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A Look At Intersectionality In The Fight For Racial Justice In Idaho

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Damian Dovarganes
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A protester carries a rainbow umbrella and a “Stop Killing Black People” sign at a protest in Los Angeles in June 2020.";s:

 

As protests and media attention continue three weeks after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, community organizers are working to maintain the momentum towards racial justice this moment has created. But at the same time that the conversation of racial justice is being pushed to the forefront, many organizers are taking care to recognize that those facing racial injustice may also experience other oppression from their other marginalized identities.

The word for that is “intersectionality.” We will get into what that word means, and how it actually operates in the real world here in Idaho.  

 

We have three guests joining Idaho Matters today. First, Tai Simpson is a Social Change Advocate at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, and focuses on anti-racism education and addressing violence in Native American communities. 

 

Gabby Davis is a respiratory therapist at St. Luke’s who sees firsthand the disparities in healthcare and also runs an LGBT+ support group in the area. 

 

Also joining us is Nisha Jae Newton, a community organizer and graduate student in Social Justice and Human Rights. 

 

"The intersectional framework is just saying all the identities that we hold together," says Newton, "and how that puts us more proximal or more marginalized from positions of power or dominant culture.”

 

 

NOTE: These guests all work as speakers or workshop hosts in the community focusing on intersectional anti-racism. If you're interested in hiring one of them, contact us and we'll put you in touch.

 

Read the full interview here:

GEMMA GAUDETTE: You're listening to Idaho Matters, I'm Gemma Gaudette. As protests and media attention continue three weeks after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, community organizers and activists across our state and across the country are working to maintain the momentum towards racial justice this moment has created. However, at the same time that the conversation of racial justice is being pushed to the forefront, many organizers are taking care to recognize that those facing racial injustice may also experience other oppression from their other marginalized identities. The word for that is called intersectionality. And we want to get into what that word means and how it actually operates in the real world, especially here in Idaho. We have three guests joining our program today to help us understand that. First, Tai Simpson, social change advocate at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, who focuses on anti-racism education and addressing violence in Native American communities. Also joining us today is Nisha Jae Newton, a community organizer and a graduate student in social justice and human rights. And finally, Gabby Davis is a respiratory therapist at St. Luke's who sees firsthand the disparities in health care and also runs an LGBT support group in our area. Welcome, everyone, to the show. Appreciate your time today.

ALL: Hello. Hi. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us.

GAUDETTE: Absolutely. And I really do just want to acknowledge that you guys are giving us an entire hour. I appreciate you really taking that time to do that for us. So beyond the quick introductions, is there more that maybe you'd like to identify yourself with? So, Tai, let's start with you.

TAI SIMPSON: It's Tai Simpson, that happens all time.

GAUDETTE: Ooh, I knew it was Tai! I knew it was! So, thank you.

SIMPSON: Yeah, no worries. My intersections: I'm a citizen of the Nimipoo Nation, also known as the Nez Perce Tribe. I also identify as a Black cishetero woman. I have a disability. I have a service dog for that disability. A couple of other intersections. I am well educated, financially stable. So there are some significant privileges attached to those things. And let's see, it's usually out of the ordinary, especially as somebody who's just barely made it to middle class, and there's a story back there. But I've traveled the world rather significantly, which also changes my perspective on the world and in some of these issues as well.

GAUDETTE: Nisha, what about you?

NISHA JAE NEWTON: Hello. I would honestly -- so Tai and I have some similar intersections in terms of the fact that we both have privileges of education and having wonderful careers that support the work that we want to do and being able to travel. And then I also have identities and intersections that align with being queer and trans. I'm also a Black activist here in the area.

GAUDETTE: And then, Gabby, what about you?

GABBY DAVIS: Similar to some of the things that both Tai and Nisha said, I have the privilege of education, my whole two Masters degrees and I have a job that can support me financially. My other identities include: I'm a queer person. I am also a person in a fat body. And I am married and half of an interracial relationship. I'm also not from Idaho. My hometown is Detroit. I haven't been here that long. I have all those different intersections that navigate with me on a day to day basis.

GAUDETTE: I appreciate all of you sharing those, because as I was sitting here listening to that, it kind of made me pause and think about, OK, how would I, I guess, introduce myself when it comes to how I would identify myself. And so since you shared, I guess I will. And that is that, you know, I am a white upper class woman, definitely have a job that supports me financially. You know, I identify as straight. I am married to a white man. I'm a mom. And, you know, as Tai said, I have been lucky enough and have the privilege to have traveled extensively and also education. 

So with all of that being said, Nisha, in this conversation, we really want to get into the core of this term intersectionality and really the importance of it and how it operates, you know, in our daily lives, especially right now. So can we just start with a definition for those who are not familiar with that? And I know that might seem really basic, but but I have to be honest, this was not a term that I grew up with. This is not a term that that frankly came -- it was coined as I was going into college. So even though I was a women's studies minor, I did not hear this word until the last few years.

NEWTON: I love it, words, words, words. So this word intersectionality is a word that is near and dear to me. It was coined by a woman named Kimberlé Crenshaw, which is a Black sociologist, and the term came up -- So Kimberlé Crenshaw. There had been a case, and I believe it was California, where a woman was coming forward and saying that she felt like she was experiencing discrimination in the workplace. And she was a Black woman. And the way that the court case was shaking down was that essentially people were saying, well, you can't be discriminated against in the workplace because there are other Black people who work here. And we also have other women who work here. So I don't know what you're talking about. You really don't have grounds to go from. And Kimberlé Crenshaw started using, employing this intersectionality framework of saying that, hey, this person is not Black. This person is not a woman. This person is a Black woman. And she's being discriminated against distinctly for those intersections. There are other women, but those other women are non-Black. There are other Black folks, but these folks are not, in femme bodies. So the intersectional framework is just saying all of the identities that we hold together and how that puts us more proximal or more marginalized from positions of power and dominant culture strength.

GAUDETTE: So if I'm understanding this right, Nisha, for example, like let's take like a Black man, a Black cisgendered straight man would have different lived experiences than a Black gay man. And that is kind of the idea of intersectionality.

NEWTON: Yes, exactly. And even so many nuances within that, like, are there pretty privileges within that? Is this somebody who is symmetrical and has a body that's desirable to society, things such as that?

GAUDETTE: So, Tai, flipping this around then, is the idea of what is, I guess, "standard" or is not standard name. I mean, so, for example, history isn't called white history, even though in many cases it is when we learn it in school. But Black history uses that qualifier of "Black."

SIMPSON: Yes. So the standardization that came as a result of settler colonialism has been kind of the root of a lot of our problems when it comes to marginalization. Our schools have a white -- well, initially had a white middle class, land-owning centered focus. So if it wasn't written by a white author, it wasn't considered standard. If the perspective isn't from a white person, it doesn't have legitimacy. The reason why we've introduced things like African-American studies and Black history is so that we can get a wider landscape of historical accounts, of societal experiences, of what political and economic landscape looks like in the United States. So that's why you start to see some of these identifiers. And when we do that, also the assumption is that it's a Black author. It is somebody of that lived experience who's giving an alternative perspective. And that's important because right now -- like, last night I learned that the top eleven New York Times bestseller lists are all Black authors and/or books addressing anti-racism or intersectionality. And the reason why that conversation is important reason why these readers are now starting to really delve deep is because they're understanding that their perspective of the world was super limited. And I think that intersectionality, the conversations around intersectionality, are really going to help people have a broader perspective, and then build empathy amongst all of these identities. And that's that's really what community building is about.

GAUDETTE: And Gabby, what would you say to that point of, you know, understanding this better? Right. Understanding individuals' intersectionalities better.

DAVIS: I think it's important for the dominant culture specifically to attempt to understand that, you know, our identities do intersect. An example, for instance. You know, in a lot of Black communities it is said that the Black church is a cornerstone of our community. And I do believe in many communities that it's true. However, me as a Black queer person, can't walk into a Black church and have all of me affirmed because I'm queer. You know, me being Black might be affirmed but, maybe not me being queer would be affirmed. So therefore, that makes it a place that is not open to me. For instance in Idaho, we know there are no predominately Black spaces in Idaho unless we create them, unless Black folks forget that. So if I want to go to, let's say, the Balcony [a gay club in downtown Boise] and I might have my queer identity affirmed, but not my black identity affirmed. Intersectionality is just a framework of conceptualizing people or a social group, you know? And without that basic understanding, without that understanding, the ideology, that that's more parts to me than just what you see. Many of us have identities that we can't take off. Many of us have identities that we can erase for the time being, but is that even safe? Not just physically say let's say mentally, emotionally as well.

GAUDETTE: I'm curious: It seems as though this round of protests and unrest feel it feels different. But what do you think makes it different? Or is it not different? Do you think we're going to see any type of change? And Nisha, why don't I start with you?

NEWTON: Yes! Personally, I am somebody -- I have to wholeheartedly tell myself with every cell in my body that this is different. This is a time of radical change. This will be something where so much empowerment and thriving is able to spore. And that's just how I personally have to move forward. I also know that there are folks in community who have other very real valid places where they hold those true. So I personally operate that this is very different. And some of the things that I reaffirm myself with is that there is a time right now where with COVID, we already knew there was a normalcy that we could never return to. And so I think that this is very different in the fact that we really can create shifts and that people can trust that easier because they do know that shifts are already happening. I also know that this is a really distinct time. More folks, again, related to COVID, have proximity to their phone and social media because they're not out and about in the ways that they have been in the past. And so they are more glued to the information that's being spread. And with that, just especially since folks are censored online, a lot of the conversations that are being centered are online, are more intersectional in the manner that they typically are had. So people are yelling very loudly about how trans Black lives matter and how we need to talk about those things and how Black femmes go through different lived experiences and Black men. And why are these names going viral versus other names not going viral? However, as hopeful, as I am, that this is different and new. I also look back to queer, Black, trans disabled fat leaders throughout history who have been centered, who have been ignored. And who have been all of these things. So I think that it is very different. And I also think that there are similar songs that we can hear throughout any era or throw out any faction of intersectionality.

GAUDETTE: Tai, what about you? Do you think there is a change?

SIMPSON: I'm cautiously optimistic. I tend to be a little bit--. 

GAUDETTE: I'm right there with you on that!

SIMPSON: The reason why I say that is like none of these problems are new. We just have cameras now. Right. I can't member which celebrity said that recently.

GAUDETTE: Will Smith. "Racism hasn't gotten worse. It's being filmed."

SIMPSON: It's just being filmed. And I mean, whether good or bad, like it's an opportunity for folks to turn into these really uncomfortable acts of violence that we're seeing. And the thing that makes me cautious about about what's happening is the reaction from my white neighbors. Like, there's all of this heightened emotion and all of this heightened anxiety, and they really want to put that energy somewhere. And what tends to happen is that energy goes into rallies and protests that don't have clear purpose, that go into donating to organizations that also don't have a clear mission or clear purpose. It goes into these very, very harmful acts of performative support that don't actually support Black-led or Black-centered activism in response to these occurrences in our community. So, that's the thing that really kind of worries me, is because white folks are still trying to lead the activism in this, versus stepping back and letting folks who have been doing this work for several years continue to take the lead and continue to educate. And so that's actually the part that gives me some pause about what's happening in the shift in our country. The second piece to that, the optimism, is that I'm seeing a lot of young folks step up in a way that I haven't seen before. Going back to the idea of intersectionality. I'm gonna shout out my own community. "Nimipuu for Black Lives," "Nez Perce for Black Lives," "Native for Black Lives." Like I've literally never seen that in my entire life or in my experience as an anti-racism educator. The intersectionality of my Indigenous side, supporting the needs of my Black community, because honestly, there's anti-Blackness in Indigenous communities that we have to address. That's a very real conversation. But now everybody just showed up in support of what's happening. And I love -- I have a deep love and deep gratitude for the communities that are doing it. So I'm holding I'm holding both of those pieces that there's optimism, but it's cautious just to see how it all pans out when anti-racism is no longer trending in a few weeks. Right. We know like America decides the pandemic is off. 

GAUDETTE: Something else will take it over.

SIMPSON: Yes. Something else will take over. America gets bored of things very, very quickly. It's like we have the attention span of a goldfish. But the work never stops. So, like, I'm going to see where we're at in July. And Gabby and I just had this conversation last night.

GAUDETTE: So, Gabby. I'm curious about your thoughts.

DAVIS: I echo the same things that that Nisha and Tai said. My optimism is in youth. You know that the youth I work with, I see doing things. I see them attempting to help their community and they're out there and they'll be continuous. You know, to be honest. Gen Z is the one that's doing most of this, you know. And there is some unrest within certain marginalized communities about who's doing what. And this idea that, well, you need to talk to the community leaders. Well, who decides who the community leaders are? Is that based on people who have historically done things? Or is that based on people who have historically done things inclusively? My other optimism will come in in July and August. I'm really waiting to see what happens in July and August, because a lot of people that have already been doing this work, a lot of people who were new to this work is right now being exploited for the work they've done. Like, everybody wants a piece, and usually they want a piece of free. And that's no shade to Idaho Matters. I'm not saying that. But a lot of people have just realized that they were racist. Now, although we've known this, we've known it, you know, folks are racist. They've just realized like, oh, wait a minute, I have some racist ideology. Let me do something about that. And that doesn't involve buying White Fragility and reading it. There's no checkbox for that. So I'm more interested in the continuous work that's being done. You know, being an ally and being anti-racist isn't something that happens overnight. It's a lot of work that goes with that. And most of those people that are striving to be an ally, there's no ceiling to allyship. You do things continuously because they need to be done and you don't do it for that title of being an ally. And then there's this thing where I want to be "I'm a non racist. How can I do better?" Well, the truth is, is that you're racist or anti-racist. There's no such thing as not racist because we know systemic things that have happened systemically, historically and institutionally over decades -- not decades -- hundreds of hundreds of years.

GAUDETTE: And I appreciate everything that you've all said. Especially, Gabby, about you can't just pick up the book White Fragility and then say you're done. It really is that having to sit in that discomfort and you don't need to be an ally by shouting to the rooftops that you're an ally. Gabby, I want to talk about health care because it is essential in this conversation when we talk about racial disparities in the United States. I mean, we are seeing that right now in this pandemic that we know that the research is showing, the studies are showing it whether people want to argue about it or not: Black communities are being so much more adversely affected -- as our Latino communities in particular here in Idaho -- when it comes to COVID. So while this very public movement for racial justice is going on and it is, you know, fingers crossed, hopefully making strides, there is a real concern for disparities within the health care system. Can you talk about these racial disparities in particular with what we're seeing with COVID, but frankly, beyond that?

DAVIS: To make it as simple as I can. First of all, race is not a health disparity. Racism is the health disparity. And the easiest way to explain it, let's say: you know, there's millions of people talk about how they don't want to go to the dentist, you know, because of one experience they've had and they haven't been to get their teeth cleaned since. If you follow me. For Black folks, other people of color, other marginalized groups that can experience the same thing. So, for instance, if I had come to a hospital and I have an experience, and it's negative, and it's based on the color of my skin, what is the likelihood of me going to access health care again? The same thing with mental health care. So it's not that genetically or biologically COVID or other diseases are attacking Black folks and other folks of color. But it's racism: the type of services that that you can access, the type of services that you can receive. You and I, Gemma, could go in and have the same complaint, or both be in pain, and I might be seen as a drug seeker, but you might give a pain medicine and that's based on the color of skin.

GAUDETTE: And Gabby, I mean, I think to give people even more understanding of this and what you said about it is not -- race does not play into your health. It is racism. And, I mean, we could just talk about the Tuskegee study of untreated syphilis in Black men. I mean, this went on from 1932 to 1972. And there are other examples of Black people not being able to own their own bodies.

SIMPSON: There's a -- sorry, Gabby. I'm going to bring this to even a more contemporary example. Right now, there was a recent article that talked about how babies were being removed from Native American women who were affected by COVID-19. That forced removal of children from their mothers, especially in Native American history, is the perpetuation of genocide. So that's a very real, very current treatment of folks of color in the United States within the health care system that further perpetuates this idea of racism and lack of access to health care.

DAVIS: And those are current events.

SIMPSON: Current events, yeah, absolutely.

GAUDETTE: And then I would say then, Tai, then if you know within your Native American community, "you know what, there is a huge possibility that if I go to the hospital to have my baby during this pandemic, the likelihood is they're gonna take my baby away. So I may not even seek the medical care that I need to make sure that I'm healthy and my baby is healthy."

SIMPSON: Absolutely. And that's -- the most recent historical occurrence of forced sterilization for hospitalization amongst Native Americans was in the 1970s. So, like, there is an inherent intergenerational fear of going to the hospital because the treatment has always been so disparaging and so dehumanizing. And that's something that we really need to focus on when we talk about racism within the health care system as well.

DAVIS: And Gemma, it's all the isms. You know, so many isms. You know, obviously, I believe race is the number one thing that we should focus on within this conversation. But you know what? Trans people attempting to access health care. Right. If you go to the E.R. and it's an emergency and you're there with a broken leg. And the provider you get is more worried about how come the name on the document doesn't match the name that you're giving them or are unable to use the pronoun as you've asked them to use. How can they receive care if they can't get past something simple? How do you expect them to want to come back and receive care -- not just at the hospital they went to, but health care overall. That could have been traumatizing. You know, and what if it's youth? You know, I've had youth that go to my youth group and they've, you know, attempted to access health care, had a bad experience, and now not only do they not want to access health care, but they also don't want to go into health care because of one incident. So it affects both future employees or receivers of health care.

GAUDETTE: Gabby, I'm curious. You know, this seems to be a systemic problem, right? Meaning it starts with the medical system, including how we train our doctors and our nurses, even our therapists. What do you think should be happening within medical institutions like hospitals when it comes to how they work against racism and these misunderstandings?

DAVIS: Well, I think the first thing that should be done is education. So it's very hard to reprimand somebody for doing something that might be erroneous or racist if they've never offered them the opportunity to learn. Now, let's say: most people that come to work at the health care system, they are racists. They've been racist before they start to work there. But if hospitals can offer any information about implicit bias: How do you [inaudible] these things? You know, it's difficult to erase racism. It's difficult to erase implicit bias, but that shouldn't interact with the care you are offering to a patient. So if the hospital isn't doing anything, if you don't see leadership doing anything, you can't expect employees to do it either. You should hope it. But if it's not reflected in leadership, why would somebody follow. Another thing, most hospital systems have people that already work there that are doing this work outside of hospital, some intra hospital are doing this work and leadership is the last to catch on. Usually when something happens, it shouldn't be a sentinel event or it shouldn't be an event that happens. It's George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor. Those people being murdered should not be the event that thwarts hospital or any other institutions to do the work. Unfortunately, it likely will be. But these are things that should have already been happening.

GAUDETTE: You know, you mentioned implicit bias and, you know. How about the fact that everyone has some types of implicit bias. And to be able to just name that. Right. And say, yeah, I have implicit bias in "X" because if you can't name it, there's no way you're even going to be willing to try to change it.

DAVIS: And I think a lot of people are offended when somebody tells them they have implicit bias or even when they realize it themselves. You know, there are tests -- Harvard made this test -- Project Implicit made a test a while ago where you could look and figure out your implicit bias. And even that is somewhat problematic. But even when I had groups of people do that, the initial response was, oh, let me tell you what a test is wrong. Even the privilege of that. 

ALL: [Everyone speaking in enthusiastic agreement.]

NEWTON: I was just gonna say that, like, I really think of the way that we frame implicit bias tests and implicit bias training, it's often built around a model where we don't look at an intersectional model. So perhaps we can test our implicit bias on Black folks, anti-Blackness, white supremacy. However, we're not taking intersectional frameworks with that. So you might think that you carry like a mild implicit bias for Black folks, but you're not actively being able to hold conversations about how you feel with Black femmes versus Black men. Black trans people versus Black queer people. And there's no single identity folks. I think of the Audre Lorde quote, like, "we don't live single identity lives." So although we're trying to have these conversations about implicit bias, we're not actually helping liberate anybody or ourselves when we're looking at folks as single issue things is one dimensional issue.

SIMPSON: The quick thing to that, Gemma, is that everybody is so attached to being a good person. So this calling in of, like, implicit bias or racist behavior or sexism or anti-trans mentality, like people don't want to be called in because everybody somehow thinks that they're now a horrible person because they've held that ideology. So we have to really work to dismantle that. Also, it's not about being a good person or a bad person. It's just about being aware.

GAUDETTE: Right. I love that. I want to go back to where we left off before the break about this idea of, you know, you're either good or bad, and that you must be bad if you have implicit bias or you may have had racist thoughts or, you know, been in those moments. Because there has to be such deep shame in that when you are becoming aware of this. And sometimes I think it's hard to acknowledge that shame or where that comes from. And Nisha, how much do you think that plays into this idea of, "Well, but I am a good person, so therefore I can't acknowledge."

NEWTON: Yeah, I think it plays into it very heavily, just like, well, if if I think that I am a good person or at least I'm nice to people, like I cannot be racist, as if those two things are mutually exclusive. And so it's very hard because people can still be kind and uphold white supremacy. Or people can be Black and have internalized anti-Blackness, all of these things that I think that people forget to hold. And I think it's because we typically in our culture operate out of a binary where you are, or you're not. Things are or they're not. And I think a lot of just intersectionality is breaking down that binary and saying that, hey, you're all of these things AND you can be all of these things AND. And I think that it's just more an ongoing conversation of reframing how we see things and allowing to see ourselves in that change.

GAUDETTE: And I will say this. I mean, I do not remember the first time I heard the term white privilege, but I do know that when I first heard it, I was like, what in the world does that mean? Because I thought, well, wait a minute. My dad didn't finish 10th grade. I was one of 10 kids and my parents, you know, struggled financially. I didn't get on an airplane until I was, you know, 15 years old. I mean, it was all of these things that I'm thinking of, like, how does that fit with this idea of privilege? But then as I actually delved into it more, it was like, oh. It doesn't mean that my life has not had struggle. It doesn't mean that there haven't been hurdles. What it means is, is that the color of my skin has not made my life more difficult.

SIMPSON: I have whole stories about trying to buy a house in Boise based on that. Based on exactly that. Right. Buying a house shouldn't be complicated on paper, but it is, especially in Idaho. Like, those are where you feel those things acutely, where privilege, white privilege plays a part in what I have access to, where I can purchase. We historically or in sociology call that "redlining" like where Black people can and cannot live. Right. And it's still very real now.

NEWTON: Still very real. So many stories come out. 

DAVIS: And I will say, you know, when we talk about white privilege, you know, white folks and people who pass as white feel like this twinge of pain, like it's a bad thing. White privilege is a good thing depending on how you use it. I benefit from white privilege because my wife is white. So there have been times where we already know the outcome if I do it. Well, let's have her do it and see what will happen. If I have a dispute with the store, I'm not going to say I have a problem -- sometimes depending on my mood. Because I can automatically be viewed as the angry Black woman.

ALL: [Laughter]

DAVIS: But if I send my white wife in, you know, that would look different. White privilege -- to make it simple -- is the ability to navigate easier. It means that the navigation through life and every aspect is easier. That's all it means, it's just either for you to do things.

NEWTON: Easier, not necessarily easy. By no means is any identity, case in point, going to be easy. However, I really like the emphasis on easiER, just in the same ways that folks have it hardER, not necessarily having hard because they have an identity.

GAUDETTE: What would the three of you say to people who may not have, you know, grown up with this term of intersectionality? So they have a hard time understanding it to the point where they're saying, like, "there's so many mixed messages in this!" And I think there's almost like -- it's just a lack of understanding of how you can be one thing, but another thing.

NEWTON: That's the binary!

GAUDETTE: And then there might be some things that traditionally don't make sense.

SIMPSON: Let's go to the comfort factor of that, right. So the comfort factor of that is people want to be OK with the fact that, you know, in my life, I have known whiteness and money and comfort, never food insecurity, never home insecurity, none of those things. And so when they're first introduced to something like intersectionality, somehow it becomes a word to cringe at when really intersectionality is just saying folks have multiple identities and multiple experiences and a diversity within those experiences. And that's really where conversations need to begin. So intersectionality lends itself to addressing racism and sexism and socio-economic disparity. But intersectionality itself is not a problem. That's just identifying everybody's unique humanness. So, really like introducing somebody to that. Like the immediate reaction, or the knee jerk response is always defensiveness because it feels like a challenge to their comfortable whiteness and privilege and access and English-speaking and food and homes. So it doesn't need to be this or that. This isn't oppression Olympics. Right. Like, we understand that there are issues, but intersectionality is really a cornerstone to building communities so that we all can work towards a level of equity and abundance and justice. Nobody is trying to take anything away from anybody else. We're just saying it's possible for everybody to have enough. 

NEWTON: Preach! And for everybody to have an impression that can't be comparable. And I always jokingly offer folks when they say they're new to this concept and it's hard for them and all of these things which are very real, that, like, there is not some sort of playbook that half of us come out the womb with. There is not some instilled cellular knowledge that all of us carry about intersectionality so we just know it. These are all things that we learn and they're not things that we learn, period. The things that we continually learn. And we mess up and we fumble through it and we keep showing up and doing better and all of those things.

DAVIS: I would just say, you know, intersectionality has always been there, we just don't have a word for it. So, for instance, in Idaho, when I moved here, I have a scalp condition, so I was looking for a new dermatologist. So I wanted to go to a Black dermatologist for reasons to support, and for reasons I wanted somebody who may know my skin better. And the reason I wanted to do that is because we know that medicine and medical school focuses on racism. The pictures in the books are racist, the cadavers are white, the mannequins being used are white. So going to a dermatologist who's never had a Black patient was difficult because I'm in Idaho. So I picked one and I go to him. And I say, "hey, I have this condition. I've had it all my life, I need more prescription, and blah blah blah." And he tells me, well, you know, I'll give you the shampoo and just wash your hair every day. And so I stopped and I said, wait a minute.

ALL: [Laughter] No! Nooo!

DAVIS: You know what? No. I said, if I wash my hair every day I would have no hair to was. And I would like to keep what I have. And so he explained to me the importance of washing, and I said no, we don't have that. We can't do that. And so I had to go into teaching him why I can't wash my hair with the shampoo every day. And after that appointment, after I told him the prescription to write me, he did that. I still received the bill although providing a service. 

ALL: [Laughter] 

DAVIS: And that happens a lot in medicine, where you have to teach the clinician how to take care of you, yet you still get the bill that's overcharged.

NEWTON: The same thing can be true in mental health. The same thing could be true with a tattoo appointment. Like, this is just everywhere. This is everywhere we would go. People don't know how to respond to Black folks nationally and especially in Idaho.

GAUDETTE: We just have a few minutes left. And I want to know from the three of you. Are there things that you see in Idaho that are moving the needle? And I ask that because we are not just a red state, we are an incredibly red state. It is conservative. Yes, there may be a bit of a Boise bubble, but that is not the entire state as a whole. So, Gabby, can I start with you? I mean, are you seeing things that are moving the needle?

DAVIS: The number one thing moving the needle right now is Generation Z. To sum it up. You have folks doing all this work. Nisha, I'm assuming Nisha is Generation Z, just graduated. But these are the people that's doing this work. I'm not just saying that because they're on the line. These are the people that are out here moving the needle, who have the capacity and the emotional labor available to teach folks that just realized, oh, wait a minute, I'm racist, I'm homophobic, I'm transphobic. You know, how can I make myself feel better or how can I do better? You know, those are two different things. So I think that is what's moving the needle. The hope is, is that Idaho catches on and does something to keep those people here because the goal is usually to lead right. What is my escape plan from Idaho?

SIMPSON: This is my land, though. Where am I going to go? Right. This is HOME home. Like, 15,000 years worth a home, like this is -- I got to stay.

GAUDETTE: So then Nisha, do you think there's anything moving the needle.

NEWTON: Yes, I for sure think there are things moving the needle. I also agree. I have so much power and belief in young folks. And then I also think things that are really moving the needle are just the way that we are shifting our culture. Whether we're shifting out of binaries about things are or are not, or if we're shifting away from things, just thinking that like this has to immediately be done. I have to do it individually. And just trying to figure out how we can collectively move with patience and calculations so that we can move with power. So I really love the shifts, not only that we're seeing around the way that our young folks are leading, the ways that our culture is shifting, the ways that we're kind of doing that, but also the ways that young folks and our culture are shifting around queer, trans, disabled voices, so that folks can really do the liberation work that they need rather than a remedy Band-Aid work that we've been seeing.

GAUDETTE: And Tai, what are what are you saying, if anything?

SIMPSON: I have a lot more access to rural Idaho than I think my comrades on the call with me. But what I'm seeing in some of those rural spaces, and this is the really, really tiny thing that's giving me hope, is that these small businesses in rural places will name Black Lives Matter, will name that white privilege is a thing. We'll name that racism exists. And these are businesses trying to be successful in rural red state, conservative, white Idaho. But they're still naming the thing. And some of these businesses are owned and operated by my white neighbors who are well into their 50s and 60s and 70s. But they're still taking that stand. So that's a huge cultural shift that I think can have an impact on the way Idaho operates into the future. Right. Because if those business owners pass that business to children who pass to grandchildren who are Gen Z-ers then I'm here for the shift.

GAUDETTE: I appreciate the insight from the three of you, the conversation. I learned a lot. I hope other people did. Thank you for the work that you tirelessly continue to do to make change. So thank you all for the conversation today.

ALL: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

GAUDETTE: We have been speaking with Tai Simpson, Gabby Davis and Nisha Jae Newton about the word intersectionality and what it is and how it actually operates on a day to day basis here in Idaho, I want to thank all of you for listening. For being a part of this conversation. For hopefully helping us all a little by little move that needle forward.
 

Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters

Molly Wampler is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Originally from Berkeley, California, she just graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state. There, Molly worked for her university's newspaper but is stoked to try her hand at and learn all there is to learn about radio journalism.