Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi. IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All. Dottir Press, 2019.
To each other–we’re better together.
It is common to view the task of communicating “adult” ideas to children to be a daunting and complicated task. The reality is far more amazing. If we framed all communication as if we were speaking to children we would speak effectively to all age groups, for in very real ways, people don’t really “grow up.” We all just become older and more sophisticated children. Underneath our well-worn exterior is a child, needing simple, direct, clear, and understandable lessons that we can continue to practice in our everyday lives. IntersectionAllies does this incredibly well on one of the most important and critical ideas in our contemporary culture: identity. I commend this to everyone, old and young alike, so we all may all truly “make room for all,” and find ourselves in the process.
When we think of childhood and early education, we tend to remember learning things like numbers and letters, colors and shapes, timetables and table manners. What’s less often considered is that youth is also an important opportunity for planting the seeds of social conscience. The impressions of the world that we gather as children become the foundations for how we understand our places in it as adults. What might the future look like if all children were taught about justice, equity, and solidarity alongside the alphabet and arithmetic? (7)
A Letter To Grown-Ups
How do we teach children how to treat each other in a world that promotes all the wrong lessons? How do we teach lessons that don’t repeat the mistakes we have made ourselves?
| IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All answers these questions with empathy and clarity. This book provides an introduction to the concepts of allyship and intersectionality for elementary school-aged children and their families, using the simple idea of “making room.” “Making room” goes beyond allowing somebody physical space. It means acknowledging our complex identities as sources of power within classrooms, communities, and cultures rather than treating difference as a threat, vulnerability, or a source of shame.
| “Making room” is stronger than ideas like “respect” and “tolerance” because it asks for a positive action from us rather than a minimal response. In order for us to gain an ally, we must be an ally, and do so in a way that combines initiative, solidarity, cooperation, and trustworthiness. In other words, don’t wait for someone else to do it!
… “Making room” is a habit of solidarity, like getting up every morning and brushing your teeth. It is something that is necessary to do over and over again to be healthy. When you first (8) learn solidarity you may make mistakes. But like brushing your teeth, you get better at it with practice. You will notice when you skipped over a tooth or ate too much candy, and how to adjust your actions int he future for better results. Solidarity is something anyone can learn and everyone needs to learn. (9)
What Is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality is a word that explains how all of the different parts of a person combine to affect their life experiences and personal identity. Age, ability, skin color, religion, citizenship, body size, and culture all make up our personal identity and influence who we are and how we live. (44)
The idea of intersectionality not only helps us understand who we are; it can also help us think about how we relate to other people. Thinking about race, class, gender, citizenship, and other identities together (rather than separately) can help us notice more opportunities for solidarity with people who are different from us. (44)