OpinionWorld News

A better, non-racist intersectionality

Western intersectionality makes it impossible for the victims of Islamic oppression in the Middle East and Africa to have their voices heard.

Mourners in Zabarmari, Nigeria attend the funeral of 43 farm workers, who were killed by Islamist Boko Haram terrorists, on Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: Audu Marte / AFP via Getty Images.
Mourners in Zabarmari, Nigeria attend the funeral of 43 farm workers, who were killed by Islamist Boko Haram terrorists, on Nov. 29, 2020. Credit: Audu Marte / AFP via Getty Images.
Simon Deng, an escaped jihad slave from South Sudan, is accompanied in Israel by Dr. Charles Jacobs (pictured), President of the American Anti-Slavery group.
Charles Jacobs
Charles Jacobs is co-founder of the Jewish Leadership Project.
Stephen S. Enada
Stephen S. Enada is the executive president and co-founder of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON).
Dumisani Washington
Dumisani Washington is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI).

Intersectionality is the idea that victims of oppression should join together and support each other’s causes. It has become a driving force, spreading beyond academia and social justice circles into the broader American society.

There are good reasons why this idea has become taken up by so many: The notion of organizing victims against tyranny is a laudable goal.

There are, however, two serious flaws in intersectionality as it is currently conceived:

First, it assigns the labels “oppressors” and “victims” to groups, not individuals. This misses fundamental truths about human nature: Every individual has agency, can be moral or immoral, and does not automatically share the guilt of actions taken by his or her ancestors.

Second, as the great Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned, evil flows through every human heart and humanity’s progress comes as each of us struggles to do good and to resist the temptations of evil.

To condemn whole groups of people as evil, especially when based on race, as intersectionality does is clearly and inevitably racist.

Similarly, to exonerate every person in a victim class as innocent of every and any act because his group has been historically and is even presently victimized is to see that person as a cipher with no free will who has no possibility of being morally good or bad.

Given the realities of global oppression, there is perhaps an even graver concern: Intersectionality’s binary, its labeling of groups as either “oppressed” or “oppressor,” is illogically and destructively Western-centric.

This is particularly evident in the case of Arabs and Muslims who, as minorities in the West, may well be at times victims of prejudice and mistreatment. Yet they are anything but minorities in their countries of origin, where they are not infrequently violent oppressors of non-Muslim peoples.

Western intersectionality makes it impossible for the victims of Islamic and/or Arab oppression in broad swaths of the Middle East and Africa to have their voices heard and their plights addressed by exactly those people and organizations who have the most power to help them: Westerners of goodwill.  

Here is the clearest example: There are nine countries in Africa where blacks today are victims of Islamist and Arab terror. Jihadist groups raid African villages and murder, rape and kidnap innocent villagers. Many of those captured are enslaved.

These black victims have not been able to get the attention and help they need from the people most naturally their allies due to the virtual taboo that intersectionality imposes on the topic of any oppression committed by any Muslim or Arab group, today or in the past. 

Within the framework of intersectionality, the concept of “Islamophobia” is the shield that protects Arab and Muslim human rights violators from criticism by Westerners of goodwill. It functions as a rhetorical sword to slander and shame any who dare acknowledge the plight of the victims of jihad, even when those victims are Muslims, most notably in Darfur and Mauritania.

This is clearly a case of what philosophers call a “category error,” because  Islamism and jihadism are not races or ethnicities but ideas and practices that are offered up as proper paths and strategies of human conduct.

In Western culture, these are precisely the sort of things that are supposed to be treated critically. Yet the power of “Islamophobia” is such that it has prevented decent people—indeed, the people who would most want to liberate others from human bondage and slaughter, especially if they are black—from doing just that.

We propose to break this imposed, immoral, racist silence and to build a movement that addresses the virulent and lethal oppression of African blacks in at least nine African countries.

They are oppressed by groups whose Western cousins may indeed need the support of human rights groups but whose identity as minorities in the West should not in any way block the most natural human rights feelings and actions of decent people on behalf of those who are suffering in Africa.

This is, we believe, a call to fight tyranny that should be formed by an alliance of the victims and their friends. It is a better and non-racist intersectionality.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates