Saturday, December 3rd | 10 Kislev 5783

September 15, 2017 11:14 am

Intersectionality: The New False God

avatar by Jeremy Rosen


Black Lives Matter protesters in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Jose Lopez, from Black Lives Matter website.

When young people arrive at college today, they are likely to be confronted by a new, dogmatic orthodoxy. It has nothing to do with religion, but it has all the negative hallmarks of fundamentalism. It is the theory of intersectionality. This means, in a nutshell, that everyone must oppose every form of oppression. That sounds fair enough; I would agree with that in principle. But then you read the small print.

Intersectionality means that people should never be exposed to a contrary point of view — because it might upset someone else’s sense of identity, security and well-being. The marketplace of ideas used to be free and open. Now it has become restricted and closed — policed by cowards who don’t even dare to listen to the other side.

Typical of this new orthodoxy is the logically nonsensical proposition that all colonialists and imperialists were white males — and therefore, all white males are evil. America is a white-male-dominated imperialist power. America supports Israel. Israel is oppressing Palestinians. Therefore, Israelis are imperialists and sexist. As if there were no Asian, African or Arab oppressors or imperialists … ever. As if Jews never had a homeland or a right to return to it. One man’s imperialist is another man’s freedom fighter and vice versa.

Here is what Professor Alan Dershowitz recently wrote about intersectionality:

What do the terrorist group Hamas and the anti-violence group Black Lives Matter have in common? What does the democracy of Israel have in common with the anti-Semitic Ku Klux Klan? What does the Islamic Republic of Iran, which throws gays off rooftops, have in common with gay rights activists? What do feminists have in common with radical Islamic sexists who support the honor killing and genital mutilation of women? Nothing of course. Unless you subscribe to the pseudo-academic concept of intersectionality — the radical academic theory, which holds that all forms of social oppression are inexorably linked — which has become a code word for anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bigotry.

Nowhere has adoption of this radical paradigm been more pronounced than on college campuses where, in the name of “identity politics” and “solidarity,” intersectionality has forced artificial coalitions between causes that have nothing to do with each other except a hatred for their fellow students who are “privileged” because they are white, heterosexual, male and especially Jewish.

Intersectionality started out as a theory to explain black disadvantage and then migrated into feminism; it has now metastasized into almost every corner of the non-scientific academic world. It maintains that multiple identities intersect to create a common whole that is different from the component identities.

During a recent interview on PBS’ “Charlie Rose” program, Jonathan Haidt (a professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business) said:

There is a good kind of identity politics, which is, if black people are being denied rights, let’s fight for their rights, that’s the good kind. But there is a bad kind, which is to train students, train young people to say let’s divide everybody up by their race, gender, other categories. We’ll assign them moral merit based on their level of privilege is bad, and victimhood is good. Okay, now let’s look at everything through this lens. Israel, the Palestinians are the victims. So therefore, they are the good and the Jews or the Israelis are the bad… here is one totalizing perspective. All social problems get reduced to this simple framework. I think we are doing them a disservice. I think we’re actually making students less wise.

All simplistic slogans sound good. Make love not war. All humans are created equal. Marxism sounds good, superficially. But there has never been a Marxist society that either you or I would want to live in. Religions sound good too, but in pursuit of their fine ideals, religions have all committed crimes against individuals who dissent or challenge them.

Gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical and mental disability, as well as other forms of identity, can all intersect. But there is no singular experience of identity. For example, rather than understanding health solely through the lens of gender, it is necessary to consider other social categories such as class, ability, nation or race. That is legitimate. But it is not legitimate to decide who should be excluded without giving them the right to defend their position.

Such a theory, when applied by people with bias, will inevitably be biased itself. All radical movements, coming from a leftist and a rightist position, carry with them biases, and both extremes do indeed justify violence from different ideological standpoints. I am neither right nor left. I find neofascist Nazism particularly abhorrent, and there is a special case to be made to ban it altogether, as they do in Europe, because it incites hatred and violence. On the left, violence is often used as a means to an end. I hate both, even if one certainly strikes me as worse.

In truth, there are two kinds of intersectionality — exclusive and inclusive. The inclusive side is similar to the Torah’s. We should, as Jews, sympathize with anyone that is oppressed, regardless of race, sex or creed. Only those who actively try to destroy us or our way of life should be excluded.

When students with inquisitive minds get to college, they should explore and possibly identify with groups that are trying to improve the world and humanity. But on many campuses, students are being forced to choose. You cannot be pro-Israel (warts and all, and who has no warts?) and strive to solve the problems of Muslims or other victims around the world. This cannot make sense, or be just.

To make matters worse, the issues can’t even be discussed, because some pathetic, gutless, ninnies feel threatened simply by having to face the possibility of another point of view. How is it ever possible to hope for a resolution if discussion is forbidden and crying “abuse” becomes an argument??

This exclusionary kind of intersectionality has morphed into the politics of sectional identity. We have seen blacks exclude Jews, as if Jews had never suffered; lesbians exclude Zionists, as if Zionists have never been discriminated against. Citing intersectionality, these people give free passes to those from religious and ethnic communities whose very communities oppress lesbians, gays, and atheists or refuse to give other religions equal rights. Black Lives Matter advocates preaching intersectionality will feel comfortable with Hezbollah, Hamas and the PLO — even though these groups are fundamentally racist.

This is the kind of poisonous exclusionary intersectionality that we must reject; instead of helping bring peace and understanding, it simply forces the different sides further apart and leads to retrenchment, not openness. There might be a lot that is wrong with religion nowadays. But there’s just as much wrong with the secular world, too.

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