Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Intersectionality As Religion

A radical Manichaean sect of academics serves as vanguard of a cultural revolution

You’ve got to stop what you’re doing and read this report by Elizabeth Corey about a conference on race, gender, and intersectionality she attended at Notre Dame. In it, she comes to the conclusion that intersectionality can only be properly understood as a religion. Excerpts:

Intersectionality is a wholly academic invention that plays a large role in this movement. Indeed, it stands in the vanguard of the progressive academy, allied with critical race studies, queer studies, women’s studies, and ethnic studies. Intersectional scholars proudly proclaim their goal: to smash the neoliberal, corporate, heteropatriarchal academy and then to reinvent it in a way that rejects traditional notions about what universities are meant to do. These scholars also want to redefine the family and to abolish the “binary” of man and woman.

Basically, intersectionality says that all “liberation struggles” are connected. This attitude is why the so-called Women’s March feels obliged to give a shout-out to the cop-killing racist fugitive previously known as Joanne Chesimard:


Chesimard — now Assata Shakur — escaped from prison and now lives in Cuba. Here’s what she did, and why she is wanted by the FBI. But see, the Women’s March thinks she’s awesome, because intersectionality.

Here’s the core of Corey’s piece:

Patricia Hill Collins is distinguished university professor in sociology at the University of Maryland. She has had a long and productive career as a black feminist academic. Her work is cited widely by scholars in gender studies, queer studies, Africana studies, rhetoric, communications, and sociology.

Collins was the keynote speaker at the Notre Dame conference I attended. Though I disagreed with almost all of the substance of her talk, she drew the audience in, made us feel like we were her friends and allies, and effectively recruited us to her cause. She used humor and storytelling to describe her life as a black female academic in an age when she had very few peers who looked like her. (She’s currently sixty-nine years old.)

As she spoke, I began to feel that I was not at an academic lecture at all, but at an Evangelical church with a charismatic pastor. She even looked the part, wearing all black with a vibrant green scarf that hung around her shoulders like a cleric’s stole. Some of her statements brought approving murmurs from the audience—“Umm hmm.” At times people broke out in spontaneous applause or acclamation, as if we were at a revival.

Soon the church-like atmosphere evolved into a political rally. Collins told us that the academy is filled with “timid people” who are afraid to challenge the status quo. She also asserted that authentic intellectual engagement requires political activism. Why should we “take up the words” if we “lose the critical edge” and the ability to put ideas into practice? “Now is not the time,” Collins asserted, for “business as usual!” The election of Donald Trump has heightened the need for intersectionality, as a way of protesting the egregious racism, sexism, and homophobia that his administration embodies. She exhorted us to be oppositional. Revolution cannot take place unless we overthrow the existing power structures, and intersectionality requires that all oppressed groups work together. Citing black feminist heroes such as Angela Davis, she charged the ­audience to form nonhierarchical networks of flexible solidarity, coalitions of conscience, made up of people who would devote themselves to upending the status quo. Everyone loved it. Nobody seemed to notice (or mind) that this was precisely the same language that radicals of all stripes have employed for at least the past fifty years.

At the end there was a question and answer period. I asked whether and how Collins would suggest that intersectionality engage with its adversaries, the ­hated conservatives. Given the polarization of ­America right now, did she see some way for the two camps to communicate or find common ground? The vehemence of her answer was startling. “No,” she said. “You cannot bring these two worlds together. You must be oppositional. You must fight. For me, it’s a line in the sand.” This was at once jarring and clarifying.

Read the whole thing. Seriously. Corey talks about how this destroys the life of the mind, education, liberty, and even the individual human person. And as a strict religion, intersectionality has an explanation for all those who question its doctrines:

The answer to any individual protest is always (a) false consciousness, (b) “internalizing the oppressor,” or, if all else fails, (c) the structural oppression argument that makes our self-assessment irrelevant.

You cannot argue with these people, because they see reason itself as a tool of the oppressor. You can only resist and defeat them. They work as a revolutionary vanguard because they understand, at least intuitively, that the old-school liberals they’re up against do not have the courage or self-confidence sufficient to resist them in the name of liberal values. Conservatives have minimal power in the institutions where this malignant ideology is cultured, but make no mistake, it is going to march from the universities through most of the elite institutions in our society. Mainstream liberals are the useful idiots for these radicals, and when they have served their purpose, will become either their converts or their victims. Because that’s how this militant religion works.