Resource: Malcom X’s knife quote and how it relates to the Intersectionality Spectrum

I have been thinking of ways to incorporate a simple explanation of Intersectionality and how to use it to improve the outcomes of those from multiple marginalised groups. I didn’t realise until today that Malcolm X’s knife quote had a perfect example that I could expand on.

“You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress … No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition, whites show towards me, as far as I am concerned, as long as it is not shown to everyone of our people in this country, it doesn’t exist for me.”

― Malcolm X

Quote taken from Goodreads.

The way I would expand on this is that some people may have a knife stuck in their back, some might have four. And even if the knife is removed, there is still a wound, the associated pain, and the impact of not being able to do things.  That wound needs to be healed, that impact of loss of income or movement needs reparations.

This is why we need to provide opportunities to people from marginalised communities to make up for the ones that have been lost in the past, and the opportunities that will be lost in the future.

We need to triage those that need the most help and look after them first and foremost. In the Intersectionality Spectrum below, I use the term “Degree of Difficulty”, but you can change that to “Number of knives in your back”.

You can see below that if you are a disabled, First Nations female you have the equivalent of 27 knives in your back. Shouldn’t we help that person more than the man of colour who has only the equivalent of 2 knives in his back? Shouldn’t we help that person first and with more help than the other?

View of graph where the degree of difficulty is the y axis. This increases as the graph goes to the right.

In many Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies they do not take this into account. They tack it on, but actually, this is one of the the fundamental precepts for a fairer society, and should be front and centre of any DEI strategy.

This is why I think it is so powerful. We need to stop thinking about neutralising biases, but turning biases into anti-bias so we can create equity while we wait for justice.