Stepping into the Intersection: The Unintended Consequences of Presenting a ‘Latina Educational’ at a Feminist Health Organisation

Berg Miller

Abstract


An intersectional approach is typically applied to individuals, but this lens is also needed at the level of systems. Similar to large institutions, human service agencies may maintain racism due to established patterns of Eurocentricity. Agencies also function as entities where change can be affected. The following case study is about the process of decentering whiteness at a feminist health organisation located in an urban centre in the United States. The author, a white, non-binary woman, serving on the board of directors, offered to present a graduate paper at an agency-wide meeting. Preparations for this presentation evolved into a year-long process, during which time the agency began to grapple with the limitations of a cultural competence framework in its services for women’s and trans health.

Feminist intersectionality theory is used to examine the organisation’s steps towards facing its Eurocentricity. This case study provides examples from organisational practice, during a year of racial turbulence, to explore three strategies that human service agencies commonly use to avoid confronting internal issues of race. It deconstructs past events in which staff maintained systemic racism through (1) disowning past harm, (2) suppression of criticism, and (3) deflection of responsibility through white feminine fragility.

A narrative of events is analysed with the support of scholarship to explore how an intersectional approach can address gaps in the flawed implementation of a cultural competence framework. Intersectionality theory can transform ways of thinking among human service providers to promote critical analysis of racism within agency settings. This framework also shows the connection between systemic racism and the delegitimisation of individuals, an essential concept to the task of decentering whiteness within human service organisations.


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