Essay Example on "What Is Intersectionality and Why Do I Need It" by Ijeoma Oluo

Published: 2022-10-24
Essay Example on "What Is Intersectionality and Why Do I Need It" by Ijeoma Oluo
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Racism
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1175 words
10 min read


Ijeoma's book of "So You Want to Talk about Race" explores the complex reality of racism in today's world. The author discusses the issues of privilege, intersectionality, micro-aggression and police brutality. The book perfectly bridges the gap between the whites and people of color especially in America which struggles with the complexities of race. Ijeoma can answer some of the questions that everybody is afraid to ask but continue to affect the everyday lives of the Americans. The author discusses intersectionality as one of the ways that there can be social justice and systemic racism can be eliminated. The approach can be used to fight all forms of oppression because it brings both the privileged and disadvantaged together. Racism could either be explicit where one is aware of their dislike for a particular race or an implicit attitude where one is unconsciously racist. The Implicit Association Test is used to measure and identify these implicit and explicit attitudes of an individual.

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Systemic Racism

Systemic racism is oppressive because it persists in schools, offices, court systems and even in the police departments. Ijeoma terms it as "any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power." The author asserts that people are more than just about race because the experiences that people have are more than skin color and texture. There are myriad things that define one's identity to give them privilege such as gender or sexuality that define how one interacts with the world. However, he adds that the different hierarchies of oppression and privileges give people their identity. Among those who are members of the privileged groups, inequality is defined regarding the disadvantages that are experienced when one is in the out-group. Also, inequality can be defined in terms of the privileges that the in-group members experience. For instance, we have the white privilege in racial inequality where being black is seen as a disadvantage. Through intersectionality, people are able to embrace the knowledge of the advantages that they experience by being members of an in-group. The in-group members do not consider their experiences as privileges because of the collective guilt that is mediated. The view enables the privileged group members to escape the psychological implications of inequality.

Acknowledging IntersectionalityIntersectionality is important because it makes it easy for there to be social justice and brings people face to face with their privilege. People naturally do not like to acknowledge areas where they are advantaged than others in an unfair way (Oluo 79). People should embrace the privileges that prevent them from experiencing the disadvantages that others face. Intersectionality plays a huge role in decentralizing people who always feel that their needs have always been given priority in the social movements that they belong while there are other members who never have the satisfaction. Embracing the privileges enables individuals to interact with others and listen to them to break free from divides that make people feel as though they are "the same." Groups are formed based on their similarity in identities, attitudes, goals, personalities, and backgrounds. Through this, it is easy to address systemic racism that focuses on the oppression of the group that feels disadvantaged. Most movements that aim at eradicating racism do not consider the aspect of intersectionality that prevents them from being oppressors in future because it applies in all aspects of life.

Implicit and Explicit Attitudes

An individual is unwilling when they do not want to give an accurate report about some attitude. For instance in racism, one can be unwilling to reveal their attitudes towards other people to avoid being branded as racists. Being unable is when an individual cannot report an attitude, for instance, a white person can say that they have a good relationship with people of color although in a real sense they have a negative attitude towards them (Carruthers, 61). The explicit attitudes are easy to self-report because they are conscious; on the other hand, the implicit attitudes are found at the unconscious level and are formed involuntarily. Having implicit and explicit attitudes is quite common to every individual - for example; a white man who believes that all races are equal in a genuine way and does not approve racial bias could be described as one who has an explicit attitude. Although the individual is free to share his opinions with others, he could be feeling uncomfortable whenever he is around a Latino. The feeling could be influenced by the negative stereotypes that he grew up hearing from the society about Latinos which gives him a contradicting implicit attitude.

The Implicit Association (IAT)

The implicit association (IAT) test is used to measure the strength of the associations between certain concepts and evaluation of existing stereotypes. The measurement method makes it easier when relating ideas and when measuring the attitudes of people on whether they are unwilling or unable to report (Greenwald, Mahzarin and Brian 553). The association tests help many people discover implicit attitudes that they did not know about, for instance, one may have the belief that all races are equal in America although one could be having an automatic association that proves that white people are more privileged in the United States than any other race. We interpret our own IAT report by making comparisons of the scores that are obtained at the end of the test. Besides, one can be able to identify an unconscious bias that one did not realize that they had. Also, it is important to note that the tests are not always perfectly accurate and one may need to repeat the test severally to come up with results that are trustworthy. The IAT lists always have instruction pictures that show the category with which the words used in the test belong and every individual understands the test differently. Some of the data in the IAT could give an automatic preference whenever one identifies as one who belongs to a given category.


Systemic racism is evident in America due to the policies and practices that are found in institutions that are oppressive to people from a certain race. Just as Ijeoma emphasizes, it is important to address the form of racism because it is corrosive and has caused a widespread problem in the society. In my opinion, Ijeoma's concept of intersectionality is the best way to not only deal with racism but other forms of division that give people privileges over others. Whether one is privileged or disadvantages, we all play a role in encouraging racism because prejudice runs down our shared history. The intersectional approach helps to build safer and equitable institutions where people build trust and respect through reconciliation and commitment to one another.

Work Cited

Carruthers, Peter. "Implicit versus explicit attitudes: Differing manifestations of the same representational structures?" Review of Philosophy and Psychology 9.1 (2018): 51-72.

Greenwald, Anthony G., Mahzarin R. Banaji, and Brian A. Nosek. "Statistically small effects of the Implicit Association Test can have societally large effects." (2015): 553.

Oluo, Ijeoma. So you want to talk about race. Hachette UK, 2018.

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Essay Example on "What Is Intersectionality and Why Do I Need It" by Ijeoma Oluo. (2022, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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