Clinton Manipulates Language of Intersectionality to Preserve Support from Minority Voters

Chibber, Vivek; Kalek, Rania; Gosztola, Kevin
Date Written:  2016-02-28
Publisher:  ShadowProof
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX18861

The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton has been a master class in how to divorce economic issues from issues of race and gender by pushing the language of "intersectionality," which enables the political class to head off threats to their power and protect the status quo.



The irony is that post-colonial theory, which started out criticizing these ideas, that the East is in some deep essential way different from the West, ended up re-asserting the same thing; only calling it some kind of radical progressive theory. That's where we are now.


The only people in the past who said democracy is a Western idea, that brown people don't have the same needs as white people-The only people who ever said that were either colonizers or the religious right, of the most right-wing elements within nationalist movements. Today, the most recent of devotee of post-colonial theory is the Chinese Communist Party. Because it's now able to say that democracy is a Western concept, and the Chinese workers don't need any kind of democracy. They have their own ideas, and their own ideas.

I don't want to impugn more motives than I need to. I think many of the people are motivated by a kind of good-natured respect for other cultures, and that's what draws students into it. Because it seems to be saying, look, other cultures aren't the same as yours. You ought to respect them, and that's all true. All cultures are not the same but underneath those varieties of cultures resides certain very basic needs and impulses that people have in common.

Palestinians want self-determination no less than Americans did, no less than black slaves did, and no less than Indians did. Now, to go around saying that these impulses somehow need to be taught to them or that the West gives it to them, that's a kind of racism.


The entire reaction to Bernie [Sanders] has been bait-and-switch kind of ploy, and it's not surprising. What is interesting is, as you say, that she [Hilary Clinton] is drawing on this current aspect of intellectual and political culture to justify this kind of dishonest move that she's making. What she's drawing on is, basically what has happened in the past twenty years is what it means to be left-wing or radical has been very successfully redefined by the academy, by professors, and by grad students.

And the way it's been redefined is starting with a correct premise, which is that class, people's economic condition, isn't responsible for everything awful that's happened in their lives. There's also the purely racialized oppressions that they face and gendered oppressions they face, and that's absolutely true. Starting with that correct premise, it leads to the deeply incorrect conclusion that, therefore, if you talk about people's economic conditions, you are not addressing the core and most important aspects and liabilities of their lives.

Now, if you're an African-American in this country, it's absolutely true that you face all kinds of discrimination. It's absolutely true that you have a much higher likelihood of being incarcerated than a white person in the same class as you. That's absolutely true. But, how do you expect to address the real plight of African-Americans in this country around their everyday lives without a jobs program, without universal healthcare, without decent and universal public education? To think that these are matters that, by virtue of being economic, are not relevant for people of color is not just wrong. It is fantastically dishonest.


The reason that Hillary is able to get away with this is because the so-called left-and I don't really call it the left anymore. I don't know what to call it because it's a disease formation. The so-called left intelligentsia has succeeded in equating the word class with white guys. And we should look at this as an achievement because it's never happened on the left before. It was always understood among the more savvy radical activists that, even though people's economic conditions don't explain all the liabilities they face, addressing the oppressions that men and women, who are poor are facing-Addressing those without addressing their economic conditions is an elite strategy to keep off the table the real concerns of poor, working class black men and women.

It was always understood. Now, it is taken to be the emblem of what it means to be radical, and that's just a sign that the middle class and the upper classes have taken over the discourse of the left, whether they're professors, whether they work in non-profits, or whether they're these talking heads for think tanks. It's the same thing, which is the middle class gets to define what it means to be radical.


A lot of this race talk serves as an acceptable way to express your disdain for poor people. You just can't express it for poor black people because then it becomes racist and in polite circles that is unacceptable-and that's a great thing. It shouldn't be, of course. But it is acceptable to talk about poor white trash, or hillbillies, or rednecks. All these are expressions you can continue to use, and people use it with alacrity not because they have a hatred for white racists but there is a general disdain for poor white people. And they're seen as being born into racism the way they were born into their skin. This is, again, an achievement of very backward and quite conservative intelligentsia now.

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