Deconstructing Critical Theory: Intersectionality
The image above is of a woman who is one of the most influential proponents of critical race theory: Kimberle Crenshaw. Her academic article, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics," is the article that coined the term "intersectionality" in relation to the intersection of gender and race in the legal system, particularly with respect to antidiscrimination law. Her main thesis was that antidiscrimination lawsuits had failed to adequately take into account the unique ways in which black women are discriminated against in the workplace and that this failure revealed certain other inadequacies in both the feminist and black community's understanding of oppression.
Reading this paper today is, in one sense, like reading any other article written today concerning these issues, and in another sense it is eerily prophetic. Certain linguistic practices that are now commonly used in popular culture and media were already common among Crenshaw and other critical theorists when the paper was written in 1989. For instance, if you read this paper, you will find that the word "black" is capitalized when referring to black people, and you will find the term "antiracist" used several times, though Ibram X. Kendi popularized the term in his 2019 book, How To Be An Antiracist. I bring up these eerie notices to remind you that perspectives such as critical theory and critical race theory have a long history, and the same is, to a lesser extent, true of intersectionality. Intersectionality is by far the most recently developed element of critical theory, but it is quite important. (If you'd like to read Crenshaw's paper for yourself, click here.)
For this post, I will discuss the seventh and final element of critical theory from Neil Shenvi's article on the topic:
Individuals at the intersection of different oppressed groups experience oppression in a unique way (i.e., intersectionality).
Thus far in this series, we have discussed all of the major elements of critical theory, labeling them in a way that, I hope, is helpful for quick reference. Here is that list of elements in shortened form:
Metaphysical: oppressor and oppressed
Postmodern: hegemonic power
Political: solidarity through oppression
Moral: freeing oppressed groups
Epistemological: lived experience
The junction: the guise of objectivity
As we saw with the previous post in this series, this element is difficult to label. It is clear that this element is related to the metaphysical element in that it modifies it, though it, in some way, modifies every other element as well. In fact, as I will show, intersectionality is sort of the odd one out among the other elements of critical theory, since it serves to greatly complicate and at times undermine the other elements. So how should we refer to it? Well, since this shorthand list is intended to be a helpful tool for quick reference, I'll take the easy way out and, out of respect for where the element originates, call this the legal element.
In a sense, the easy way out is appropriate here, for Crenshaw sees the need for intersectionality in the legal application of ideas in critical theory. Some may object to that characterization of her paper by stating that Crenshaw is not discussing critical theory and its doctrines, per se, but instead is trying to argue that an intersectional framework is necessary for addressing the oppression of black women specifically. To this, my response is that, while it is true that Crenshaw is explicitly trying to address discrimination against black women as a legal problem, the way that she goes about addressing this issue is to show that intersectionality is a necessary modification to other presuppositions that she and other critical theorists hold, a point which is not immediately obvious to the reader simply taking her statements at face value. I will go through her article in detail in order to show that this is a better way to understand her objective in the article.
But before we can get to Crenshaw's article in any detail, some explanation is in order. What exactly is intersectionality?
What is Intersectionality?
Source: YW Boston
The image above is helpful for getting a sense of what intersectionality is. It depict five circles, each labeled with a particular category for group identity, arranged in a large Venn diagram. Remember that the metaphysical element claims that one's group identities along each of these categories rendered one either oppressor or oppressed. Intersectionality claims that it is not adequate to consider one's status as an oppressed person with respect to only one category; rather, unique forms of oppression can exist at the intersection of more than one category. In essence, this is Crenshaw's major claim in coining the term in her article; she claims that black women experience a unique form of oppression at the intersection of their femininity and blackness.
Of course, more than five categories exist (for instance, there is also class), and as you can see from the image, unique forms of oppression can exist at the intersection of more than two categories. So the picture can get quite complicated quickly.
The major claim of intersectionality is simple enough. As I said, it borrows from and modifies concepts that we've already discussed. Intersectionality becomes much more interesting once its implications are brought out. And for that, now I will analyze Kimberle Crenshaw's influential article.
Analysis of "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex"
As I indicated above, the interesting thing about intersectionality isn't so much what it is as what it implies. Kimberle Crenshaw draws out some of these implications in her article, but first, let's get a sense of the context in which she wrote this article in 1989.
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a host of so-called "antidiscrimination" suits were taken up to enforce Title VII of the act, which authorized the federal government to take up such suits to protect the civil rights of people who were discriminated against on the basis of race or sex. According to antidiscrimination doctrine, appealed to in order to adjudicate this kind of case, discrimination was the intentional disadvantaging of certain people (say, in the workforce) particularly on the basis of their membership in a protected group such as race or sex. This narrow doctrine meant that those who sued companies or organizations on the basis of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had the burden of proof to prove two claims: (1) that they had been discriminated against in a way that disadvantaged them and (2) that this discrimination had been explicitly carried out on the basis of the plaintiff's membership in a protected group.
It was in this context of antidiscrimination doctrine that black women found it difficult to show that they had been discriminated against on the basis of their membership in two protected groups: race and sex. For instance, in the case of DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, which Crenshaw summarizes in the article, five black women sued General Motors on the basis of discrimination, specifically claiming that this discrimination had been enacted against them on the basis of both race and sex. The court rejected this appeal to a "special class," containing only black women, that needed any kind of legal protection beyond that which was given to women and black people (141). Other cases are also summarized in the article, and Crenshaw utilizes these examples in order to demonstrate an inadequacy on the part of the court to protect black women because of flaws in antidiscrimination doctrine. Therefore, she thinks, intersectionality is necessary as a conceptual framework for understanding how it is that black women suffer oppression both as black people and as women, in a way that is separate from experiencing oppression as a black man or as a white woman.
That's the context in which Crenshaw wrote this influential article. At face value, the problem that she seeks to address is interesting and innocuous. Practically everyone agrees that discrimination because of prejudice, which is arbitrary, is not good and that it is a good idea to protect those who would otherwise be likely to be disadvantaged, in particular given the troubled past of the U.S. with regard to its treatment of minorities. On further examination, however, what Crenshaw reveals is a deep commitment all of the elements of critical theory and a presumption that each of these elements is correct and form the proper lens by which we ought to understand history, politics, culture, and morality. Because of this, she largely asserts the worth of intersectionality and its application to critical theory without much in the way of substantive argument. I say this not as a criticism but as an observation of what it is like to read most, if not all, of the scholarly literature written within the tradition of critical theory. That's what I'll turn to now.
It is clear from the beginning of the article that Crenshaw affirms the metaphysical element of critical theory. That is, she accepts that there are only two types of people, oppressor and oppressed, understood in terms of their membership to certain oppressed or oppressor groups. In fact, the metaphysical element undergirds intersectionality, and intersectionality merely modifies it. Just think about it. If we're defined as oppressor or oppressed on the basis of group identity, what happens when one's group identities include membership in both oppressed and oppressor groups? It is simply true that many advocates of women's rights in the 19th century were also racist and therefore had no interest in including black women in the movement for women's rights. This observation leads critical theorists, who affirm the metaphysical element, to almost invariably adopt intersectionality on the simple basis that identity is more complex than membership with any one group. This is one of the most important modifications of classical Marxism put forward by the Frankfurt school, who contended that classical Marxism had failed in its predictions because it had conceived of oppression merely in terms of class. Once one realizes that an individual inhabits more than one group, then intersectionality quite clearly follows.
It is because of this that Crenshaw can claim in the beginning of the article that "discrimination tends to be viewed in terms of sex- or class-privileged Blacks; in sex discrimination cases, the focus is on race- and class-privileged women" (140). This statement assumes that one is already privileged in virtue of at least one group identity (say, one's whiteness) and yet can be oppressed with respect to another (say, one's femininity). Either way, the central point of the metaphysical element, that one is oppressed or oppressor merely on the basis of that group identity, is assumed.
On reflection, this modification of the metaphysical element of critical theory severely complicates every other element of critical theory. I'll take each of these in turn.
First, the postmodern element of critical theory. Remember that this element claims that hegemonic power is the power of the dominant group to impose its values and worldview on oppressed groups, thereby politicizing the making of claims itself. What happens when the way in which white women understand their own oppression as women includes "white" values that function to subjugate black people? Intersectionality entails that the effort of white women to address issues related to feminism can actually lead to the further oppression of black women! This means that people engaged in activism for one group must consider the members of their group who are subjugated because of other group identities. Consider this statement from Black Lives Matter on their "About Black Lives Matter" page (emphasis is mine):
"We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements."
This is a very typical expression of intersectionality, since it assumes that many members of an oppressed group can be further oppressed by their identification with other oppressed groups.
Let's consider one example. Any honest assessment of the state of the black community must contend with the shocking rate of single motherhood in the black community. According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of black children living in households where only the mother is present is 46.3%. For perspective, the next highest percentage of children living with only the mother in the house is among Hispanics at 24%, about half of the rate for black children. The percentage of black children living with only the father in the home is 4.5%, and it is 8% with no parent in the household. This adds up to a staggering 58.8% of black children living in households in which one or both parents is not present. It doesn't take a genius to see that the resulting destabilization in the household, when children do not grow up with two loving, committed, married parents, will take its toll on these children, contributing to issues such as criminality. Given this statistic, one would think that it would make sense to encourage those in the black community to wait to get married before having children and to build stable households in which they can raise their children. The absence of the father is a very real and debilitating problem in the black community.
So BLM supports having strong and able fathers in the household, right? Wrong. In fact, Crenshaw devotes several pages of her article opposing such an assessment of the black community as racist (163-166). In particular, such assessments are racist in that they blindly hold black women to the standard of "white social norms" (163). In response to an assessment that suggested that a solution to the social ills of the black community is to encourage and empower black men to get involved in the family again, Crenshaw suggested that we should instead address these ills in a way that "maximize[s] the choices of Black women" (166).
This is somewhat complex, but here is what's going on. Since Crenshaw sees the world in terms of oppressor and oppressed, then the concerns of men and women are opposed to each other because of patriarchy, even if the men and women in question are black. Therefore, to attempt to rebuild the family structure within the black community by focusing on men is to fail to give a voice to black women, who are multiply oppressed both by white people via systemic racism and by their own husbands via the patriarchy. To argue that black men ought to become more involved as husbands and fathers is to uphold the social norms associated with white supremacy and the patriarchy, so it is better instead to maximize the mother's opportunities in society. The implicit assumption undergirding this, however, is that no harm will be done when the child grows up without a father, and this simply isn't true. But, for the sake of intersectionality, that which actually negatively affects the black community will not be changed for the sake of social justice.
The same is true with BLM. To support all of the aims of the LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ people of color, is to support the notion that households with two women or two men are just as viable as households with a mother and father. So, BLM, for the sake of intersectionality, will not uphold a view of the family they believe operates in the further subjugation of LGBTQ people. In this way, intersectionality modifies the postmodern element by forcing critical theorists to consider how their advocacy inadvertently subjugates diverse members of their own social groups.
Second, the political element of critical theory. Remember that this element claims that those who share in their common experience of oppression have solidarity in their communities. This solidarity serves political ends for the overthrow of the oppressive hierarchy. Crenshaw illustrates how intersectionality modifies this element very well. While criticizing the limited scope of antidiscrimination doctrine in the court's handling of Title VII cases, Crenshaw claims that one problem with the limited view of small and incremental remedies is that it takes for granted the validity of the whole social hierarchy. An intersectional, "bottom-up" approach allows those who are oppressed to criticize the structure of the whole social hierarchy as oppressive. She writes (145, emphasis is mine):
"Consequently, "bottom-up" approaches, those which combine all discriminatees in order to challenge an entire employment system, are foreclosed by the limited view of the wrong and the narrow scope of the available remedy. If such "bottom-up" intersectional representation were routinely permitted, employees might accept the possibility that there is more to gain by collectively challenging the hierarchy rather than by each discriminatee individually seeking to protect her source of privilege within the hierarchy. But as long as antidiscrimination doctrine proceeds from the premise that employment systems need only minor adjustments, opportunities for advancement by disadvantaged employees will be limited. Relatively privileged employees probably are better off guarding their advantage while jockeying against others to gain more. As a result, Black women-the class of employees which, because of its intersectionality, is best able to challenge all forms of discrimination-are essentially isolated and often required to fend for themselves."
It isn't often that the cynical nature of cultural Marxism is laid out so explicitly by one of its proponents. Crenshaw just says the quiet part out loud in this passage. She advocates for adopting intersectionality because, if oppressed people organize under all of their overlapping oppressed group identities, then they form a majority that can challenge the structure of the whole system. In other words, what Marx called class consciousness forms a majority group that then has the political power to topple the whole oppressive system. If white women were to recognize the multiply-oppressed status of black women, now there are more women available "to challenge an entire employment system."
This is one of the most potentially powerful aspects of intersectionality. In modifying the political element in order to include all overlapping oppressed groups, oppressed groups, who would otherwise be at odds with one another because of competing interests, are lumped together under one banner. This is why white feminists emphasize allying with the interests of black women. This is why BLM allies itself so strongly with black LGBGTQ people. This is why feminists who oppose some aspects of transgenderism (because of competing interests) are called TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). In failing to stand in solidarity with transgender people, they divide the coalition of class-conscious individuals who would otherwise bring about the Marxist utopia.
The point about TERFs, however, is instructive for other reasons. One of the greatest strengths of intersectionality (i.e., its ability to generate political solidarity where none would typically exist) is also one of its greatest weaknesses. The problem with lumping together different groups based on their overlapping oppression is that it highlights (1) competing and conflicting interests between these groups and (2) aspects of their underlying philosophies that logically conflict with one another. I'll highlight a few examples in order to demonstrate this.
First, the controversy around TERFs highlights both a contradiction between radical feminism and transgenderism and the competing interests that emerge from that contradiction. Take, for instance, the very contentious issue of transgender athletes. Transgender advocates argue that transgender individuals ought to be allowed to compete according to their preferred gender. If a biological man identifies himself as a woman, he should be allowed to compete with biological women. The problem with this, however, is that men are, in general, stronger than women. The result of this is that biological men, identifying themselves as women, end up beating all of the biological women at sports where they would otherwise have excelled.
In 2019, a male rapper named "Zuby" demonstrated this problem by beating the British women's deadlift record of 528 pounds (an amazing feat for a woman), claiming that he had identified as a woman while beating the record. Though he did this as a joke, it showed that a man who, in Zuby's case, wasn't even a competitive weightlifter could beat the best female weightlifters in his country. Advocates for keeping men who identify as women out of women's sports argue that allowing them into women's sports will deprive women of winning spots that they otherwise would have had, had it not been for a male competing against them.
Earlier this year, a biological man, identifying himself as a woman, named Fallon Fox beat Tamikka Brents, a biological woman, in an MMA match. The match left Tamikka Brents with fractures in her skull and a severe concussion. Whatever Fallon Fox thinks of himself, his superior strength compared to Tamikka Brents is entirely genetic. According to those who argue that Fallon Fox should not have been allowed to fight women, Fox was endangering Brents by fighting her in the first place. This story shows that transgenderism can, in some contexts, literally put women in physical danger.
TERFs also claim that transgenderism is incompatible with feminism because one necessary component to being a woman is having experienced oppression because of one's womanhood. If a man decides that he is a woman and demands others to recognize his newfound identity, then many TERFs will claim that such a demand is illegitimate. This person has not been oppressed as a woman. In this case, the very social status that would, on a typically Marxist view, mark one as oppressed doesn't magically apply just when a man calls himself a woman. Thus, feminism and transgenderism are deeply incompatible with one another, and attempts to put them together under a banner of intersectionality has caused backlash.
Second, there is a deep incompatibility between gays and lesbians and transgender people. Even the moniker "LGBTQIA+" (shorthand for "LGBTQQIA2SAA) is meant to be intersectional. Consider the new "Progress Pride Flag" just recently revealed this year:
Traditionally, flags have been used as unifying images for a nation or people. Though people may individually differ, flags embody the values common to every individual in the nation. The Progress Pride Flag represents an entirely different understanding of what flags represent. For the sake of inclusion, it is claimed, a flag ought to include in some symbolic way a whole array of values, even if those values mutually exclude one another. The Progress Pride Flag includes an amalgamation of the rainbow for gays and lesbians with the colors for transgenderism (light blue, pink, and white), with black and brown thrown between them for people of color. There is, because of intersectionality, a need to highlight in particular gay and transgender people of color because of the way in which they live in the intersection between their oppressed sexuality or gender and skin color.
Why do I bring up the Progress Pride Flag? Because it illustrates very well the complexity that arises with intersectional thinking. The people represented by the flag are, by the very tenets of critical theory, not unified. Their differing identities with particular social groups give them quite a different outlook on the world and on who they are. But, because of a supposed commonality in the experience of oppression and in order to form a larger coalition, colors representing each of them (but not all of them) are mashed together on the same piece of cloth.
As I claimed above, the ideology behind homosexuality, with which gays and lesbians identify, is deeply incompatible with transgenderism. Though colors representing each sit on the same flag, they are incompatible with one another. Let me explain. Early on in the gay rights movement several decades ago, probably the most common argument against the suppression of homosexual activities was that gay people were "born that way." In other words, one's homosexuality was argued to be an immutable characteristic, in the same way that one's skin color is an immutable characteristic. Therefore, to malign someone on the basis of such a characteristic was unjust, in the same way that racism is unjust. Such an understanding of homosexuality requires that one's sexuality, with which one is born, can be out of alignment with one's biological sex.
Take, for instance, a man named Bill. Bill is just like any normal man, except for the fact that he has sexual desires for other men and is therefore gay. The gay rights movement, at the time, would have argued that Bill was simply born with such desires and could no more control it than any other of his immutable characteristics. But, had Bill been born a woman, then his sexual desires would have been normal. In this way, the gay rights movement assumes that biological sex is also an immutable characteristic, since a problem arises only when one's sexual desires do not match what's normative for one's biological sex.
How does transgenderism conflict with these ideas? Transgenderism claims that sex and gender are mere social constructs and that one's sexuality is a social construct. Because of this, one can identify and present oneself however one wants, even if one's body conflicts with one's identification. This entails that sexuality and gender are fluid, subject to constant change and not at all static. And therefore not immutable. Though no one seems to acknowledge this contradiction today, it exists under the surface of all of the discourse surrounding sexuality and gender, depending on whether the speaker is more LG than T, or vice versa.
One inevitable result of this is that political solidarity, seen through the lens of intersectionality, is very fragile. It is impossible to unify what one's worldview says cannot be unified.
Third, the moral element of critical theory. Remember that this element claims that our primary moral duty is freeing oppressed groups from their oppression. It's not hard to see that this element is complicated by intersectionality. I'll highlight two ways in which the moral element is complicated by intersectionality.
First, by claiming that those who identities lie at the intersection of multiple oppressed social groups, intersectionality places greater moral weight on multiply-oppressed individuals. Remember that, according to Crenshaw, white feminists shirk their moral duty as feminists if they fail to address the issues of black women. What this means is that otherwise broad social and political movements, such as those on behalf of women or LGBTQ people or black people, are inevitably beholden to the task of liberating their most oppressed minorities. BLM advocates for black transgender people. This dovetails with the postmodern element in that advocating for the liberation of an oppressed group in broad terms (e.g., on behalf of "all" women) could end up being morally evil, since doing so would work against the interests of smaller minorities within those groups (e.g., black women).
Second, this modification of the moral element inevitably grants the highest moral authority to the most oppressed intersectional groups. I repeatedly saw this in college. There were more than a few instances in which the people platformed to talk about oppression, marginalization, or microaggressions were those who ticked the box of the highest number of oppressed groups. The implicit notion was that those who were the most multiply-oppressed were most authorized to speak on these topics, and this of course follows from everything we've discussed so far. Those who are most multiply-oppressed had the most lived experience.
This meant that the college was obsessed with hearing from anyone who represented such a combination? Want to hear about racism from a black person? Try finding a black, transgender, queer, disabled woman from the global South. Want to hear about ableism from a disabled person? Instead, try to "explore the complex web of experiences at the intersection of disability and transgenderism." The more you can hear from an increasingly overlapping set of experiences, the better. Ironically, this has the effect of centering the smallest number of members of the larger oppressed group and of subjugating their perspective to the smallest minority.
Fourth, the epistemological element of critical theory. Remember that this element claims that lived experience is more important than objective evidence in understanding oppression. Again, it is not hard to see how intersectionality affects this element. As I've already mentioned, the more multiply-oppressed one is, the more lived experience one has from which one can authoritatively speak about oppression.
Remember that common lived experience of oppression grounds one's political solidarity. Thus, the epistemological element supports the political element. But, on precisely this point, intersectionality undermines both. We see this in Crenshaw's article when she claims that the feminist movement had historically sought to advance white social norms. As it turns out, there is no (or there is little) commonality with respect to lived experience for white and black women. Less so for straight and lesbian women. Even less so for biological women and men claiming to be women (i.e., transgender women). So how can there be political solidarity when common lived experience is constantly atomized by intersectionality? I suspect that this is what causes a lot of the tension between the groups that I mentioned earlier with respect to their political interests and aims. With only experience to go on, unity is exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Finally, the junction between Marxism and postmodernism: the guise of objectivity. Remember that this element claims that oppressors hide their oppression under the guise of objectivity. Intersectionality complicates this element by producing multiply-oppressive systems of power and multiply-oppressive truth claims. It is almost comical to hear the moral diatribes against "cisheteropatriarchy" (the oppressive system made up of cisgenderism, heteronormativity, and the patriarchy). In the past, it was somewhat easy to recognize what's decried in words like "patriarchy." Issues such as women's suffrage (i.e., women's right to vote), equal opportunity in the workplace, and "rape culture" (some of the points of which were understandable) come to mind. But when patriarchy is lumped together with other supposedly oppressive systems to form this super-oppressor, it's difficult to tell what's being opposed in calls for liberation and justice.
Consider, for instance, the notion that women are oppressed in a society that fails to value their unique contribution to society. Recent radical feminist scholarship, for instance, has pointed to the fact that women tend to fill caregiving roles more than men do, especially as it pertains to childbearing. The problem, however, is that such caregiving roles are either low-pay and devalued within the dominant socio-economic order (what's called neoliberalism) or are divorced from that order entirely (such as is the case when a mother cares for her child). In a society in which a mother's care for her child is not considered work, she is left caring for the child while the husband and father works to provide for the family financially, leaving her stuck in a less valued role. Since mothers must mother, so the argument goes, a fundamental change in the socio-economic system is needed to elevate the status of predominantly-female caregivers in our society. This seems like an internally consistent feminist account.
But, when combined with cis-normativity (i.e., the assumed societal notion that being cisgender is normal or good), this argument against the patriarchy becomes very confusing. One of the major aims of feminism, historically, has been to form the kind of society that will better contribute to the flourishing and freedom of women. Part of achieving this aim is recognizing those roles that women typically play in a society. But the problem with cis-normativity, supposedly, is the claim that there is any objective basis to being a female. The idea that the structure of a society undercuts the freedom of women is quite strange when being a woman is nothing more than a mental state or subjective preference. Because of this incoherence between the claims of feminists against the patriarchy and the claims of transgender activists against cis-normativity, the idea that there can be a unified way of opposing "cis-patriarchy" (or that cis-patriarchy even exists) is implausible. Yet this combined oppression is exactly what intersectionality is committed to. Therefore, intersectionality complicates both the oppressed group and the oppressor group.
This is a lengthy treatment of intersectionality, but I hope that it helps to explain precisely why intersectionality complicates critical theory so much. Now that I've explained in detail what intersectionality is and what its logical consequences are, how do we respond to it as followers of Christ?
What the Bible Has To Say
In one sense, there's nothing more to say than what I've already said in other posts in this series. Intersectionality doesn't substantively add to the elements of critical theory. Instead, intersectionality modifies them. Therefore, all of my criticisms of critical theory apply just as well if intersectionality is added to it. In fact, intersectionality may sharpen the edge of some of those criticisms, since intersectionality simply multiplies the categories of oppressor and oppressed up for discussion. Let me highlight one important way in which intersectionality actually sharpens criticisms that I've already developed elsewhere.
Intersectionality advances an atomized anthropology. Remember that anthropology refers to the study of human beings. An atomized anthropology conceives of human beings by dividing them up into smaller and smaller categories. For Crenshaw, a person's place in the social hierarchy cannot be understood along a single oppressed category (or multiple, taken separately). Instead, multiply-oppressed people have combined group membership, which causes them to be uniquely oppressed where those group identities intersect. A black and queer individual is oppressed as a result of the combined black-queer identity. This concept clearly dovetails with the fact that, for critical theorists, nothing about human beings is pre-political. Since we are literally constituted by society, society further divides us as minutely as we are willing to conceive of differences between human beings. There is virtually nothing in common that we all share.
It's easy to see how deeply unbiblical this aspect of intersectionality is. According to Scripture, we do share at least one thing in common as human beings: the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Though there are innumerable differences between us, these differences do not undercut our shared imago dei. This concept of the imago dei undergirds how we ought to treat one another. The imago dei is also pre-political, given to us by God prior to the formation of human society. By acknowledging and respecting it, societies in which citizens treat each other well are formed. When I look at someone across the table from me, below his or her accidental and otherwise unimportant attributes, I ought to see a fellow human being created in God's image. And that means that I ought to love and respect him or her as my neighbor, as God commands me to. Intersectionality leaves us with nothing in common and no reason to treat one another well. It breeds nothing but tribalism and all that comes from it.
And that tribalism is, in fact, what we see in operation in Western society today. It is being advanced by all of the major institutions of society and is even infiltrating God's Church at an alarming rate. It is the bad fruit of a culture that has rejected God's authority as Creator and the image of God shared in each one of us, no matter our other characteristics. Because of this, we shouldn't be shocked, as Christians, by the destruction being carried out by those who hate God and everything associated with Him. The only solution to this is revival, when people recognize anew who God is and bow to His Son as Savior and Lord.
At long last, we are finished with the last major element of critical theory! I hope that the series has been helpful in for you in your study of these issues as you have sought to understand them more deeply. My hope is that this information will be edifying to the Church in combatting a false worldview and ideology and resisting a strong tendency within American evangelicalism toward syncretism. Next time, I will post a conclusion to the series by summarizing everything that we've discussed in it and explaining how this content can be incorporated into a holistic approach to apologetics. I have not forgotten what this blog is for!
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