Intersectionality: An identity crisis
When it comes to intersectionality, there are rules that I can't seem to figure out. The story of Kamau Bobb, Google's former global diversity lead, highlights intersectionality's struggle with including Jews and Israel.
Intersectionality is an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing. So how does an acolyte of this modern sociological theory reconcile a conflict between a social aspect of a person's life with his political aspect?
To be more specific, how do we resolve the social aspect of being a citizen of Israel, which is considered by most adherents of woke ideology to be "apartheid," with the political aspect of one of history's longest oppressed religious minorities and a primary victim of genocide in the 20th century?
How do we determine the weight of these two aspects in the intersectional calculation? If they are equal, do they cancel each other out? If one has more weight, how is the value derived? Does the recency of "apartheid" account for more or less than the persecution, pogroms, and exile of almost 2,000 years?
Let's ask some questions about what happened to Mr. Bobb to see if we can solve the equation.
- No matter the time frame, how does a person whose career path put him on track to become the diversity lead at one of the most woke companies in the wokest of industries generalize such a thing about Jews?
- His diatribe lamenting the mentality of Jews in his homeland said nothing about LGBT people. But Google had to include that group in its statement on the reassignment: "The company said Bobb's remarks "caused deep offense and pain" to Jewish and LGBTQ+ employees." Why?
- According to the CNBC article, Mr. Bobb was "reassigned" and not terminated. Why?
At face value, it would seem to me that the recent accusations that Israel is an "apartheid state" outweigh the victimhood of Jewish oppression. But the more I pondered this question, the more I realized there were missing variables in the intersectional calculation, power, and privilege.
Most European Jews are Caucasian and, thanks to a fabricated anti-Semitic text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, are perceived as powerful and wealthy. Seen in this light, Jews as White holders of power, it now is clear why Kamau Bobb is able to generalize his assertions about Jews.
Why did Google have to include LBGT in its tepid condemnation of Bobb even though they are not mentioned in his post? I surmise that Google's people could not defend the move against him for what he said about Jews. They needed to include a more "intersectionally acceptable" (read: oppressed) group who was likewise offended as part of their justification for his reassignment.
And last, we can assume he was reassigned and not terminated because the offended party was advantaged and not disadvantaged. Recall Google engineer James Damore, who has autism. His ten-page memo questioned diversity and inclusion based on research he conducted. He offended intersectionally acceptable groups and was canceled outright.
David Schraub, a Berkeley Law professor, wrestled with this topic as well. In the abstract to his article "White Jews: An Intersectional Approach," he concludes, "What Whiteness 'does' to Jewishness is act as an accelerant for certain forms of anti-Semitic marginalization even as it ratifies a racialized hierarchy within the Jewish community. Absent an intersectional vantage, many political projects and controversies surrounding Jewish equality will be systematically misunderstood."
Alan Dershowitz summed things up more colloquially. In his 2017 opinion piece as Stanford University Student Council debated a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, he concluded, "Intersectionality has forced artificial coalitions between causes that have nothing to do with each other except a hatred for their fellow students who are 'privileged' because they are white, heterosexual, male and especially Jewish."
Maybe the followers of intersectionality need to take a time out and think about what they are perpetuating.
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