Intersectionality is all the rage in politics these days, and has even caught on in academia. The idea of intersectionality is that to truly understand injustice you have to focus on multiple identities at the same time. That is because these identities "intersect" and create uniquely oppressed people. For example, a black woman in the United States as unique problems that neither a white woman or black man have. You can't just combine the "woman" problems that the white woman has and the "black" problems the black man has to understand a black woman's experience. Those identities combine to create unique issues for her. This idea originated long ago, but until recently was only popular in more left-wing academic spaces at universities. It became more popular through Tumblr and similar sites in the early 2010s. This article was inspired by a poster at my school stressing the need to be aware specifically of black, transgender, working class, undocumented activists.
The purpose of this article is not to disprove the whole theory of intersectionality, but rather to express my deep frustration at how it is used in political movements. These days it seems like every left-leaning political movement in the United States has to be intersectional - it has to address all injustices. You can't have a gay rights movement - you have to add black lives matter on to the flag. You can't have a disabilities rights movements, it has to include the unique issues of gay disabled people. And you CERTAINLY can't have a movement for working class people that doesn't focus just as much on Black Lives Matter and Immigrant rights as class.
To be clear, I consider myself to be left-leaning, possibly even left-wing in some of my views. I know that black people in the United States face discrimination, especially at the hands of the police. I support gay marriage, non-discrimination projects, and the right to adopt. I support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if they pay a fine, pass a background check, and have to wait as long as legal immigrants to get citizenship. I support universal healthcare and a living wage. I'm no Conservative, but I also see the pitfalls of intersectionality for all of the movements I support.
The problem comes when somebody doesn't support one part of your intersectional movement that targets every issue at once. For example, I'd be happy to join a march in favor of universal healthcare, but I would never join one in favor of abolishing the police. If you are marching for both together, I would not join. In the United States there are many working class people who do not support immigration or the black lives matter movement. There are many rich gay people who do not support socialist policies. Every time you add another identity issue to your movement, you are dividing the number of people who might support you. You are weakening your movement until it only appeals to the proverbial least privileged person on Earth.
The below graph proves my point. The red circle I have added in the middle show the only people who would support such a movement.
They might agree with a movement on three or four of those issues, but they would never support it because of the other issues. This leads to a broken movement with so little popular support it can never get anywhere.
The solution to this is simple - accept that it is alright for movements to just focus on one issue. Not everything has to be about everyone. It's alright to just have a gay rights movement, or a civil rights movement, or a worker's rights movement. In fact, that's probably the only way to really get things done. If you try to include every struggle, your movements will die divided 1,000 ways.
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Wow...wonderful and great write up