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When not talking about the borders of a page, margins can be described as areas of limitation and oppression. Areas where there is a sense of inferiority; margins can be seen as a place that is set apart from the norm. Margins are an incorporeal idea but have been seen all over the world throughout history. When looking at margins through a perspective of migrations and spaces, one can understand how people from the margins of a society get to experience a life outside of it; even if it is only for a short period of time. Another view could be how people can experience oppression, which can sometimes put them in multiple margins that can even cross over. This idea is called intersectionality. Lastly, one can notice how margins can be seen as a sight of rebellion and resistance. These ideas can be seen in texts written by Bell Hooks, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Toni Cade Bambara.

‘The Lesson’ by Toni Cade Bambara is about a young girl named Sylvia who is exposed to another part of the city in which she lives, and how her point of view of life is changed as a result. Miss Moore, a college educated African-American women, moves into Sylvia’s neighborhood and takes responsibility “for the young ones’ education” (Bambara, 1). She takes a group of children including Sylvia and her friend Sugar to a toy store located in the city. On the way there, Miss Moore talks about money, how much things cost, how much parents are making, and about the overall economic inequality that occurs in the country. Once they arrive to the store and get off the taxi, Sylvia notices a lady wearing a fur coat during the hot summer day and says, “white folks crazy” (Bambara, 2), showing her reaction to seeing different people and her view of different people. Outside the toy store the children peek through the windows to see toys and other items along with their prices which are greatly higher than what they would have ever expected. One of the sailboats costed $1,195 and shocked all the kids, including Sylvia herself, who is shown to be someone who isn’t easily surprised. Miss Moore then tells the kids that they should go inside, but the children seemed reluctant; even Sylvia, who, with her extremely confident and arrogant personality, was feeling “funny and shame” (Bambara, 3). Upon returning home, Miss Moore tells the children to imagine “what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven” (Bambara, 4). Sugar replies by saying that “this ain’t much of a democracy…equal chance to pursue happiness means equal crack at the dough, don’t it?” (Bambara, 4). These two quotes help summarize the text’s argument towards race, inequality, class, and education. The text shows how two areas of a city, that are a short cab ride distance apart, are shown to be two different worlds, in which the people of each ‘world’ don’t go to the other. The children had never gone to this area and everything was so different as were the people. Also, it is shown how there is such a big economic gap between the two areas as the price of a toy in one area is the same as ones rent in the other area. This was shown to be such a surprise to Sylvia on the subway ride home. Also, the theme of race is also implemented in the text, as the poorer area was implied to contain primarily African-Americans, while the richer area was implied to primarily contain Caucasians. This is shown from the fact that the group of children were African-American, and when the group arrived to the richer area, Sylvia saw a white lady and stated how white folks are crazy. Lastly, education is also an important theme that is implemented in the text’s argument, as Miss Moore’s education gave her the ability to recognize this margin between the two areas, and can then educate others about this difference.

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In her preface to the first edition of ‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center’, Bell Hooks states that “to be in the margins is to be a part of the whole, but outside the main body”. This basically means how the ‘main’ part of society is the part that is considered the norm. This is something that is accepted and is in a sense in a superior state. Anything outside that is then placed in the margins. Continuing with her preface, Hooks talks about a small Kentucky town where black Americans lived on one side of a certain set of railroad tracks. On the other side was a whole other world in which they were only allowed to go for work. They were not accepted in that world if they were not working, as that was the only reason they would go across the tracks. Hooks states that “we always had to return to the margin, to beyond the tracks, to shacks and abandoned houses on the edge of town”. This shows how the side on which the black Americans lived was a side that was poor and inferior to the other side. It goes to show a one part of town that is walking distance away from another part of town are seen as two different worlds that are completely different. There is a lot of inequality and oppression shown in the text as the black Americans were not allowed to stay if they were not working. This shows how the people that were part of the “main body” did not accept the black Americans and that they even created “laws to ensure [their] return” (Hooks). Another point to consider is how the black Americans were able to experience the other world and were able to leave the margins momentarily, but this did not happen the other way around. The people that were outside the margins never went into the margins, or across the railroad tracks to the poorer side of the town. They didn’t get to experience entering a new world, and one can assume that it is because of their sense of pride, as they would not want to go to an inferior part of town. It could also be the fact that they are unable to recognize margins, or at least the problem of margins. Lastly, Hooks goes over the fact that the black Americans were able to create a rebellious mentality. Hooks states that the fact that they were able to see the place outside of the margins and the fact that they were able to recognize their oppressors gave them sustenance and allowed them to transcend poverty and despair. This had the overall effect of strengthening their sense of self and solidarity.

In the second part of Kimberle Crenshaw’s ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color’, Crenshaw talks about intersectionality with immigrants, more specifically with women of color. On page 1252, Crenshaw talks about the political aspect of intersectionality and the failure to address issues. To summarize the beginning part, Crenshaw states how back in the day there would be organizations to fight for rights for certain people. The two main groups that she talks about are the feminist’s group and the anti-racist group. Being a woman of color during that time, one would assume that a woman of color would be able to seek refuge and aid from both of these organizations but that was not the case. Crenshaw explains how even though women of color would seek aid from these organizations to escape the margins, it ended up not failing to address their situations. The anti-racist movement was more directed toward the colored man. Their vision and goals did not include women of color as well. Also, with the feminist group, Crenshaw states how they were led by white women, and when they were fighting to equality, they were doing it for white women in the country. Therefore, being a woman of color meant that one could not seek aid while being in the margins.

The three texts previously mentioned really show the ideas of margins and intersectionality. According to Bell Hooks, “To be in the margins is to be a part of the whole, but outside the main body”. When looking at ‘The Lesson’, it is clear to see that Sylvia and her friends are living in the margins. They live in New York City and therefore are part of the whole, but they also live in an area which is seen to be on the outside of an area which is economically and socially higher. This area is therefore seen to be as the ‘main body’. The idea of intersectionality comes in when the group of children that are from a margin that is economically disadvantaged and primarily contains a certain race, are exposed to an area that is the opposite. They are exposed to something they have never seen before. This was also shown in Bell Hooks’ foreword to the first edition of ‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center’, where black Americans in a small Kentucky town would live on one side of a set of rail-road tracks. On the other side was an area in which they worked. This was an area in which there was another world, a world where these black-Americans were allowed to work and do nothing else. This was an area that was also economically and socially superior to the side in which the black Americans lived. This idea of intersectionality and exposure can be seen to give light to the idea of seeing margins as a sight of resistance and resilience. In ‘The Lesson’, after seeing the toy store, Sylvia is seen to be angry and ashamed. It bothered her that there was this other world in which things were so expensive, and how the social classes were playing such a big role. In Bell Hooks’ foreword, the black Americans used knowledge of having a different view of life to “strengthen [their] sense of self and [their] solidarity”. Lastly, it was shown in Crenshaw’s text how intersectionality played a negative role politically in women of color’s lives as they could not seek aid. This is a problem that has happened throughout history and occurs even today. Many people live in the margins and try to escape it, but are unable to because people that are on the outside of the margins fails to help or even recognize people in the margins. Recognizing these situations is very important as the problems of having such margins still exist today, and looking at these examples, people should take into consideration ways to get rid of such margins, as they create imbalances in a world in which there is only one race of humans, and not certain groups or classes.

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