Post #2. Intersections and the Criminal Justice System

by SamCharlebois on March 7, 2017 - 2:43pm

The article that I have chosen is entitled “ Why intersectionality can’t wait” posted in the Huffington post September 24th, 2015. The article outlines a case in 1976 in which an African American women, Emma DeGraffenreid, and several other African American women sued General Motors on the grounds of discrimination. They were arguing that the company segregated its workforce by race and gender. They outlined that Black people were assigned one set of jobs and white were assigned another. Additionally, women were welcome to apply for some jobs and men were deemed suitable for others. Although these two distinction were problems in it of themselves, the problem was more complicated for Black women. The article outlined that

“You see, the black jobs were men’s jobs, and the women’s jobs were only for whites. Thus, while a black applicant might get hired to work on the floor of the factory if he were male; if she were a black female she would not be considered. Similarly, a woman might be hired as a secretary if she were white, but wouldn’t have a chance at that job if she were black. Neither the black jobs nor the women’s jobs were appropriate for black women, since they were neither male nor white.”  

Unfortunately for these women, the court dismissed their claims. This was based on the fact that a case could not combine or should not combine their race and gender claims into one case.  In this case the gender and other components of their identities work in combination with each other to provide a negative effect. It was outlined that women, although had only specific jobs they could commit, were permitted to work at the establishment. However, women that were black were not welcome for employment. I think the most interesting aspect of this case is the fact that the court outlined that their combination of race and gender could not be combined into one case. This speaks to the way in which and the importance of taking an intersectional approach to the criminal justice system. By the courts logic, if we were to separate gender and race, they correlation in this case would not be present. This is because black people were provided jobs within the company and women additionally were provided jobs but it is when these two intersections of women and black meet that there was a problem with employment. This provides a clear example of a problem when all intersections of an individuals identity are not accounted for or examined in criminal justice proceedings.

Additionally, when looking at issues in the criminal justice system it is important to properly identify the issues and complexities of intersections to properly understand the issue at hand. The article outlines that intersectionality is seen to be an analytic tool in which we can organize identity and its relation to issues and problems. This means that issues within a particular society will be different depending on the intersections of identity that are applied. Within the criminal justice system, considering all of the intersections of an individual is important because it could explain mitigating circumstances that have surrounded the crime. These mitigating circumstances could be poverty, poor upbringing, mental capacity, ect. Without looking at all intersections that made the individual one cannot possibly have a full understanding of the reasons this crime of crimes have been committed. The case above outlined an example of issues that can arise when intersections are not permitted and analyzed in a criminal justice matter. Therefore, it is vital to the administration of justice that intersections of identity are considered in the criminal justice system.