The Perversity of Intersectionality
The recent furor over the relationship between the Women’s March leadership and Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan is beginning to subside — but its full import has yet to be appreciated.
The Women’s March, according to its website, seeks “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.” It is “a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues.”
Intersectionality is a recent state-of-the art term, defined by Merriam-Webster as “the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlay, and yes, intersect — especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.”
Tamika Mallory, co-president of the March, attended Farrakhan’s speech at the NOI’s annual Saviours’ Day celebration on February 25 in Chicago. At the event, Farrakhan specifically praised Mallory and her movement, and she subsequently posted an image of herself at the event on Instagram.
For Mallory this was nothing new — she has enjoyed a long and close relationship with the NOI, credits its leader with helping her through some difficult times, and has described Farrakhan as the “GOAT — greatest of all time.”
The problem is that Farrakhan, true to form, denounced Jews in his speech as well. He called Jews “satanic,” charged that the “powerful Jews” were his enemy, and declared them “responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men.”
Farrakhan despicable words were not surprising, given his decades-long history of anti-Jewish invective. But this proved embarrassing for Mallory and the Women’s March, whose devotion to intersectionality would presumably require opposition to prejudice aimed at Jewish women and homosexuals.
What to do? In a series of tweets, Mallory equivocated, but never once criticized Farrakhan.
She first suggested that the entire controversy was simply a tactic to impugn the March, saying: “The attacks can make us defensive at times. We are literally fighting for our lives.” But, lo and behold, “someone brought to my attention that over the past few days I never tweeted my absolute position on how wrong anti-Semitism and homophobia is.”
Her next tweet moved on to self-justification: “Contrary to others, I listen. I have been in deep reflection and trying to be thoughtful as possibly. … I won’t go back. I won’t redraw the lines of division.” Tweet number three urged “that we listen, reflect, attempt to understand, and give space for nuance and complexities of the different communities we come from.”
And finally, a tweet came clarifying that Mallory is “against all forms of racism … committed to ending anti-black racism, antisemitism, homophobia & transphobia,” and — she pointed out –“This is why I helped create an intersectional movement to bring groups together.”
The Women’s March itself released an official statement with the heading: “Anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism and white supremacy are and always will be indefensible.” But rather than condemn Farrakhan, it gingerly noted that the problem was one of “alignment”: His “statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles….”
But the true significance of the Women’s March’s flirtation with the NOI is much more alarming than mainstream press reports and explanations by March apologists indicate.
The Final Call, the NOI’s newspaper, printed long excerpts of Farrakhan’s speech in its February 27 issue. It turns out that what the March and its leader soft-pedaled was not just a series of random insults aimed at Jews and gays, but rather a full-blown conspiracy theory of Jewish perversity and world-control.
Jesus, said Farrakhan, came 2,000 years ago “to end the civilization of the Jews,” but failed in the attempt, and he — Louis Farrakhan — was sent to accomplish what Jesus couldn’t. Jews remain “the boss: this is their world.” In every country, he continued, Jews take on the national language and culture, “but they run the money, they run the business” — and in the US, for good measure, the FBI — so that “when there is a Jewish holiday, everything gets silent.”
“I know all of you have Jewish friends,” he went on, “I’ve got some, too. But when you know them, and you are not afraid to say who they really are, they move to destroy you.”
Rivers of Jewish blood have been spilled by proponents of such demonizing ideologies. If proponents of intersectionality like Tamika Mallory and the Women’s March can’t denounce this malign idiocy, and instead feel the need to include the NOI within their circle of “marginalized” groups, they assuredly can deserve no place in our democratic and pluralistic society.
Lawrence Grossman is the American Jewish Committee’s director of publications.