I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with a wonderful professor at USC, Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro. She is the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Department Chair of Political Science and International Relations and the Director of the USC Dornsife Center for Leadership by Women of Color. As a former student and now colleague, I’ve learned so much from her, including current and past American politics, political theory, public policy, race/ethnic politics, and gender politics to name a few. The concept she taught me that has had the largest impact on my growth is the intersectionality theory; it describes how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. As a globally recognized intersectionality theory expert, she has written numerous articles and three books on the concept and the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, and citizenship.
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How did she contribute to your own growth and knowledge? Although I learned so much from Ange-Marie, it was the intersectional theory that significantly impacted my growth. This theory helped me understand the social construct of race, gender, class, and sexuality and provided me with an analytical framework to explore my own identity and all the intersection points. Through deep self reflection, I was able to critically examine my own place in society and understand the inequalities and discrimination I faced. To this day, intersectionality remains a key part of my critical thinking and analysis of myself, society, and politics.
How does she connect to your relationship with race and help advance racial justice? As a queer Latina, I’ve been subjected to multiple racist, sexist, and homophobic experiences throughout my life. These instances do not occur in a vacuum; they are based on my race, gender, sexuality, and at times, a combination of two or all. Intersectionality provides a lens to examine how one’s identity can be used as the basis for discrimination, prejudice, and inequality. I’ve utilized this theory to explore the structural and systemic nature of the racism and racial inequity we’ve seen historically and are currently experiencing. Intersectionality provides keen insight into the social, political, legal, sociological, and psychological aspects of race and social justice. Furthermore, I use intersectionality in my efforts to advance racial justice in my work and community as an individual citizen and public relations professional. The understanding it has brought me is incredibly helpful in identifying and analyzing solutions and reforms I want to implement, personally and/or professionally, in my efforts to advance racial justice.