My name is Teka, I’m a writer— Intersectionality isn’t a list

My name is Teka, I’m a writer— Intersectionality isn’t a list

“For sale, a first rate negro boy, about 14, perfectly healthy, good quality, raised in the country.”

The above is a classified ad from 1858, T. W. Young was the boy’s enslaver. In the ad he placed in the Florence Gazette in Alabama, he said, “my object is to get money.”

A mangling of the terms ”woke,” “anti-racism,” and “intersectionality” has brought us to a similar situation of human commodification.   The same list of characteristics used to buy and sell human beings are the same characteristics we use in writing, the arts, and the nonprofits to catch funders’ eyes.

I don’t do the grant-fundable biopic that lists all the identities that can be used to check a foundation’s boxes.  It is degrading, I’m not for sale. My ethnicity and community are not exploitable commodities for white hegemony’s amusement or funding.

The de-facto requirement of bios and diversity presented in this fashion is gross exploitation under the guise of a purposefully redefined  interpretation of intersectionality.

I understand not everyone knows why they do these lists.  Ethnicity, gender, origin, employment history & employment resistance bios and descriptions of diversity have become part of the categorization of artists and nonprofit workers.  The grant funding agencies copy and share useful procedures, I have watched these lists develop and become standards. They are used to categorize, exploit, buy and sell human beings.  Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality has become a mere grocery list for your next ethnic arts and marginalized identity smorgasbord.  “Hmm, too much Collard Greens, add some Baba Ganoush.”

Some of the greatest so-called thinkers don’t read.

I observed intersectionality become pejorationed and weaponized to push working class Black people out of the conversation. The “euphemism treadmill” marginalized Black voices to make it more palatable through its transformation to POC. Then intersectionality also perversely included  white women. This in-apparent contradiction  made no sense as intersectionality was based on institutional oppressions of African Americans, an oppression often directed & administered by white women. 

These manipulations forced us to stop talking about topics like “redlining” that overwhelmingly impacted African American’s economic standing and stopped any discourse that had its basis in institutional anti-blackness. The hostile expansion of intersectionality rewarded projects that gushed over things like “BIPOC” bicycle clubs in magazines, nonprofits, and art galleries that ultimately provided a black face or rather POC face to a white person who shaped, directed, and co-opted. 

Yet ironically, all of this analysis still survives on Black oppression that intersectionality was trying to bring to light.  But that oppression was shoved onto that euphemism treadmill and  renamed POC trauma, and now BIPOC trauma to be “intersectional.” Black people have become marginalized from their own linguistic social analysis. 

A white vegan person on a bicycle who grew up poor. “That’s intersectional!”
Actually, it is not

The diversity of intersectionality has become a literal checklist game that even the CIA can play.

The recent CIA ad:

I am a woman of color. I am a mom. I am a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional.


Anything Black women create to explain and combat anti-blackness, elements on the left insert themselves into it. They co-opt it, redefine its meaning, subsume it into class analysis,  and de-racialize it.  Then the right finishes it off deriding the contradictions of the expanded and modified structure. Both sides are using white supremacy and anti-blackness as methods and motivation in the destruction of the creation and Black women.

The hate for woke, cancel (actually “Consequence FOR WHITE PEOPLE TOO Culture”), critical race theory, and intersectionality are because they are Black.  Most people have no idea what they mean. They do know that Black people and Black culture brought it to their attention.  Many see them as foreign neologisms and strange re-definitions of familiar words. People often hate the new vocabulary yet won’t say why because then they have to acknowledge the Black woman creation part of it.

The only reason white hegemony is OK with POC (clearly rooted in Loretta Ross WOC and NOT the racial categorization root based in chattel slavery) and BIPOC is because  it allows them to not say Black.  

“Intersectionality was a prism to bring to light dynamics within discrimination law that weren’t being appreciated by the courts.”

Dr. KimberlÉ Crenshaw, “Intersectionality Wars” VOX

“Intersectionality was a prism to bring to light dynamics within discrimination law that weren’t being appreciated by the courts,” Crenshaw.

The intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism. Any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated. Crenshaw was speaking of a specific phenomenon of anti-blackness within institutional racism.

But, the checklist is what it has become to mean in nonprofits, the arts, and even the CIA.

In this game of list your characteristics that most Black people have no idea they are playing, the person with the longest and most trauma-inducing list wins, doesn’t matter if the trauma is real or not.

Jessica Krug, a white woman pretending to be Black, managed to compile such a massive diverse intersectionality checklist that she ended up being the finalist for both the Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass book prizes. She would have won had the truth that she is a white woman had not been revealed by an actual Black person.

Intersectionality does not mean a laundry list of identity items. And truthfully it shouldn’t be a term thrown around without the utmost respect for the ethnically Black origins of the term.

My bio is going to continue to just be my “Teka is a writer from Los Angeles”. I embrace the framework of intersectionality, woke, anti-racism, and anti-capitalism and those things have absolutely nothing to do with a laundry list of items that you can use to sell me or an idea. I have zero interest in this manipulative and disrespectful game that maligns Dr. Crenshaw’s brilliant work.

Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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