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Embracing intersectionality: B/AACC Real Talk discussion covers race, gender

Colorado+State+University+students+of+various+majors+and+grades+gather+for+Real+Talk+Tuesday%2C+an+event+hosted+by+the+Black%2FAfrican+American+Cultural+Center+Feb.+20.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
Colorado State University students of various majors and grades gather for Real Talk Tuesday, an event hosted by the Black/African American Cultural Center Feb. 20.

The Black/African American Cultural Center invited students to discuss many crucial topics during one of their Real Talk events.

Students of diverse backgrounds gathered Feb. 20 for a thought-provoking discussion on the intertwined concepts of gender and race. 

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Led by B/AACC student employees Jakye Nunley and Ava Ayala, the event aimed to foster dialogue and understanding among diverse cultural backgrounds, overseen by Student Development and Retention Coordinator Nina Askew and Pride Resource Center Assistant Director Josh Mack.

Ayala introduced the concept of intersectionality, which was the focal point of the evening’s discussion.

Citing the Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Ayala said intersectionality is a “theoretical framework and mode of analysis used to understand the multifarious ways of race, class, gender and other social categories … overlap and intersect with one another to share individuals’ and groups’ perspectives and collective experiences.”

One aspect discussed was the portrayal of gender in media. Kennedy Pinkney, a first-year student majoring in business administration with a concentration in management and innovation, spoke on the topic. 

“I think that more recently in the media, gender and identity have been more discovered in depth,” Pinkney said. “I think a lot of people are now given the choice to choose an identity that they want for themselves, not something they were assigned at birth.”

“Sometimes we have to put on this mask. In a way, it feels like — when you get into imposter syndrome — you’re not qualified and like you’re not worthy of that, and that’s what white space has projected onto us.” -Emmajyn Walker, sophomore

Nunley pointed out that the media’s influence can also perpetuate restrictive gender norms. 

“I think it is kind of the idea that sex sells, and with women, it is reinforced — like, if you look a certain way, then your music is pushed or your songs are pushed or your pictures are posted on certain websites,” Nunley said. “We all know that male rappers can be half as good and half as talented, but they get the push that certain female artists deserve.”

The discussion also evaluated the stereotypes individuals confront, such as the pressure for women to have long hair to conform to culturally feminine qualities. Participants recounted instances of parental disapproval when they skewed from these gender norms. This part of the discussion reflected the struggle against societal expectations.

Addressing racial stereotypes, Pinkney talked about the added burden faced by Black people in managing perceptions of anger and aggression.

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“We have to know how to keep our composure and also control our anger in spaces,” Pinkney said. “Our identity itself can be taken as a threat or some sort of intimidation to any sort of comment that you make, especially in the workplace, and then that just labels you as an angry Black woman or an angry Black man.”

Emmajyn Walker, a sophomore studying apparel design and merchandising, spoke on the pressure to excel in a predominantly white institution. 

“It’s not enough for us to be average because if I am being average as well then I am subpar,” Walker said. “In a way, you have to be excellent at what you do — otherwise, you won’t get attention. Sometimes we have to put on this mask. In a way, it feels like — when you get into imposter syndrome — you’re not qualified and like you’re not worthy of that, and that’s what white space has projected onto us.”

For Pinkney, attending the discussion provided valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of intersectionality. 

“We wanted to come here so we could hear the different experiences and stuff like that from other people and see how it correlates to those theories (of intersectionality),” Pinkney said. “The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that everybody views this same topic in so many different lenses. There is no way you’ll ever be able to fully understand it unless you hear every single side of it.” 

The Real Talk Tuesday served as a testament to the power of dialogue in challenging societal norms and fostering inclusivity through confronting stereotypes, navigating media influence and embracing intersectionality.

Reach Kloe Brill at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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