Intersectionality: Poison to the People

I would say that I am omitting the name of the persons that inspired this post to spare them any embarrassment or shame, but the truth is such emotions would be an elevation of the virus that is going around.

The plague I am referencing is the virus of intersectionality.

For those unfamiliar with this poisonous team, intersectionality operates on the premise that an individual has their feet in multiple modes of identity. A word that commonly accompanies discussions of intersectionality is the word “belong,” marking an individuals belonging to a sub-group that marks gender, sexual orientation, social economic status, education etc. To this I say that any person othered by blackness, identity is inherently intersectional—as the only group to which a person marked by blackness “belongs” is blackness.

It was a crisp night in New York City, the northeast temperature embarking on its yearly shift from warm to cool. I, engulfed with the directness to which racism influenced my life in the recent weeks, relayed my experiences to what I thought would be an empathetic ear. This is the response I received:

“I don’t experience racism, where I’m at. I do experience some classism, because most people are of a higher class. I experience the most push back because I’m gay. And its usually from black women.”

This comment, although shocking in its detachment from a shared experience, was not unique. I hear similar comments weekly in class from a person, marked by caricatured symbols of blackness, state that racism is secondary if not non-existent—her adversity stemming from the black community for her sexual orentation.

In explicating these comments I will provide commentary on two things:
1. Exceptionalism
2. Escapism

In separating the two, I do not strive to ignore the fact that exceptionalism is in fact escapism.

In asserting that one escapes racism once consummating entry into a certain “level” of society, one operates under the premise of exceptionalism. Namely, that racism is something inferior people, or those in inferior positions face. “Racism is a poor man’s game” to those bamboozled by a false belonging to a group dominated by whites seeking to unlock a new fold to their privilege. This bamboozlement consummates the systemically mutilated and mentally wounded’s entry into institutionalization. Moreover, this person exhibits the height of racism, or the racialized, in assuming the mental seizure in which the oppressed feels he or she has emulated or “matched” their oppressor. During slavery, this person would be the slave who is hired to police others—the slave that could be freed because “massa’” knows that the chains have permeated from wrists to mind—illustrating what Hortense Spillers called “pornotroping” in her essay “Mama’s Baby Papa’s Maybe.”

The element of escapism is something seen a lot with regards to racism. Pretending that another attribute of identity is more visceral that racism, often symbolizes an individual unwilling or unable to process the depths of racism. Rather than acknowledging the depth of black oppression or the extent of the black experience, it is far easy and much more socially acceptable to talk about the adversity of gender or sexual orientation. To discuss the conflict of intersectionality is to seem wordly and to gain support from those who wish to downplay the detriment of blackness, as they continue to gain from the systemic subjugation of black people. To talk of the struggles faced by blacks is to complain, to speak of other sub groups and their “struggle” for more power is to be cultured, in the bizarre logic of a society enabled by enslavement.

Jose Esteban Munoz distinguishes between multiculturalism and intersectionality in his work Disidentifications: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics. Specifically, Munoz cites multiculturalism as erasing through plurarity, and intersectionality as speaking to the way an individual relates to multiple identities. To this I vehemently disagree, mainly because of my relation to blackness. Intersectionality, for the black person, often serves as a bridge out of blackness—a way the black body climbs out of blackness into some other category dominated by whites who complain of an oppression to which they benefit. For the black collective, intersectionality is yet another means of oppression—another means for the dominant culture to say that “you don’t have it that bad, x,y,z have it worse.”

Lets examine the #metoo movement from multiple angles. The poison of  intersectionality presents a shaky bridge to which the oppressive magician places the black female between the toes of white women, yet convinces her that she stands beside the white woman in her attack on “man.” The issue then becomes, what we see with Women’s March Affiliate Tamika Mallory— an expectation to oppose the black man as well. Mallory, an affiliate to white female supremacist initiative “The Women’s March” faced a very public backpack for her association to what the white media deems black militants. On the surface, outrage speaks to the “anti-semitic” remarks of Louis Farrakhan, but covertly the outrage speaks to the expectation that black female bodies who wish to identify as women ignore the pervasive anti blackness that continues to dominate the globe.

The black male/female dynamic is antithetical to the white man/female dynamic, as the black man/female hold hands in a shared experience of oppression. Conversely, the white man both births, enables, and suppresses the white female in his dominance—his influence most pertinent in the white female thirst for white female supremacy—the veiled ambitions of the #metoo movement. Similarly the movement proves a bridge for the black man as well, with an fictive portrait of a “d*ckhunt.” The black man has always been portrayed and connotated as hyper- sexual and inclined to rape and sexual abuse, veiling the true sexual deviant—the white man. Thus, this attack on the white man, needs to be a lesson in the woes with white female interaction, not an invitation to incite brotherhood with he who oppresses.

Another example of the dangers imbued by intersectionality is Terry Crews. Now, for the conscious community, Crews has been problematic for performances that similarly mark his emasculation as a black male. As a supporter of the #metoo movement, although functioning as a “man” speaking out against the “unprejudiced” wrath of sexual assault—Crews function illustrates that he actually does not belong to a gender, as his male presence is a medley of genders—effeminate in content but masculine in form. In Mama’s Baby Papa’s Maybe, Hortense Spillers speaks to the conflict of gender with regards to blackness. Namely, that because of our enslavement, gender never truly developed within blackness, so, as those of us who share the experience of “blackness” know—the black woman has never been able to act as “woman,” and the black man has never been able to emerge as “man”—instead we lie buried beneath all that has caricatured our identity, and when beneficial to our oppressors, steered us into other groups to ensure they obtain rights black will never enjoy.

As blacks our experience is inherently multi-faceted— we face the plurality of struggle which operates on the unmoving platform of race. So if your are female, your experience with gender is race. If you are LGBT, your experience with sexual orientation is raced, and so on. To ignore these facts is to illustrate to the world that you do not understand racism, and are a canvass for covert attacks that pit the individual against their collective and ultimately themselves—and perhaps more detrimental— a means for those outside the black collective to assume agency in denouncing the black struggle, strengthened by the support of a melantaed sleep-walker (ie, the blacks 45, and other whites of so-called position to call upon to insist they are not racist and a pro at leadership, intellect, or what have you).

In contemplating these sentiments, my mind recalls a moment from the James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro”(2016), when a white male academic says that Baldwin would have more in common with a writer of any color, than a black person who did not write at all, just as he– a white man would have more in common with a black academic than a white person who did not believe in academia. This sentence articulates the poison that intersectionality inflicts onto the black community. Had Baldwin possessed the enslaved mentality suggested by this white man, he would not have authored prose like The Fire Next Time and Notes of a Native Son–as it was the connection with blackness that birthed his influence. He would have become a missionary for white supremacy and not a trailblazer in documenting the black experience. Both texts, like the contributions of countless blacks from Anna Julia Cooper to Brittany Cooper, convey a literacy of blackness essential to each and every person of African descent.

A literacy of blackness is just as important as air and water for those born black—the detriment of dehydration as fatal as a conscience consumed with inconspicuous anti-blackness.

So while this literacy allows me to empathize with those plagued by the nurture of our oppressive society, to see their words as a cough, sneeze or sign of a illness–this post functions to ensure that this poison does not become a plague. To provide the intellectual antibody to ensure that the sneeze or cough of an  “intersectional” black feminist, or LBGT activist does not imbue the collective erasure of black people.

Black Power ❤