Amber Ruffin Discusses Intersectionality at EDI’s Women’s Week Event


Tom Denton

Students on campus (Photo by Tom Denton | The Daily Utah Chronicle).



On March 8, The University of Utah’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion welcomed Amber Ruffin, the host of The Amber Ruffin show, as the Women’s Week keynote speaker via a Zoom webinar.

Ruffin, among hosting her own comedy show, is also a New York Times bestselling author and a lead writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers. EDI invited Ruffin to be the keynote speaker in hopes of inspiring attendees because she has “brilliantly used her platform as a comedian, writer and actress to speak to the hard-hitting issues of racism, sexism and politics.” 

The event began with an introduction and land acknowledgment from Mary Ann Villarreal, the Vice President of EDI. 

Ruffin began by thanking the volunteer committee for allowing her to be the keynote speaker at this event because she believes these types of events are important for creating a haven of intersectionality. She then spoke about her background and all the events in her life that led her to the success she has today. 

She told the story of a friend, Shannon, who forced her to move to Chicago to pursue a career in comedy improv. Ruffin then did different internships and was a nanny to be able to afford to pursue a creative career. In 2014, she was hired by Seth Meyers to be a writer on his show, making her the first black woman to write on a network late-night talk show. 

“Seth Meyers was the first boss I had who was a guy who didn’t treat me differently because I was a woman. Once I got a whiff of it, it was off to the races. I was listened to, I was encouraged and given total creative freedom,” Ruffin said. 

While working on her own show and various other projects, Ruffin and her sister Lacey Lamar, wrote a book entitled “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism.”

Ruffin discussed how racism impacts her sister, who Ruffin says is “always the only black person at her job and because of that she’s had an entire life filled with white people saying heinous things to her.” 

Following the discussion of the book, Ruffin broke down many components of history where Black women were disproportionately affected versus white women during typical times of women’s liberation. She discussed the true nature behind Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and how they broke apart from Frederick Douglass to pursue the cause of white female suffrage. 

Ruffin also talked about the theme of this year’s Women’s Week, Inspiring a Movement.

She addressed students of all majors, saying that in each field, you can do something to create a more equitable future. 

“If you’re a biochemistry, biomedical engineering or physics major, find out who the notable women and BIPOC people are in your field are and learn their stories of how they overcame the biases and sexism in their fields, then make sure no one has to overcome those things when they work alongside you,” Ruffin said. 

Ruffin noted that there is a lot to celebrate during Women’s Week, but there are also a lot of things to still be angry about. She said one of the best ways to continue progressing is to continue bringing up the past. 

“’Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ This quote is often attributed to Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill. The original person was Spanish philosopher, George Santayana. White men are constantly taking credit for other people’s creativity,” Ruffin said. 

After she was done speaking, the chat feature on Zoom was flooded with comments to Ruffin. Many of the comments were showing gratitude for her honesty and for providing them with inspiration. 

“Love your honesty about white women. We have to be open and honest about our complicity and how we have disproportionately benefited from feminism,” attendee Alexis Bucknam said. 

Ruffin took time to answer all questions from the ASUU Vice President Michelle Valdes and from Annie Fukushima, an Assistant Professor in the Division of Ethnic Studies. Questions were submitted prior to the event and ranged from navigating sexism and drawing inspiration to Ruffin’s favorite music and quarantine snacks.


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