Columbia Law School African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and co-authored Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.

This post is part of our Black History Month series celebrating the contributions of Black women in the movement to end intimate partner and sexual abuse. 

What Intersectionality Means to Crenshaw Today

Click on the link above to read Crenshaw's interview with Time Magazine.