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Many of the Kids Have Stress Too! and Stress Lessons activities ask students to think about the origins of their stress which might be uncomfortable at times, especially if the stressor is one related to systemic barriers or aspects of a student’s identity such as race, creed, sexual/gender identity, disability, or socioeconomic status.  It can be uncomfortable to discuss these topics, and educators may avoid them for fear of misspeaking or unintentionally harming students.

To create safer spaces where students won’t feel judged about sharing any type of stressor, we must first examine our own understanding and comfort with discussing issues such as identity, location, intersectionality[1], power, and oppression. As educators, we need to begin with our own self-reflection because how we approach these topics will determine how students approach them.

  • [1] Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, religion, and other identity markers as they apply to a given individual or group, which create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. For example, Intersectionality recognizes that identity markers (e.g. “woman” or “black”) do not exist independently of each other, and that each informs the others, often creating a complex convergence of oppression. In this example, in order to understand the oppression of Black women, it is necessary to look at the intersection of blackness and womanhood. This works the same way for markers of identity that embody privilege (e.g. “white”, “man”, “rich”, or “straight”). All aspects of our identities – whether those aspects are oppressed or privileged by society – interact with one another. We experience the aspects of our identities collectively and simultaneously, not individually. The aspects of our identities that are privileged can also affect the aspects that are oppressed. Yes, privilege and oppression intersect — but they don’t negate one another.