“Yes, it is about class—and about gender and sexuality and ability. And it’s also, almost always, about race.”

In Chapter 1, Oluo calls out the ways in which people sometimes try to deflect the problems of race by redirecting the conversation toward other social issues. While systemic issues such as incarceration and education likely involve many problems, including poverty and single parents and crime and drugs, such issues are also about race. Deflecting attention from race does not help because when race is part of the mix, addressing all the other problems without addressing race will not ultimately solve the problem. Instead, Oluo proposes an intersectional approach. Intersectionality allows us to include many perspectives as we examine these problems without ignoring or privileging any one perspective.

“We walk through the world with all our identities at once and therefore our day has an endless number of possible combinations of outcomes depending on how individual events and situations we encounter interact with our individual identities.”

In Chapter 5, Oluo states that human beings are amalgamations of many identities. All of these must be recognized, acknowledged, and valued before we can attain the ideal of an equal society. Any attempt to reduce a person to one dimension based on their race, gender, social class, marital status, educational level, and so on is reductive. Equality demands treating human beings holistically with dignity without marginalizing or excluding any part of them. Oluo describes this approach as intersectionality and advocates for it as an approach that should be included in all civil rights movements.

“The belief that our social justice movements must consider all of the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective, is the number one requirement of all of the work that I do.”

In Chapter 5, Oluo identifies intersectionality as the fundamental principle of her social justice work. The path forward must be a path forward for everyone. That means fights for social equity must proceed down a much broader path and that the work building it will take longer and be more difficult. But the effort is necessary to attain justice. Unless social justice movements are rooted in intersectionality, they will always result in one group’s attainment of social power, who then becomes a new oppressor holding down yet another victim.