Women's March Co-Founders Won't Condemn Farrakhan, Revealing the Hollowness of Intersectionality
If the left is going to insist that only the most consistent enemies of bigotry are welcome in their ranks, one might expect some consistency.
The Women's March has seen better days.
This year's activities, which kick off at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, should be just as vital as they were in 2017 and 2016—Donald Trump is still president, after all—and yet the movement is beset by well-founded suspicion of its national leaders, who stand accused of turning a blind-eye to anti-Semitism.
It's a serious problem, and one that exposes the hypocrisy of intersectionality, the philosophy of the modern activist left. Intersectional progressives claim that all sources of oppression are inherently linked, and it isn't enough to just oppose sexism: Allies aren't allies unless they also oppose racism, transphobia, anti-Muslim bigotry, and so on.
I question whether this is a wise strategy for single-cause advocacy. But if the left is going to insist that only the most strident and consistent enemies of bigotry are welcome in their ranks, one might expect some consistency. Yet for some reason, anti-Semitism got left off the list of approved evils.
In December, Tablet, a Jewish magazine, claimed that Women's March leaders Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez used anti-Semitic language and blamed Jewish people for exploiting people of color. The activists have denied this charge. They have refused, however, to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-gay conspiracy theorist with whom Mallory and Women's March co-founder Linda Sarsour have considerable ties.
On Monday, Mallory and Bland appeared on ABC's The View to generate buzz for the Women's March and address the controversy. Conservative host Meghan McCain asked Mallory directly whether she would condemn Farrakhan's statements; she would not. Instead, she merely said that she disagreed with them. She also maintained that Farrakhan was the "greatest of all time because of what he has done for black communities."
Again, this is a man who said that Jews in Hollywood had become the chosen people of Satan for their role in promoting LGBT equality. (Defending himself against charges of anti-Semitism, Farrakhan attempted to clarify the matter by insisting, "I'm not anti-Semite, I'm anti-termite," which, uh, says something.) The Southern Poverty Law Center rightly considers the Nation of Islam to be an organized hate group. This could be why the organization withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Women's March this year.
Mallory's extreme reluctance to disassociate herself from a noxiously anti-Semitic figure is characteristic of the far-left. At elite college campuses, criticism of the state of Israel—legitimate or not—occasionally overlaps with anti-Semitism. People like Angela Davis—an activist and organizer who supported all the worst aspects of the Soviet Union and the Black Panthers, and even backed mass murdering cult leader Jim Jones—are remembered fondly in activist circles on campuses and on social media. The Root called her a "freedom fighter" just last week.
This is not to say that all criticism of Israel is off-base or anti-Semitic, nor that pro-Israeli groups are some aggrieved minority. In fact, campus administrators have often censored pro-Palestinian voices on grounds that their speech was offensive. Activists should enjoy the right to protest Israel's existence, irrespective of the hurt feelings of other students.
Even so, this blindness toward anti-Semitism is a problem, especially in a case like the Women's March, where you have a socially-significant mass movement involving millions of people being led by activists considerably further to the left than the average attendee. Palling around with people like Farrakhan is a character quirk for the far-left; for everyone else, it's much harder to overlook.
But what makes this loose association with anti-Semitism so inexplicable is that it flies in the face of the very doctrine the left purports to embrace most strongly. If intersectionality means anything, it means that an activist cannot focus on his or her own marginalization and ignore the marginalization of everyone else. Left-of-center media outlets have endlessly pilloried white women and white feminism lately for not being intersectional enough: White women who say they are feminists but do nothing to address the needs of the black, trans, Muslim, and disabled communities have betrayed the collective cause, and are worse than useless. But for some reason, anti-Semitism in the ranks is just not a concern.
The term intersectionality dates to the late 1980s, when sociologists coined the word to describe the cumulative oppression of being black and being a woman. In the years since, sociology departments have proposed many other sources of oppression, and university bias response teams and microaggression police are inventing new ones every day. Having excluded anti-Semitism from the ranks, the concept seems rather hollow.
(For more about intersectionality and the infighting it produces on the left, pre-order my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the age of Trump.)