The United Nations announced that the 2021 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”. COVID-19 has hit marginalized and underprivileged groups the hardest. While many countries have had access to vaccines, there are still over 100 countries that have limited or no access to vaccines. Hearing about these disparities is a great opportunity to learn about and consider intersectionality.

Intersectionality as defined in the oxford dictionary is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage” This term was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw in a paper aimed to understand the oppression that African-American women face. I have linked one of her TEDTalks for you to listen to and an article on its history with the ways in which the term is/has been villainized in the media. It is important to recognize the ways that we move through the world, even if we have our own obstacles, there are other obstacles that are invisible to us because it is not a barrier we’ve had to fight. I think we all understand the larger concepts of classism, racism, ageism, homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia, but within those areas, we need to understand the internalization of those concepts, along with colourism, ableism, model minority myths, misogynoir, and fatphobia.

Understanding these barriers allows our work to become anti-oppressive for all, rather than anti-oppressive for some. The world of music, especially Classical Music, contains a myriad of barriers that gate-keep who is permitted to participate or even experience these art forms. They have a reputation of pretentiousness, elitism, and of actively working to restrict access to those of certain classes, races, genders, and education. Through an intersectional lens we can start to address a variety of issues; from the ways that we remove cognitive dissonance in regards to the treatment of racialized individuals, changing gendered language practices in rehearsal processes, and understanding how intergenerational trauma restricts which composer’s music is chosen to be performed.

I have been involved in musical communities in many different cities, schools, and countries throughout my life. There is passion, love, and kindness in every community that I have had the opportunity to be involved in. I also see the ways that we have failed to be mindful, compassionate, and more than just a business. Change is not pretty and it is certainly not comfortable – neither is healing. It is a fundamental and worthwhile journey that I look forward to pursuing together.

by Kristian Lo

More Resources;

The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw