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My Intersectionality

Hello, I’m going to share with you a story of intersectionality. The year is 2004. I'm 25 years old and sitting at an extra-long varnished mahogany table in a gov't room. I just got hired to work in one of the top gov’t offices in our state. We are onboarding and filling out the necessary documents. We are talking about my being a single parent and my background.

“Oh, you were born here?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. 

“And this is your social security card?”

Yes, I answered.

“Well, I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a fake,”

My eyes get big. She noticed she probably said the wrong thing. She collects my documents to make copies and squirrels them away.

This job was the most I'd ever been paid. This was the highest level I thought I could reach at the time.

And I felt so alone at that moment.

Being the first to graduate from college didn’t matter.

My perfect American accent didn’t matter.

My lighter shade of brown didn’t matter.

I could not, at that moment, escape the identity of my immigrant past.

What she didn’t know is that my family migrated to the US in the 1900s. We fought in two US wars. We help feed America for over 4 decades with back-bending labor. None of that matters because of the stereotype of undocumented Mexican immigrants using fake social security cards to gain employment. She showed me that day what she knew about Mexicans like me.

Intersectionality, at best, can break stereotypes and tropes and, at worst, pin us as victims.

So who was the victim in my real-life scenario?

Was it me?

Or was it her?

A middle-aged white woman who was our department secretary and now she was onboarding her superior who was a Latinas and half her age?

Or maybe we both are?

Because we are both women, who are often marginalized in workplaces. Maybe she fell into the punch-down system of keeping people in their place, with tiny disparaging commentary.

I don’t know, but back then, that day in 2004, I felt she had made it known to me that my immigrant identity would not go unnoticed. 

Although I could have resented her and feared her, I didn’t, we ended up getting along quite well. 

Intersectionality is part of our daily lives.

When we will learn about our own intersectional identities, and evaluate which ones are surface which ones we choose not to talk about, and why. That's when we can change.


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