Reflection Paper for the Urgency of Intersectionality

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The Sociological Imagination: The Sociological Imagination is an awareness of the relationship between an individual and society. It is the ability to view one’s own society through the eyes of an ‘outsider,’ thus enabling one to broaden their view without, to a certain extent, allowing limited experiences and cultural biases to cloud their judgment. In ‘The Sociological Imagination,’ C. Wright Mills discusses how the two core aspects of the Sociological Imagination, namely the individual and society, cannot be understood separately, instead, they can only be understood by understanding both. Mills argues for the significance and necessity of the Sociological Imagination by explaining that an “individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period.” Here, Mills is arguing that one can only succeed in life if he is aware of his surroundings and all the “individuals in his circumstances.” Mills goes on to explain that although we may not know the full capabilities of one man, we have, over time, come to learn general trends of human nature, which have developed from generation to generation; therefore, each individual is inevitably shaping the society within which they live. This demonstrates the role of both history and present in the understanding of the Sociological Imagination, and the relationship between the two. By understanding oneself as simply a point in the intersections of past and present, one becomes significantly more self-aware and self-conscious.

Radical Empathy: Radical empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of someone who is drastically different from them. Mr. Sam Richards discusses this concept in his TED Talk ‘A Radical Experiment in Empathy.’ Mr. Richards commences his TED Talk by stating that empathy is the basis of all sociological understanding. It allows individuals to make sense of the ‘invisible forces’ that impact people on a daily basis. He then proceeds to explain to the audience his ‘radical experiment.’ In this experiment, he asks the audience to place themselves in the shoes of a middle-class, Arab, Muslim individual living in Iraq (you). You are aware that the only reason other countries, in particular the United States, are only interested in your country is because of oil - a resource that acts as the basis for the entire US economy. You are also aware of the growing militarization of the world and that the US is responsible for half the world’s military spending. The American soldiers are effective, in your eyes, invading your land and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, all for oil. Mr Richards then proceeds to show the audience an image of two Arab insurgents who have been caught by American soldiers, trying to kill American soldiers. If you now place yourself in the shoes of the American soldiers you can feel the rage they must be feeling; however, if you revert back to the shoes of the Arab individual, now, in particular, the two Arab insurgents who have been caught by the soldiers, you can see an entirely different perspective. You were attempting to harm American soldiers to provide a better future for your children, your family, and your country. To you these soldiers are the real criminals, they have invaded your land and killed your people and you are only doing what you think is right for your country. This radical experiment is particularly effective as Mr. Richards uses groups of people that are entirely different from one another, thus by allowing the audience to experience even a small moment of what it is like for the person on the other side, he is demonstrating how we can completely change our world view. By possessing the ability to be empathetic and view things from someone else’s perspective one can view everything in their life entirely differently, thus conveying the importance, on not only a societal level but on a global level, of empathy. Mr. Richards concludes the TED Talk with a quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky which says: “While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” This quote succinctly summarises the main message Mr Richards is arguing throughout his TED Talk; namely, that although is it an extremely difficult task to place oneself in the shoes of someone else, particularly someone who you view as doing wrong, it enables a more broad and understanding world view.

Frame: Frames are the concepts used to discuss certain topics, for example, loaded words provide a framework. Erving Goffman created the term and discussed it in his book ‘Frame Analysis.’ Goffman believed the term to mean the culturally determined definitions of reality that allow people to make sense of objects and events. For example, if a bottle of milk were to say ‘10% fat,’ and another was to say ’90% less fat,’ we would have different reactions to both items due to cognitive biases which would, in turn, affect our decision making.

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Intersectionality: Intersectionality refers to when an individual is impacted by multiple forces simultaneously; such as when social justice problems overlap, creating multiple levels of social injustice. Kimberlé Crenshaw discusses the concept of intersectionality in her TED Talk ‘The Urgency of Intersectionality.’ Crenshaw created the term ‘intersectionality’ after being exposed to a situation in which a woman she knew filed a lawsuit against a car manufacturer because she believed she was not hired because she was an African-American woman. The judge soon dismissed the case by arguing that the car manufacturer had employees who were black and had employees who were women; however, Crenshaw’s main point, which the judge did not seem to understand, was that although black people and women may both have been employed, there were no employees who were both black and women. She further explained that all the black employees were male and employed to do the manual labor, whereas the women were all white, hired to do desk work. The issue Crenshaw is making evident through this example is that there was a double level of discrimination the woman had to face. Rather than broadening the frame to protect black women, the court threw out the case, making it legally inconsequential; Crenshaw states in her TED talk that this, intersectionality, is therefore when one is “impacted by multiple forces and then abandoned to fend for yourself.” Intersectionality is an extremely poignant issue as it applies to such a vast array of people. Crenshaw also discusses the impact of classism, xenophobia, heterosexism, and ableism.

Institutions: Institutions are the rules referring to human behavior. In ‘Violence and Social Order,’ North, D.C., J.J. Wallis and B.R. Weingast describe institutions as the ‘rules of the game.’ They are “the patterns of interaction that govern and constrain the relationship of individuals.” Institutions include formal rules, written laws, informal norms of behavior, formal social conventions and shared beliefs about the world as well as the means of enforcement.

The Interaction Order: The Interaction Order addresses how individuals subconsciously change their behavior when around certain groups of people or when placed in particular social settings. Erving Goffman describes it “as a fact of our human condition that, for most of us, our daily life is spent in the immediate presence of others…The fact of social situatedness can be expected to have some consequences.” Goffman’s interaction order is particularly interested in impersonal relationships, as, like Zygmunt Bauman says, when we know people personally, we know what we “can and cannot expect from them.” Instead, Goffman wanted to explore the “regions and social situations in which we interact with others,” (referring to strangers.) This theory is significant as it examines situations that occur every moment of every day, and impact every individual, as whether it be subconsciously or consciously, any stimulus we are presented with has an effect on our behavior which is in turn projected externally onto the societal world we live in.

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Reflection Paper for the Urgency of Intersectionality. (2023, October 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from
“Reflection Paper for the Urgency of Intersectionality.” Edubirdie, 09 Oct. 2023,
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