Photo by from Pexels

Intersectionality: It’s Going to Get Harder Before It Gets Better

One muppet on the street taught us empathy; surely we can learn the crossroads

Jodi Barnes, PhD
6 min readApr 12, 2019

One of my first teachers of empathy was a young amphibian on Sesame Street, a vulnerable companion sharing his lonely greenness. Like millions of kids in 1969, I related to and felt my heart swell with love for a frog, especially after I heard him sing.

Kermit the Frog remains my spirit animal of empathy. Hard to believe he is now, like me, AARP-eligible. A lot has changed since 1969 thanks to Sesame Street, Julia, and The Mod Squad — among the first shows to cast women, African Americans and Latinx in leading, positive roles.

Although diverse representation seems slow to me (one step forward, several back) I’m heartened when I look at demographics in the House of Representatives. Identities have moved beyond a handful of races and binary genders. Identities now include multiple intersecting identities. A good thing, yet reaching agreement is only going to get harder.

Even within the social justice space — a space culturally suited to more listening and less hostility than Congress — it’s getting harder. We hear more voices (again, a good thing) but it can be harder to fully listen, to take the time to reflect and to reach agreement without giving in to the same divisions we are trying to bridge.

I’m not specifically talking about white women coopting feminism. Although that’s definitely part of it. In a larger frame, it has to do with legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality: that individuals may experience multiple forms of prejudice simultaneously.

It’s the reason writers like Jennifer Kim advocate continual introspection, curiosity, and compassion to recognize troublesome statements and attitudes like these:

“I’m a woman so I show up to all the women’s events, but it’s not my place to be an ally to people of color.” Or, “As a member of a racial minority



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.