Does Woke Intersectionality Require Individual Rights?

The “woke” assumptions of critical theory (CT), critical race theory (CRT), and intersectionality come from defective cognition that can easily be spotted by those who study formal logic – a discipline becoming harder to find in today’s woke government schools. As I showed in a recent article, despite containing a fallacy that was discarded back in the 12th century, even architectural firms such as the Smithgroup are embracing woke theories such as CRT. we don’t expect architects to be great thinkers, but when a company falls for a scam, you have to roll your eyes a bit.

There was a time when the failure to meet logical standards required rejecting a theory. But that won’t stop today’s critical theorists and their faith-based spinoff religions. Why? Because they refuse to submit to an external logical critique.

To them, the system of Western logic itself – the system that is used to construct bridges that stand upright, that enables surgeons to operate successfully, and enables aerospace engineers to design and build airplanes that fly without crashing – is intrinsically biased.  They see formal logic as a “socially constructed” form of white-male oppression.  

Instead, they prefer an epistemology based on claims of “my truth,” the idea that there are as many standards for establishing knowledge as there are people with a “lived experience”: My truth, my experience. Once we understand that CRT advocates dismiss any universal standard of logic, we can see how they get away with their diversity-inclusion scams.

But what if we suspend our “outsider” critique? What if we examine critical theory from within and discover that its own internal requirements and structure cause it to self-destruct? Moreover, what if intersectionality not only repudiates itself but actually demands the restoration of the Western classical-liberal tradition of individual rights and the sanctity of the individual over the concept of “group rights” embodied in critical theory? Let’s see how this can be done.

Kimberlé Crenshaw and Her Intersecting Collectives

In their book, Cynical Theories, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay trace the postmodern origins of critical theory, critical race theory, intersectionality, and the host of “grievance studies” that include disability, women’s, queer, and fat studies – to name just a few. All are fueled by some form of resentment that – we are told – can only be addressed by granting special privileges to groups of oppressed victims defined by their identity politics. These new privileges are based, not on the actual personal circumstances, suffering, or meritorious action of real individuals, but rather on membership in conceptual groups organized around skin color, geographic origin, genitalia, sexual preference, gender identity, or other politically exploitable criteria.

With such identity groups recognized as the ultimate reality, a living, breathing, poor white male orphan born in a trailer park is considered an “oppressor,” and a black female millionaire such as Michelle Obama, who was born in a politically connected two-parent family, is considered “oppressed.” How can this happen? The answer is “intersectionality.”

For those who have not read Cynical Theories, James Lindsay outlines this process in a two-part video entitled, “Forging the Woke One Ring: Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins.” Lindsay explains that a paper written by Kimberlé Crenshaw and published under the title “Mapping the Margins” in Stanford Law Review in 1991, identified what amounts to “layers” of different kinds of oppression that are experienced by various “identity categories” or groups that have unequal access to resources.

Crenshaw complained, for example, that the feminist movement was unable to right the wrongs that abused black women faced because standard feminism was created by and focused mainly on the experiences of white women alone. Feminism ignored that black women faced a singular experience of racism and sexism. She also pointed out that a focus on racism alone – as in the civil rights movement – was inadequate because it focused primarily on improving the lot of black men vis-à-vis white men, ignoring women’s experience. That’s why they throw Martin Luther King Jr. and his emphasis on the “content of our character” under the bus.

To address the black women’s special experience – subjected to both racism (because they are black) and sexism (because they are women) – Crenshaw posited applying laws that addressed the unique “intersection” of their black identity and their female identity. The invention of this new “intersectional” identity, wrote Crenshaw, was necessary to address both dimensions of oppression faced by black women. Thus, we have the birth of intersectional politics.

How to Win the Oppression Olympics

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectional approach can be vastly extended to people who are members of multiple “oppressed identity categories” organized by sex, skin color, geographic origin, sexual preference, gender identity, body weight, disability, etc. The more oppressed identity categories you can tally, the more intersections of oppression you experience. In a kind of “Oppression Olympics,” a conjectural “most oppressed” category would consist of someone with lots of intersecting oppressed identities – an overweight black gender-fluid female with a disability. Five, count ‘em, five intersecting identities!

But as we shall see, this expansion to more and more identity categories is the Achilles heel of intersectional political theory. Why? Because we are all members of many thousands of identity categories that shift and change every day based on where we are and what we do and see that day. We have identities as mothers and fathers, workers and slackers, students and teachers, ugly and beautiful, athletic and clumsy, alcohol drinkers and abstainers, stupid and brilliant. The list goes on and on without limit.

The Ultimate Intersectional Identity: The Individual

If each of us embodies a potentially infinite number of identity categories, where does it end? Answer: the individual. In other words, by means of a reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity), the internal rules of intersectionality require support for the Western liberal tradition of individual rights and liberty consisting of the non-aggression principle (NAP), self-ownership, and property rights.

Ms. Crenshaw might object at this point, however, by saying that most of these identities do not include very much oppression. But the answer to that objection is clear: Isn’t the individual the smallest, most vulnerable, least represented, and consequently the most easily oppressed minority? Standing alone against the mass of humanity, isn’t the individual human being the most likely to be trampled by a political stampede of “group rights” and voting majorities eager to exploit minorities? And if “my truth” is the gauge of knowledge in an intersectional world, isn’t the greatest truth that of the lone, unique person?

It’s time to reject the attack on individuals leveled by critical theorists. After all, how is the current habit of granting privileges to collective group rights over individual rights any different from the worldview of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP or Nazi), which stamped its coins Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz on the reverse face: The “collective good goes before one’s own good”? And why spread this dangerous worldview to children in government schools as President Biden demands?

Lawrence M. Ludlow provides international analyses, marketing, and business writing services. He holds an M.A. in medieval studies from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies and has lectured on manuscripts, early printing, and art history.

IMAGE: Intersectionality Venn Diagram by Andrea Widburg

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