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7.8: Intersectionality

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    As you might recall, the intersectional approach in sociology focuses on the intersection of race, social class, gender and sexuality - all of which are embedded in the institutional structure of society. According to this framework of analysis, there is a matrix of domination which implies that there are several types of social categories that create an overlap of oppression and discrimination. Therefore, our binary thinking and analysis, such as only focusing on gender or race when looking at the distribution of important societal resources misses the complexity of social reality.

    The following are examples of intersectionality experienced by Latinx communities that highlight the unique forms of discrimination and stratification experienced by those who have overlapping of social characteristics.

    The Persistence of Racialized Gender Wage Gaps

    According to the Eileen Patten (2016), despite some progress over time, the racial and gender wage gaps persist today. For example, Patten found that Latinx men make 69% of the earnings compared to their white counterparts. However, Latinx women experience an even greater disparity, earning only 58% of the median earnings of white men. Even after controlling for education, white men with college degrees earned a median hourly wage of $32, compared to $26 for Latinx man and $22 for Latinx women. Although some of the differences can be explained by labor force experience and types of industries, the unexplained variance may be attributed to discrimination. Black and Latinx workers are much more likely to report unfair treatment and that their race and gender have made it more difficult to succeed in survey data than their white counterparts.

    Artwork of dollar bills with the words Equal Pay for Equal Work on them
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "Equal Pay for Equal Work" (CC BY-NC 2.0; Sarah Mirk via Flickr)

    Driven by lower pre-pandemic wages, income, and wealth combined with the disproportionate lack of health care, Latinx workers have suffered greater economic distress than their white counterparts through the COVID-19 crisis. As the pandemic has spread, another symptom of this labor market disempowerment—inadequate workplace safety—has loomed particularly large for the Latinx population. Latinas have experienced the highest unemployment rates during COVID-19, as they are disproportionately employed in service occupations which have been hard hit by the pandemic (Gould, Perez, & Wilson, 2020).

    Latinx, Undocumented, and LGBTQ

    Carrie Hart (2015) explores the identity and work of Undocuqueer Artivist, Julio Salgado. By embracing both a queer and undocumented identity, Salgado creates "an anti-assimilationist, radical way that critiques the oppression of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, and citizenship as well as gender and sexuality" (Hart, 2015, p. 3) He also rejects the term 'illegal' because it "suggests a fixed identity, employs racist overtones, and shares a history with racially exclusionary policy and ideology, such as its origin in 1882 with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act" (Hart, 2015). Salgado considers this term to be inherently dehumanizing and instead prefers to be undocumented, which can be more "strategic... and/or resistant" (Hart, 2015).

    In combining both terms and embracing the Undocuqueer identity, Salgado expresses a unwillingness to separate his undocumented and queer experiences and identities. His goal as an artist and activist is to give visibility to people who are both undocumented and part of the LGBTQ community. Both of these communities have experienced systematic discrimination and oppression in U.S. society.

    "Queer Butterfly" by Julio Salgado. Artwork of a man with butterfly wings.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): "Queer Butterfly" by Julio Salgado. (With the kind permission of the Artist)
    Video \(\PageIndex{3}\): How Julio Salgado Utilizes Art to Express Life As a Queer, Undocumented Man | SEEN | NowThis. (Close-captioning and other YouTube settings will appear once the video starts.) (Fair Use; NowThis Entertainment via YouTube)

    As an Undocuqueer Artivist, Salgado is building upon the tradition of other Latinx artivists such as Judy Baca who use the combination of art and activism to think outside the bounds of dominant modes of representation in the interests of liberation for themselves and their communities (Hart, 2015). Similarly, self-proclaimed chicana dyke-feminist, tejana patlache, poet, writer, and cultural theorist, Gloria Anzaldúa (1942 –2004) was best known for her book, Borderlands/La Frontera, loosely-based on her life growing up on the Mexico–Texas border, incorporating her lifelong experiences of social and cultural marginalization. This excerpt from Borderlands/La Frontera captures her spiritual activism:

    The struggle is inner: Chicano, indio, American Indian, mojado, mexicano, immigrant Latino, Anglo in power, working class Anglo, Black, Asian--our psyches resemble the bordertowns and are populated by the same people. The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.

    Latinx, Gender, and Undocumented Status

    In their study on workplace violations among low-wage workers in Los Angeles County, Milkman, Gonzalez, & Narro (2010) found significant evidence of labor law violations such as minimum wage mandates, overtime pay requirements, working off-the-clock or during breaks. They also found instances of delayed payments, tip stealing, and employer retaliation. Among the 1,815 workers surveyed and interviewed for this study, 73% were Latinx, 52% were woman, and 56% were undocumented. They also found that the intersectionality of workers either increased or decreased the likelihood of experiencing workplace violations. For example, minimum wage violations were greater for women than men and greater for immigrants than their U.S.-born counterparts. However, women who were unauthorized immigrants (the majority of whom were Latinx) experienced the highest rate of minimum wage violations among all subgroups. Well over half of this group reported a minimum wage violation in the previous week.

    Picture of a Immigration Reform demonstration in Burbank
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Immigration Reform Action in Burbank. (CC BY-NC 2.0; SEIU Local 99 Education Workers United via Flickr)

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Ramos, Carlos. (Long Beach City College)
    • Tsuhako, Joy. (Cerritos College)
    • Hund, Janét. (Long Beach City College)
    • Gloria E. Anzaldua (Wikipedia) (CC BY-SA 3.0)


    • Anzaldua, G. (1999). Borderlands/La Frontera. (2nd ed.). Aunt Lute Books.
    • Gould, E., Perez, D., & Wilson, V. (2020, August 20). Latinx workers—particularly women—face devastating job losses in the covid-19 recession. Economic Policy Institute.
    • Hart, C. (2015, August). The artivism of julio salgado's i am undocuqueer! series. Working Papers on Language and Diversity in Education. 1(1).
    • Milkman, R., Gonzalez, A.L., & Narro, V. (2010). Workplace violations in Los Angeles: The failure of employment and labor law for low-wage workers. UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
    • Patten, E. (2016, July). Racial, gender wage gaps persist in U.S. despite some progress. Pew Research Center.