Thursday 5 January 2017

Intersectionality: a cure for "quiet" racism and bigotry

Whether it's sexual orientation, age, religion, race, gender or different levels of ability, every issue impacts different groups in different often unexpected ways. The social consequences of being gay for example vary significantly across ethnic, religious and even different age groups, and the solution to each “section’s” challenges needs specific consideration. One size, in this case, does not fit all. Intersectionality is the name given to the differentiated impacts of issues on different groups or sections of society, and the more each group finds its voice the more they articulate what their section's experiences are.

The more I go, the more important this seems, and to think I only started to think about intersectionality after a brilliant series of posts on Huffpost  around the time of Trump’s Presidential campaign. One article had a woman talking about feminism and how it is often just thought of in terms of the rights and opportunities for WHITE women without really addressing the special issues faced by non-white women.

Mono issue warriors
I suspect the important thing is to avoid a situation where your mono issue, framed in the narrative and needs of your specific section, is pursued at the cost of its negative impacts on other sections. There are very few homogenised societies in the world owing to migration, and it is patently unfair, even sometimes illegal, to deny the rights of any subsets of human beings. Yet I see Muslims who only pipe up when the Middle East is mentioned; Christians who have an almost familial attachment to Israel and the "holy lands" overlooking the injustices meted out to Palestinians; Brits who think primarily of the concerns of native born white Brits above those of other Brits; even men who moan about being discriminated against (when what they probably really mean is they can't behave like monsters to women with impunity​).

Red flag
What makes me suspicious of such people is that they seem to want to replace one hegemony with another. They're just sad their section is not top dog, and lacking sensitivity to others’ needs and rights would be every bit as oppressive to them should they have their issues resolved. Diversity is a multiple edged sword. You can't bang on about your issues without having sensitivity to those of others. Quiet racists, quiet religious bigots, quiet cultural bigots don't understand Intersectionality at all, and it's a big red flag.