Editor's Note: We're launching a blog series about topics central to YWCA Madison's work to eliminate racism and empower women. We're thrilled to have four talented writers who will be blogging about YWCA 101: introductions to topics on racial justice and women's empowerment. You'll also see stories about YWCA programs and participants. To start, each blogger will tell you a little bit about themselves and why they're volunteering. Here's the first in a series of four introductions. Share with your friends and invite them to follow along.
A quick definition: check out this video from Akilah Hughes that explains intersectionality in feminism.... through the metaphor of pizza.
Blogger Profile: Amanda Zhang
I am a woman of color--but until fairly recently I wasn’t conscious of the impact that would have on my life. Growing up in a predominantly white Christian town of about 4,000 people, I didn’t see or experience much “diversity.” When I moved to Madison at the start of my freshman year I was exposed to far more students of color, but my sheltered and selective past experience kept me unaware of the problems of racism and sexism facing me and my peers. I had a vague conceptual understanding of sexism and racism but I was largely apolitical on the issues. It wasn’t until my junior year that I became politicized. I found myself bored with dry academia and instead more and more fascinated...and disgusted with the state of social affairs in the United States.
I decided to focus this interest by joining my high school debate team. Each month we would be given a topic to research and speak on. The fall of my junior year, the topic was on private prisons. While researching, I developed a conceptual understanding of mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality and their disproportionate impacts on people of color. There was something unsettling about the statistics I read but I still only knew the issues as words on paper. With my decidedly limited knowledge of the prison-industrial complex, I decided to volunteer with LGBT Books to Prisoners, a service that provides books to LGBT prisoners with limited access to LGBT reading material, to try to make a marginal impact on the lives of those suffering at the hands of state violence.
On March 7th, I received an email from LGBT Books informing me that the weekend volunteer session was cancelled. An unarmed black teenager, Tony Robinson, had been shot and killed on Willy Street by Officer Matt Kenny. In the months leading up to Tony Robinson’s murder, I had read about countless black men and women being killed by police but I never really thought it could happen so close to home; after all, Madison had always struck me as a liberal safe haven from the systemic racial problems that plague the rest of the country. I attended a march organized by Young, Gifted, and Black that inspired me to take action.
That evening, I began organizing a walkout for Madison West High School. A week later, 250 students walked out of school in show of solidarity for Tony Robinson. This was my first experience with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since the walkout, I have become more involved in advocating for racial justice in Madison. A few months ago, I attended a talk by M. Adams of Freedom Inc. discussing the intersectionalities of gender, sexuality, and race in the struggle against state violence and everything I had learned up until that point fell into place. YWCA’s mission combined what I knew and wanted to learn about intersectionality and I’m so fortunate to have this opportunity to write for the organization. I will try to present information as accurately and honestly to those willing to read but I will never claim to understand the struggles of women and people of color far more marginalized than myself. I understand that my privilege in learning about all of these experiences is that I can stand to be shocked and appalled at what I read instead of terrified for my body and livelihood like the people I am reading about are. Through my writing, I hope to inform and advocate. I speak from my position of privilege to encourage discourse on racial injustice across different communities. I am a woman of color. Fighting for women of color just makes sense.
Amanda Zhang is a senior at Madison West High School. She likes reading, writing, cuddly animals, and issues that consider the intersectionalities of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Date Created: 10/8/2015
A Call to Action to Confront Racial Injustiice
Living Our Racial Justice Values
Introducing Hannah Becker
Ending Injustices and Discrimination
From Maryland to Madison: Meet Amina
Fighting for Women of Color
End Racial Profiling!
2015 YWCA New Year's Resolutions
Escalating the Conversation