This week, the Chicago Dyke March, a precursor to the Chicago Pride Parade, ejected participants who were waving a rainbow flag with a Star of David emblazoned on it because it was “triggering” and some participants “felt unsafe” when they saw it. In response to accusations of anti-Semitism, the organizers admitted they had asked the Jewish participants to leave, stating that the march was explicitly anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian, and asserting that a Star of David on a Pride flag represents the flag of Israel. The historical ignorance required to claim that the Star of David is exclusively associated with Israel is staggering – after all, millions of Jews were forced to wear it during the greatest genocide in human history, whether they were Zionists or not. However, that is not the subject of this blog post. The question I want to ask is how on earth did we reach a point where gay Jews are ejected from a Pride parade for celebrating that they are gay and Jewish? While I think there is a hefty helping of anti-Semitism involved in the organizers’ actions (as Chris Rock says, that train is never late) the broader trend that produced this ridiculous result is the left’s disavowal of inclusiveness in favor of intersectionality.
What is Intersectionality?
Intersectionality is “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.” While it is important to understand how intersecting identities can place a greater burden of oppression on some groups and individuals than on others, introducing intersectionality as a test for participation in political activism seems destined to minimize the number of people who will rally around a given cause. If I support gay rights, but I disagree with abortion rights, can I participate in an event for the gay community? What about if I support same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, but I advocate stricter immigration laws? Every person has a variety of reasons for reaching his or her political opinions. Almost no one will be persuaded to look at every single political issue and, abjuring all self-interest, use the avoidance of potential oppression as the sole metric for deciding how to vote. This incident is probably the best example I have seen of how intersectionality is destroying left wing activism by introducing the notion that movements supporting the rights of minorities and women should not only join together, but should be focused only on the interests of the individuals who can produce the longest list of oppressed identities.
Intersectionality or inclusion?
In previous eras, successful activists have picked a cause, invited everyone who believes in that cause to join in their activism (whether they have disagreements around other issues or not), and worked to achieve their goal. Intersectionality in activism has replaced uniting disparate people behind goals with amalgamating oppressed identities, and that has replaced inclusion with exclusion. The Chicago Dyke March touts itself as an inclusive celebration of “dyke, trans, and queer solidarity,” but is it? It prioritizes its advocacy of other issues, including anti-Zionism, over its inclusion of the entire queer community. As a result, it tossed out participants waving a Jewish Pride flag while accepting a woman with a Pride flag sporting a crescent that resembled the flags of Turkey and Pakistan, both of which have human rights records worse than that of Israel. This result isn’t just stupid, it’s unproductive. If left-wing grassroots activists try to run their movement by compiling a list of every marginalized identity, and only include people who can sign on to support every single issue affecting each identity on that list, the movement will fail. This behavior is the opposite of inclusive. It is exclusive.
Stop the friendly fire
I’m sure plenty on the left may tell me I should not be saying any of this because I am a straight, cisgendered WASP, and my role is therefore to be supportive of others’ activism. I am supportive, and I will continue to vote in favor of the rights of my fellow LGBTQ, Black, Hispanic, and other disadvantaged Americans, whether I think a given activist’s tactics work or not. I am the converted. However, being supportive does not mean being silent. A good friend and ally tells you the truth, and the truth is this: excluding bases of support in order to avoid “triggering” people is the wrong road to walk down. Doing so is particularly foolish if you are excluding the Jewish members of your community. Whatever you might think of the State of Israel, Jewish Americans have stood up and been counted in support of their fellow Americans’ civil rights. Jewish lawyers worked for Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when that wasn’t popular. Jewish Justices like Louis Brandeis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been liberal voices on the Supreme Court. Rabbis marched in support of the Civil Rights movement. If you are throwing Jews out of your civil rights demonstration for identifying themselves with a Star of David, there is something wrong with your philosophy. Sometimes things really are that simple.