We have gone from viewing censorship as a tool of repression to facing an outright free speech crisis in the world, and it is extremely concerning. Gone are the days when Socrates gave his life for the good fight against restrictive moralizing censors or when the abolitionist Frederick Douglass championed women’s suffrage during the mid-19th century, and welcome to a new age of ‘intersectionality’.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar and civil-rights activist who founded the African American Policy Forum at Columbia University, cemented the philosophy of intersectionality, which draws from Marxist and post-Marxist thinking. It encourages its disciples to view the world through the lens of victimhood and believes that concepts of racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and other forms of “oppression” are interconnected, creating the false narrative that everything centers on the power struggle between oppressors versus the oppressed.
The University of California system recently told professors and students to be wary of ‘micro-aggression’. Moderate phrases such as “The U.S. is the land of opportunity” or “I don’t see color” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” are now considered micro-aggressions. Microaggressions can be verbal, nonverbal slights, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate a hostile experience for the receiver.
The intent is no longer relevant if the outcome is a perceived invalidation of someone’s identity or experiential reality. The suggestion that you should be able to ban a differing opinion is putting human values and democracy at stake. An argument should not be made valid on the basis of the gender, race or sexuality of the speaker and people who oppose this opinion are not inciting any type of violence that deserves prohibition.
Microaggressions reveal ugly unconscious biases but to equate it with discrimination and harassment is political correctness run amok. No individual is immune to their biases or can be held accountable for someone else’s hidden perceptions. For example, asking a Japanese person if they speak ‘Asian’ in Japan is ignorant but the rational response would be to correct that person and move on with your life because as humans, we should be allowed to be wrong as long as we are willing to learn and improve. Mandating one way of thinking is fundamentally wrong and it is oppressive in and of itself.
Ideological dissent should be celebrated whether the dissenters be in academia, Hollywood, the business world or journalism. Silencing speech and forbidding debate is not an unfortunate by-product of intersectionality—it is a primary goal. Intersectionality was once a valid concept; one that provided a framework for discussing broader patterns of oppression, power, discrimination but it has transformed modern-day culture into the same repressive environment it was meant to cut through. For democracy to remain intact we cannot allow this to happen; we need to protect dissent in all its forms and dissenters wherever they may be.
Article co-published with April N. of citizenobsessed.com.