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Kimberlé Crenshaw

#blackhistoryProfilesFebruary 26, 2022

A professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Columbia University, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work has been fundamental in shaping critical race theory and “intersectionality,” a term that describes simultaneous racial and gender prejudice and that became mainstream 30 years after she first coined it.

Critical race theory, or CRT, is an academic concept first proposed in the 1970s and 1980s whose core idea is that racism is not just a product of individual bias or prejudice, but something embedded in legal systems and policies.

A big part of CRT is intersectionality, which Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” and overlap, creating the Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work has been fundamental in shaping critical race theory and “intersectionality,” a term that describes simultaneous racial and gender prejudice and that became mainstream 30 years after she first coined it. bind of simultaneous racial and gender prejudice. 

“It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other,” she told Forbes in 2020. 

Born in Canton, Ohio, Crenshaw grew up in a segregated America and gave her first speech on the subject when she was about 9 or 10 years old and Martin Luther King was assassinated. She attended Cornell University where she first realized that gender and race should be taught as intersecting with each other, a view cemented as she attended Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin. 

As a law professor at UCLA and Columbia University, Crenshaw is an advocate of black feminism, civil rights, race studies, constitutional law, and social inclusion. In 1996, she co-founded the African American Policy Forum, a think tank promoting efforts to dismantle inequality and also launched the #SayHerName campaign to call attention to police violence against Black women. 

Crenshaw was also one of the speakers at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and has won numerous awards, including being named “No. 1 Most Inspiring Feminist” in 2015 by Ms. Magazine.

“In truth, the ‘behind every great man is a great woman’ is wrong. Often besides them, yes, and sometimes, though history won’t always tell it, ahead,” she wrote recently on Twitter

Crenshaw also hosts the podcast Intersectionality Matters! that brings her theory of intersectionality to everyday life.

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