A friend of mine recently observed that the Feminists of the first wave in the 1800s and the Abolitionists appeared to have worked closely together in order to achieve the dual goals of freeing slaves and expanding the rights of women. But currently it appears that various groups of marginalized people (and their allies) often work at cross purposes. Why is that? I nominate the idea of intersectionality taken too far as the likely candidate. Intersectionality is defined by Merriam-Webster as
…the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.
This seems to me to be an important and useful concept, but not an entirely new one. It is clear that people often belong to more than one marginalized group and sometimes many marginalized groups. Surely the experience of a White woman is different from the experience of a Black woman – is different from the experience of a Black lesbian woman – is different from the experience of a Black lesbian Jewish woman. This needs to be recognized. But if our gaze is so strongly focused on the intersectionalities, we run the risk of becoming fragmented into hundreds of small and separate groups with competing agendas and views. This is a very dangerous place to be now when there is so much politically at stake. We can recognize the differences between us and try to understand each other’s points of view. But we cannot afford to be splintered into bickering tribes. This only plays into the hands of the people oppressing every one of those groups. I, as a white lesbian woman certainly do not fully understand the experience of someone who is Black or Brown or transgender, but I will surely be more empathic and try to do more to help than the cicgender straight white men who do the majority of the oppressing. I may not get it 100% right, but I will try to understand and provide support.
Along those lines, I also think it is time to give Democrats who “aren’t doing enough” credit for at least doing something – or trying to do something. Stop criticizing Joe Biden for not getting much done when it is clear that the Republican oppressors and obstructors are making it almost impossible for him to do anything. Let’s have some positive feedback for the huge effort and the gains, no matter if they are not all of the gains we would like to see. And let’s put the blame for not making progress squarely where it belongs – on the likes of Mitch McConnell, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Margery Taylor Green, and all of their ilk including Donald Trump. These are the folks who think making America great is to return it to white supremacy and male supremacy and to tear down freedom of religion for a Christian theocracy.
My favorite bumper sticker is still the one that says: The Majority of Us Belong to Some Minority Group. If we all stay together and stay on course and committed we do outnumber our oppressors. We can vote the white supremacists and bigots and religious zealots and haters out of office and use our power to empower others – even, I suppose, the white supremacist zealots.
© 2022 – Chris D. Cooper