On too many college campuses, political activists embrace exclusionary intersectionality. Jewish students have reported feeling unwelcome in certain social justice coalitions. In such instances, anti-Israel students have become gatekeepers for campus coalitions, citing intersectionality in excluding Jewish students. For example, Students for Justice in Palestine at Brown University managed to get transgender activist Janet Mock to cancel her scheduled speech at Hillel. Drawing on the intersectional vocabulary, they argued that “Brown/RISD Hillel, through its association with Hillel International, has a clear policy of supporting … Israel’s racist and colonial policies. … Indeed, queerness does not lie in isolation from other forms of identity; rather, it explicitly interacts with other identities including race, gender, class and ability.”
Faced with such hostile exclusion, some in the Jewish community would just as soon condemn all intersectionality and be done with it. But not all uses of intersectionality are equal: The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights organization, responded to the incident at the Chicago Dyke March by tweeting, “Marches should be safe spaces to celebrate our diversity and our pride. This is not right.”
Indeed, the LGBTQ rights group took aim at the march organizers for excluding the Jewish marchers, thereby practicing inclusionary intersectionality.
Diaspora Jews must learn, not shun, intersectional discourse in all its forms and be part of the discussion while not being afraid to challenge instances of exclusionary intersectionality. Condemning all intersectionality won’t make it go away. We — and the larger society — have a major stake in the more inclusionary form winning out.
David Bernstein, “Intersectionality Excludes and Includes: Jews Must Learn the Difference”, The Jewish Week (25 August 2017), 35.