By Hannah Posey-Scholl
This semester, the office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) has been putting on “Wokeshops,” the purpose of which, as states the IME page of Lewis & Clark’s website, is “to engage in critical reflection, dialogue with people from different backgrounds, explore various identities, and understand systemic privilege and oppression.” The Wokeshops are facilitated by students, for students, and IME encourages anyone and everyone to attend.
The most recent Wokeshop, held on Oct. 10 and titled “Understanding Intersectionality,” was an introduction to the concept of intersectionality as coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Crenshaw was a professor of critical race studies and constitutional law at UCLA and the Columbia School of Law.
Intersectionality is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect,” and the Wokeshop introduced it as a way to take into account the identities of individual people.
Before the event, Marissa Marquez ’19 and Emma Franco ’20, peer educators for IME and the leaders of the Wokeshop, taped eight posters on the wall. Each poster had a different aspect of identity written on it: immigrant status, socio-economic class, ability, sexual orientation, race and/or ethnicity, religion, nationality and gender.
After introducing the concept of intersectionality, all the participants stood up and Marquez and Franco ran the identity signs activity. They told the group to go stand under the poster “that you think about the most,” then “that’s the most difficult to talk about” then “that you’re least aware of” to get everyone thinking about the different intersections of their own identities and to compare experiences of everyone in the room.
Alexis Drakatos, the Graduate Student Assistant for IME, said there were multiple things she appreciated about the Wokeshop.
“The activity was really unique, and I really appreciated the different information … (The peer educators) found completely different resources than I probably would have found.”
When everyone sat back down, a discussion on the effects of the activity began. Marquez and Franco wondered what commonalities were surprising and asked participants about the importance of being aware of different identities.
Marquez and Franco gave a few more examples and quotes about intersectionality before the event ended.
“People are saying ‘let’s be more intersectional!’ but they forget that a lot of that comes from being aware of oppression at play,” Franco said. “You really have to always analyze how your actions impact others or how your passivity perpetuates oppression towards others.”
“It’s really important to have these discussions,” Marquez said, “because a lot of the time we forget to talk about these things or they’re kind of looked over.”
There are four IME Wokeshops left this semester, ranging from “What is Cultural Appropriation?” to “Self-Care for Social Justice Advocates.” The events take place every other Tuesday in Stamm at 6 p.m., though the last two Tuesdays in November will feature the last two Wokeshops consecutively before the semester’s end.