Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

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Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (born 1959) is an American scholar in the field of critical race theory, and a professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues.

Early biography[edit]

She was born in Canton, Ohio in 1959. She received a bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1981, a J.D. from Harvard Law in 1984, and an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1985. At Cornell, she was a member of the Quill and Dagger society.[citation needed]


She has been a part of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law faculty since 1986, where she teaches Civil Rights and other courses in critical race studies and constitutional law. She is the founding coordinator of the intellectual movement called the Critical Race Theory Workshop.[citation needed] In 1991 and 1994, she was elected Professor of the Year. At the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she received her LL.M., Professor Crenshaw was a William H. Hastie Fellow. Later, she clerked for Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Her work on race and gender was influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the South African Constitution. In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism and helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration. Crenshaw has also served as a member of the National Science Foundation's Committee to Research Violence Against Women and has assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill. She is also a founding member of the Women's Media Initiative and is a regular commentator on NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show. Crenshaw is known for her work in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which was especially important in influencing and developing the idea of intersectionality, a word she coined in 1989.

She contributed the piece "Traffic at the Crossroads: Multiple Oppressions" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[1]

African American Policy Forum[edit]

In 1996 Crenshaw was co-founder, with Prof. Luke Harris, of the African American Policy Forum. According to AAPF's mission statement: the Policy Forum is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, in the U.S. and internationally. she used the forum to house a variety of projects designed to deliver research- based strategies to better advance social inclusion. Crenshaw is currently the executive director of that organization.[2]

My Brother's Keeper[edit]

A nationwide initiative to open up a ladder of opportunities to youth males and males of color.[3] Kimberlé Crenshaw and the other participants of the African American Forum have demonstrated through multiple means of the media to express that the initiative has good intentions but perpetrates for the uplifting of youth but excludes girls and youth girls of color. The AAPF have started a campaign #WHYWECANTWAIT to address the realignment of the "My Brothers Keeper" initiative to include all youth boys, girls, and those girls and boys of color. The movement has received a lot of support from all over letters signed by men of color, letters signed by women of color and letters signed by allies that believe in the cause.[4]

In an interview on the Laura Flanders Show Kimberlé Crenshaw expressed that the program was introduced as response to the widespread grief from the African American community after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of his shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin, a young, unarmed, African American, male teen. She describes the program as "feel-good", and fatherly initiative but does not believe that it is a significant or structural program that will help fight the rollback of civil rights; the initiative will not provide the kinds of things that will really make a difference. She believes that because women and girls of color are a part of the same communities and disadvantages as the under-privileged males that are focused in the initiative, that in order to make it an effective program for the communities it needs to include all members of the community girls and boys alike.[citation needed]

  • #Why we can’t wait: Women of Color Urging Inclusion in "My Brother’s Keeper"
  • June 17, 2014 – a letter from over 1000 girls and women of color [5]

The letter is signed by girls and women of all ages, from different backgrounds, ranging from high school teens to professional actors, from civil rights activist to university professors commending President Obama on the efforts of the White House, private philanthropy, and social justice organizations they still urge the inclusion of females to the initiative. The realignment would be important to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice forward.

  • May 30, 2014 a letter of 200 Concerned Black Men and Other Men of Color calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls in "My Brothers Keeper" [6]

The letter is signed by a multitude of diverse males with different lifestyles to include scholars, recently incarcerated, taxi drivers, pastors, college students, fathers of sons, fathers of daughters and more. All the men believing that the girls within the communities that these men share homes, schools, recreational areas share a fate with one another and believe that the initiative is lacking in focus if that focus does not include both males and females of color.


Kimberle Crenshaw introduced the theory of intersectionality to feminist theory in the 1980s.[7] Although the concept of intersectionality was not new it was not formally recognized until Crenshaw’s theory. Her inspiration for the theory started while she was still in college and she realized that the gender aspect of race was extremely underdeveloped. The realization came after she noticed at the school she was attending that there were classes offered that addressed both race and gender issues. The courses available discussed women in only literature and poetry classes while men were discussed in serious politics and economics.[8] Crenshaw has received multiple degrees in law including her LL.M. (Masters in Law) and J.D.(Professional Doctorate degree in Law).[9] So her focus on intersectionality is more so focused on how the law responds to issues that include gender and race discrimination. The particular challenge in law is that antidiscrimination laws look at gender and race separately and consequently African American women and other women of color experience overlapping forms of discrimination and the law unaware of how to combine the two leave these women with no justice.[10] Antidiscrimination laws and the justice systems attempt for a remedy to discrimination is limited and operates on a singular axes when one flows into another a complete and understandable definition has not been written in law therefore when the issue of intersectionality is presented in the court of law if one form of discrimination cannot be proved without the other than there is no law broken. The law defines discrimination of singular cases where you can only be discriminated based one thing or the other so when enforcing the law they go solely by the definition and if discrimination cannot be proved based on the single definition of one discrimination or the other then there is no crime committed.

She brings up the case DeGraffenreid v. General Motors in multiple writings, interviews, and lectures where a group of African American women went to court with the argument that they were receiving compound discrimination. [3] Only men were given jobs in the factory allowing opportunities for African American men and women were seen as appropriate hires for office and secretarial jobs but only white women were being hired so in a nutshell there left no opportunities for African American women to seek employment in that company. When the courts heard the argument they asked the women to prove the fact that they were discriminated against by race and gender separately. Since African American men were being employed that disproved racial discrimination and since white women were being employed that disproved gender discrimination. The courts unable to find a medium and not wanting to seem as if they were allotting African American women special privilege over everyone else the case was dismissed and the women were not granted success.[11]

Some accounts that Crenshaw refers to when addressing the theory of intersectionality are:

  • In 1991 Crenshaw was a part of the legal team for Anita Hill, the women who accused then- Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.[12] The case drew two crowds to the plate: white feminists and the opposing members of the African American community that supported Clarence Thomas. The two arguments that were brought up were the rights of women and Hill's experience of being violated as a women and then the arguments of the African American community that sought to forgive him or turn a blind eye to his sins for the simple fact that he was being given a position of power that not many African Americans were given. Crenshaw argues that with these two groups rising up against one another during this case, Anita Hill lost her voice as a black female. She had been unintentionally chosen to support the women's side of things and reject her racial contribution to the issue. Crenshaw describes how she felt witnessing large crowds of black women protesting in support of Clarence Thomas: “It was like one of these moments where you literally feel that you have been kicked out of your community, all because you are trying to introduce and talk about the way that African American women have experienced sexual harassment and violence. It was a defining moment.” “Many women who talk about the Anita Hill thing,” Crenshaw adds, “they celebrate what’s happened with women in general…. So sexual harassment is now recognized; what’s not doing as well is the recognition of black women’s unique experiences with discrimination.”
  • Crenshaw argues that there deep-seated racism displayed by white Americans after the “Not Guilty” verdict of O.J. Simpson. The issue was not that a murderer was allowed to walk free, or that the justice system is faulty, but rather that white Americans at the time resorted back to post civil rights-era view, where if a black man was accused of harming a white woman, they were guilty and should be punished. This was an issue of race and gender where back in the day black men were seen as a risk to the safety of white women.[13]
  • To bring it closer to date Crenshaw comments on another interracial homicide that happened in 2012 where George Zimmerman shot and killed an African American teen Trayvon Martin. Crenshaw said, “When jurors assess the reasonableness of the claim of self-defense, that assessment can’t help but have race and gender dimensions to it…. The threat is attached to the Black body. The idea that a Black person might feel threatened by a White person is almost incomprehensible.”[14]


She has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law.


  • Critical Race theory:The Key Writings That Formed the Movement

Published: May 1 1996 It is a compilation of some of the most important writings that formed and sustained the Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) movement. The book includes articles from Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, Mari Matsuda, Anthony Cook, Duncan Kennedy, Gary Peller, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and others. All of the articles add something to CRT, and read independently, add significant portions to the CRT movement. [4]

  • On Intersectionality:Essential Writings of Kimberle Crenshaw

Published: June 5, 2012 This book provides readers with an introduction to Kimberle Crenshaw’s work. She provides essays and articles that help define the concept of intersectionality. She provides insight from the Central Park jogger, Anita Hill’s testimony against now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and other significant matters of public interest. [5]

  • The Race Track:Understanding and Challenging Structural Racism

Published: July 30 2013

  • Reaffirming Racism:The faulty logic of Colorblindness, Remedy and Diversity

Published: June 4, 2013

  • Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Over Policed and Under Protected

Published: Upcoming publication This is a report based on new reviews of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York. What started out as just a report we anticipate the book and how it will perform the same task to readers expressing why black girls cannot be abandoned at the margins.[6]

  • Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Color

Crenshaw is responding to the tendency within identity politics to overlook or silence intra-group differences, a dynamic repeated throughout anti-racist and feminist movements to the detriment of black women. Crenshaw explores the simultaneously raced and gendered dimensions of violence against women of color (specifically by looking at responses to domestic violence and rape) to draw attention to the way the specificity of black women’s experiences of violence is ignored, overlooked, misrepresented, and/or silenced. Crenshaw focuses on both the structural and political aspects of intersectionality with regards to rape and domestic abuse and uses this analysis of violence against women of color to highlight the importance of intersectionality and of engaging with issues like violence against women through an intersectional lens.[7]



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