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Platforming Intersectionality: Confronting Race and Gender Bias as a Creative

June 30, 2021

Growing up as a young Black man, I am no stranger to “The Talk.” This is a conversation shared between a parent or guardian and their Black or non-white child on how they are to conduct themselves in certain situations in order to increase their chances of safety and survival. A sober warning that discrimination based on your skin color is alive and well. However, this conversation often ignores the complexities associated with being from multiple diverse communities, such as being Black and queer. Both identities are discriminated against in their own ways by society.

To ignore this duality is to ignore the daily struggles of entire populations of people. This intersectionality, a term coined by lawyer and Civil Rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, reminds us of the heart-wrenching reality that when racial and gender biases are combined, they create multiple layers of prejudice.

In order to effect change, we must understand and accept these truths:

  1. Integrating intersectionality into creative work is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a necessity in order to connect with wider audiences.
  2. Identities like race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender are traditionally discussed separately. We now understand that they cross traditional boundaries and are made up of varying diasporas.
  3. In DE&I work, while there isn’t a set list of “best practices,” what proves best is providing moments for education and advocacy on a frequent basis.

As PR professionals working with some of the biggest brands and companies in the world, we are often speaking to Gen Z and Millennial audiences. As outlined in FleishmanHillard’s Power of Authenticity study, these audiences “demand accountability, not the appearance of it.” Consumers want brands to have a point of view and represent it truthfully and fully with meaningful actions.

To authentically combat bias in our work, organizations should consider the following:

  • Understand the Diaspora: Understand the impact varying diasporas have on culture and its contribution to underrepresentation. For that reason, it is simply not enough to put a diverse influencer or celebrity in your campaign and expect them to represent everyone in that identity.
  • Take A Well-Informed Stance: The power that brands have in influencing and shaping culture is undeniable. Be aware of that power and harness it for good.
  • Get Specific on Your Messaging: What message are you trying to send? Create campaigns that solve a problem, not just check a box.
  • Involve the Person or Community: Whenever possible, involve the community or person that the project is about. And no, it doesn’t mean handing it over to them to do all the labor; it means continuing to work collaboratively.

If we aren’t thinking about how distinct aspects of our identities lead to compounded types of discrimination, we leave people behind. This presents an opportunity for us all to create work that goes beyond the surface level of “representation” to show that people and their identities are multi-dimensional.

Working in coalition forces us to look for both the obvious and non-obvious relationships of discrimination, helping us to realize that no form of discrimination truly stands alone.