I love being of Indian ethnicity. My family holidays were always hot with regular trips to India – a melting pot of different cultures and religions, I was raised on delicious Indian cuisine and chai, and the vibrancy of my culture is deep rooted in colourful traditions and festivities. With all of these positives, I’ve never considered my race or heritage as a marginalised identity, until I discovered these alarming statistics which reflect some of the main features of my whole identity;
- As a person of ethnic minority, I’m three times as likely to be unemployed
- As a disabled person, I’m twice as likely to be unemployed
- As a woman, I’m likely to earn less than my male colleagues
Pretty bleak, right? This example relates to employment, but can be applied to a variety of life situations.
My reality is that as an Asian disabled woman, I can experience bias and discrimination in multiple ways – as a consequence of my race, disability and gender, or as a combination of these. But there are some features of my identity that have also have given me privilege, such as being a British citizen.
The conversation on diversity and inclusion is typically addressed in singular approach that segregates each identity. Whilst this is helpful in starting the diversity conversation, it’s far more complex than that, which is undoubtedly why in 2019 I still feel underrepresented as an Asian disabled woman, and continue to fight for a seat at the table in order to represent the Asian community and their needs on disability matters.
Over the past twenty years, the concept of intersectionality, first coined by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, has emerged as an influential approach to understanding discrimination and exclusion in our society. It refers to the nature of how personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, social class, age and disability overlap and intersect in dynamic ways that shape each individual. It also recognises that an individual can identify as belonging to multiple identifying groups – the issue arises when someone who does fall into more than one group is boxed into one identity.
One person’s experience as a disabled individual might be very different to if you are a disabled person from an Asian background, which might be different to an LGBT+ disabled individual from an Asian background. Identities within an individual come, go, or converge, depending on time or place. True diversity is intersectional, so how much longer do we have to endure the same old conversations on diversity and inclusion?
Intersectionality is important so each of us can understand where we stand in the fight for equality, as well as where we stand to help others who may not have the privileges we have. I encourage everyone to see themselves as allies of intersectional issues, which in turn will help us all to endorse change, shift the dial on nature of diversity and inclusion practices and uplift even more people in being their authentic selves.
Top tips for allies:
- Listen and do not speak for others without their consent
- Help to provide platforms and spaces to empower and enable marginalised groups to represent their own experiences
- Recognise your privilege in the world, especially in relation to others
- Question and challenge the ‘norm’
- Keep challenging your own perspective and face your biases