Interview with Kiyun Kim: Why the intersectional approach is the only way to #AccelerateAcceptance

GLAAD sat down with Kiyun Kim, creator of the photo project Racial Microaggressions, to talk intersectionality and representation.

Kiyun Kim is a Visual Arts major at Fordham University. She created her photo project for an assignment that instructed her to create "something honest." Kim decided to explore racial microaggressions; "the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated," because she wanted to bring attention to the small daily comments people of color face. Often, people think about overt or intentional acts when they think of racism, but racism can shape even the most minor social exchanges.

Kim's work resonated with people around the world. Kim could never have predicted that her posts would receive over 150,000 notes on Tumblr and become a top post on BuzzFeed with almost 2.8 million views.


"Often when we speak out about it, people tell us, 'oh they're just ignorant' or 'they are curious.' Our voices are silenced. I wanted other people of color to empathize and connect to the issue, and maybe use it as a way to tell others hey, this happens to me, and it hurts me. I wanted people to reflect on themselves as well, because I know I've personally committed some microaggressions to other people of color."

Microaggressions show just how pervasive racial bias can be, that one can enact racism unknowingly, and with good intentions. Nevertheless, microaggressions are indicative of a violent truth in our country, and Kim’s work shines a spotlight on this truth: that racist beliefs continue to shape our discourse, even and especially when we are not cognisant of it.


So how can we work against an injustice so deeply embedded in our culture? For Kim, it begins with changing hearts and minds. "Racism and heterosexism are upheld through institutions, but those institutions are run by individual people, ourselves. We need to start unlearning the toxic behaviors and thoughts we've learned to make progress."

To this end, it is essential that there is media representation of people living at every intersection of identity. "Representation is crucial, even required. I think one can feel a very odd alienation when they're not represented… Intersectional representation allows people to feel connected and less alone."

We want to create and participate in a nuanced movement that serves to improve the lives of every member, we must discuss the ways in which class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and all facets of identity intersect. Individual people’s realities are shaped by the interplay of these identities, and the mission to accelerate acceptance must always keep this in mind.

"I think it's hard to talk about any type of oppression without talking about all the intersections of oppression. Yet at the same time, it's hard to talk about everything at the same time. In terms of how racism and heterosexism exist, I think about queer people of color. I think about the transwomen of color whose credit are always overlooked in Stonewall."

We #AccelerateAcceptance by telling those untold stories, by raising each other's voices.