What’s Intersectionality? JENN NAKHAI INTERVIEWS Victoria Verlezza

In line with AEON counseling’s efforts to mitigate the effects of traumatic experiences and police brutality among other challenges, AEON provides services such as relationship therapists, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and family marriage counseling to Boston residents and residents of surrounding areas.

Over the past few months, AEON consulting has hosted individual pacemakers within the community to bring to light issues of injustice and police brutality among other societal ills.

These industry experts come to educate the general populace on these vices, and the remedies.

Recently, AEON counseling hosted Dr. Verlezza on an episode of Juggernauts to speak on intersectionality. Dr. Verlezza is a foremost social justice warrior, educator, diversity, equity, and inclusion coach. She has a degree in psychology and a higher education degree in Higher education administration and social justice education.  

Dr. Verlezza had begun her journey towards becoming an educator with the intent of speaking to privileged and unprivileged individuals about existing systems of oppression, systems of domination, and the need to dismantle these systems.

Currently, Dr. Verlezza teaches Jewish undergrad students and grad students in the human development and psychology fields. She is particularly passionate about her work, especially as it pertains to emerging adults’ racial identity development. To further buttress her interest in 18-29-year-olds, this was the main focus of her dissertation.

According to Dr. Verlezza, intersectionality goes way beyond sexuality. Unfortunately, most people believe intersectionality to be one-sided.

What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a term used by professor and author Kimberly Crenshaw in 1989. She believed that racism specifically did not stop with the civil rights act.

Kimberly Crenshaw saw intersectionality as a prism to bring to light the dynamics within discrimination law specifically. From this definition, it’s safe to say that we have evolved intersectionality to understand the nexus point between all of our identities. 

This implies that looking at someone’s identity is like looking at a tapestry. You cannot just look at one thread of a tapestry; you have to take the tapestry as it is and keep all threads that make up the tapestry together.

You have to look at those intersecting points to grasp a person’s complete identity. This means that individuals could be oppressed or privileged for any of these intersecting points.

In simpler terms, intersectionality means interlocking systems of oppression, and people all over the world need to understand that they can be hated or loved for so many reasons as multiple factors make up an individual, and these factors are the yardstick which others use to judge a person. 

A video by Miss Cheyenne Eve exemplifies this aspect.

Intersectionality is explained in detail here.

For example, we have you and all these different factors that make you ‘you.’ So, we have your race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, education, occupation, and many other things that qualify your person.

Note that those above six (6) factors represent only a fraction of the factors that make you ‘you.’ 

Based on the listed factors, your race affects your educational opportunities and occupation. Your race also affects your class; this means that as a black woman, heterosexual, from a lower-middle-class household, and a college graduate who is currently unemployed, you are affected by every one of these factors.

This means that you are all of these things simultaneously every day. 

That you are black and a woman and low class gives a description of oppressive identities. On the other hand, you have a college degree, and you are non-disabled, which means that I understand what it means to feel privilege.

Now while you may be heterosexual, you could be homophobic. Still, an understanding of intersectionality and what it feels like to be oppressed based on other oppressive factors which you possess should keep you from being oppressive to others. 

…. Miss Cheyenne Eve

It is noteworthy that while other individuals may possess the same factors or ideologies, they may not exactly behave in the same way as people are generally not monolithic. This may be attributed to the fact that while people may share similarities in certain aspects, people generally have certain different factors, which give room for differing ideals.

In summary, you can both be privileged and oppressed depending on the mix of your intersectionality.

Why we must understand intersectionality

The need to understand intersectionality is necessary to avoid the oppression Olympics as Dr. Verlezza calls it, where different oppressed groups begin to argue about who is more oppressed of the two groups. Intersectionality brings about a unification in the fight for liberation. 

The need to understand intersectionality could not have come at a more appropriate time as there is a growing need for people to talk to their students, and members of community about anti-blackness, police brutality, anxiety issues, and other forms of injustice with respect to intersectionality. 

Who is Dr. Verlezza?

Dr. Verlezza is a coach consultant and educator. She works with a plethora of organizations. From planning training, counseling staff, organizing listening sessions to coaching, she does it all.

Her workshops are mostly themed around the ideas of social justice, racial justice, and ecological justice. 

You can contact her on Instagram @Dr.Victoria.Verlezza

For follow up questions or inquiries about our counseling services, you can contact AEON consulting at [email protected].