The Revolution Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit

Okay look. I get it. It’s really easy to look at class and see that as the only “real” oppression in the world. When you’re a straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied man, it’s quite literally the only oppression you can possibly face. And it’s absolutely true that the only privileges we can truly see as individuals are the privileges we don’t have, which are, as a result, magnified in our minds.

To get selfish for a moment… I obviously know that white privilege is a thing, but I don’t see it because I’m white. I obviously know that male privilege is a thing, but I don’t see it because I’m a man. Same for cis privilege, and straight privilege. Technically I don’t suffer from class oppression because my family is middle class and I get to take advantage of that. But then again, I work in retail and make maybe $200 a week. So I can see class privilege to a point because my only protection from class oppression is my parents… I’m not going to say that I know exactly what said oppression looks like, because I’ve never been homeless, but I also have a roof over my head because my parents give me one without charging me a rent I can’t afford; which is why I try to give when I can to the homeless and fight so hard for a Universal Basic Income and Universal Housing… no one should have no money, and no one should be homeless. And it’s a lot easier to make that happen at the federal level than people think… you just have to get rid of the greedy capitalists in power, first…

So… maybe not so easy…

But I digress…

The point is that I get it. I get only fighting for class.

The thing is, though…

Bigotry is still real. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, etc are still real issues that really exist.

There’s an interesting, and frankly infuriating, fiction on some parts of the Left that, somehow, all you have to do is institute a Socialist economy and government, and suddenly all other bigotries will just… melt away. Tear down Capitalism, and… apparently… the KKK will lose their “only” recruiting tool.

This… of course… is absolutely false.

Now it’s true that the ruling class use the various bigotries as tools to distract us so they can maintain their power. But they didn’t invent those bigotries, and those bigotries will be around long after they’re gone.

I think the best possible evidence of this right now is a study done asking why people voted for Trump. To this day the narrative of “economic woes” persists. And it’s very attractive, especially for people who genuinely want to believe that Sanders could win over Trump voters (and I’m not even disputing this entirely… although I don’t think he’d be as successful amongst that crowd as people think).

And in some minor way that might actually be true. I don’t want to downplay economic woes, here. The reality is that the vast majority of people are absolutely desperate for anything that can pull them out of their poverty. And here in the United States, everyone is born into Capitalism as the status quo. So everyone here thinks that the only way out of poverty is by working… basically “pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps”… despite the fact that that is a fiction.

So ideas like “workers should seize the means of production” are largely laughed off as ridiculous, when, in reality, that is one of the ways in which we’ll actually fix what’s wrong, here. But because so many people laugh it off, they buy in to the Neoliberal lie about bootstraps and self-actualization and so on… and so they vote Republican… and sometimes Democrat. And the angrier, more desperate people march in the streets shouting phrases like “Jews will not replace us”, drive vans into crowds of anti-protesters, shooting up mosques and synagogues, murder trans women (FYI… more trans women, especially black trans women, have been murdered this year… have you noticed? Have you cared?), call the cops on black people for the crime of merely existing while black (effectively murdering them), brutalize women…

I understand how economic woes can play into it all.

But the simple reality is this…

Most Trump voters did not vote for him based on their economic situations… they did so based on one thing… racism.

Back on May 8th, 2017, Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel posted an article at The Nation called “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Make People Vote Trump, Racism Did

In our models, racial attitudes towards blacks and immigration are the key factors associated with support for Trump. The way that these variables impact Trump support can be seen in the charts below. Both racial resentment and black influence animosity are significant predictors of Trump support among white respondents, independent of partisanship, ideology, education levels, and the other factors included in the model.”

“Our results also indicate that economic peril was not a significant predictor of voting for Trump once either racial attitudes or immigration attitudes are included in the models. As shown in the chart below, Trump vote probability for an average white person does not change regardless of whether they express high or low levels of economic insecurity.

Of course that’s just one data set, and it’s based on a survey with only 4000 respondents. So it’s entirely correct to question the very basis of it. And further, it’s not like this is an easy question to answer. In the minds of most white people, being accused of racism is worse than actual racism. So of course most white people will find a way to deny their own racism if they can help it.

But I do agree with the conclusions. Trump has massive support amongst racists… Nazis, the KKK, etc absolutely love him. Economics is 100% not the reason why.

Back in 2018, researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and the U.S. Census Bureau published a study about racism and economic status. According to the write-up at The Lantern

The study tracked incomes of 20 million people born between 1978 and 1983 for 30 years and published the findings in March. It showed at every economic starting point black males had lower rates of employment and lower wages than white males. Kyle Strickland, a senior legal analyst at Kirwan, said the revelation dispels a widely held belief that racial inequality stems from black children disproportionately coming from poor households.

“It really is a great study in the support of what we’ve been arguing for a very long time, which is that race plays a hugely determinative role in your life outcomes,” he said. “And not just race, let me very clear about that — It’s really racism.”

Researchers tested multiple hypotheses and found the best predictor for the severity of the income gap was the levels of explicit racism and implicit racial basis in an area.

Gaps for black and white males and “racial bias measures have the strongest correlations with black boys’ income ranks,” the study states.

As the New York Times pointed out in 2019

It’s likely that you’ve seen the statistics: The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median African-American family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. And things are getting worse, not better: The proportion of black families with zero or negative wealth rose by 8.5 percent to 37 percent between 1983 and 2016.

Native American median household income is similar to that of black households. Nearly 34 percent of Native American children live in poverty (in contrast to 10 percent of white children), according to the most recent publicly available data.

The economic precariousness among Americans has become notoriously widespread, but it’s the worst for African-Americans without a high school diploma, over half of whom couldn’t handle an unexpected expense as low as $400 with their current income.

The fact of the matter is that claiming that fixing the economy (like instituting Socialism) will somehow end racism and all other forms of bigotry is putting the cart before the horse.

I had this discussion over on the lefty side of Reddit recently, and somebody said this…

Yes but without the shittyness of capitalism the KKK or incels won’t be able to recruit anyone

Yeah… no. Incels and the KKK don’t recruit on the basis of economic status. Incels recruit on the basis of entitlement to sex (you think Eliot Rodgers had economic woes? Dude lived in a wealthy family for fuck’s sake!), and the KKK recruits on racism.

I do think it’s true that groups like the KKK and Nazis and Incels use economic insecurities as tools for getting people to be more racist, and that it’s a powerful tool. But that doesn’t make it their only one.

Do you not think that the KKK will find ways to fearmonger about black people getting the same social welfare that the KKK claims should “only” go to white people? Do you not think Nazis will find new ways to twist a Socialist economy into anti-Semitic propaganda? Do you not think Incels will find ways to complain about women getting the same welfare as men?

Just because one tool in these groups’ arsenals will be gone doesn’t mean it will be harder for them to recruit… they’ll just change the way they go about it.

Bigots will always find a way to be bigots. They don’t have to be poor to be bigots. Elliot Rodger (honestly, I neither know nor care how to spell his name correctly; you know who I’m talking about… you don’t need to tell me) wasn’t poor. Sheldon Adelson isn’t poor. Donald Trump isn’t poor. The Koch Brothers aren’t poor. Yet they all were, and are, bigots.

Like I said… I completely understand thinking that class oppression is the end-all, be-all. Class oppression is probably the one “intersectional” oppression. Pretty much anyone can be poor.

But bigotry will exacerbate that for certain groups of people. White Supremacy will hold back people of color, while Patriarchy, compromised not just of misogyny but also of homophobia and transphobia (both of which stem from misogyny, honestly), will hold back women and the LGBTQIA community. Christian theocracy (which is de-facto in the US right now… let’s be honest… even if we’re technically supposed to be a “secular country”) will hold back Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists… basically anyone who isn’t Christian… and there’s even hatred/holding back of some sects of Christianity in the US that the powerful sects don’t like.

Yet none of this changes the fact that even if (hopefully when?) we do tear down capitalism, seize the means of production, and institute a Glorious Socialist Utopia™ (full of universal health care, universal housing, a universal basic income, co-ops as far as the eye can see, the working class running the government, wealth distribution, free education with zero student loans, and all that wonderful stuff), we will still have to deal with bigotry, because bigots will always be bigots, and they will always find new ways to recruit more bigots.

If we cannot guarantee Socialism to the most oppressed amongst us, then we simply cannot guarantee it at all.

The Revolution will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.


  1. says

    I am afraid it is going to be bullshit.

    I expect, sadly, to live through a climate-change-induced global crisis and perhaps even World War 3, because the corporate interests and bigots will prevail. They always do, and they always will, because humans as a species are not as intelligent as many of us like to imagine we are.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Charly @ # 1: I expect… to live through … World War 3…

    Where you at? Got room for one more?

  3. says

    @Pierce R. Butler, I wrote that wrong. I did not mean to imply that I am going to survive the catastrophe or the war, but that they will happen during my lifetime (unless I drop dead prematurely).

  4. says

    Tabby Lavalamp @ #2

    Oh he was 100% on my mind when writing this… I just decided against working him into it.

    But he is so fucking bad at the whole intersectional thing. He is the definition of “class oppression is the only oppression” way of thinking, and that’s exactly why I’m basically in Elizabeth Warren’s camp at this point. I mean I’ll vote for Sanders… don’t get me wrong…

    He is the only other politician running as a Democrat who’s actually any good (although I am in the “Get Rid of Trump 2020” camp so I’m voting for whoever the Dems spit out). But he straight up refuses to be intersectional. And, sadly, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez won’t be running for president for several years.

  5. kremer says

    While I do believe (incorrectly it would seem -- thanks Nathan) that, the less fearful someone is about their future economically, the less likely they are to act on those fears (in a voting booth, for example), I think whatever revolution happens will absolutely need to be intersectional regardless because bigots will fight tooth and nail against anything that might help out anyone that said bigots hate -- even if, of course, it would also help them out.

  6. VolcanoMan says

    I dunno. There’s a simple way to test for this -- if you look at countries with MORE economic equality, do they have more, less, or the same amount of racial resentment. And as far as I’ve seen (in my limited experience), they have less.

    The reason I bring this up is that certain atheists have pointed to the profoundly godless countries of northern Europe and crowed about how high their quality of life is (implying that being less religious has made life better for the citizens of those countries) -- but of course, atheism is the product of a society with a higher quality of life, not its cause. Economic stability came first. When people are uncertain about their future, they are more likely to turn to religion for answers. And I think it’s also likely that when people are uncertain about their future, they are more likely to scapegoat minorities for the problems they’re facing.

    Now that’s not to say that these countries have NO racial resentment, or bigotry. Dozens of dead (and hundreds of injured) Norwegians can attest to the hatred of just one man, who I shall not name here. Racism still exists, even in societies in which there is far less economic inequality, and for the disadvantaged, an exceptional social safety net. Far right political parties still garner more of the vote than would be ideal (i.e. more than 0%). But I do think that in removing some of the insecurity those in the middle class face, about their futures (and their childrens’ futures), you lower the level of resentment that minorities face. The fact that these societies are racially more homogenous than America is a confounding variable in all of this (of course), but countries like Sweden and Germany have taken in plenty of (mainly Syrian) refugees in the last few years, and yet there hasn’t been a massive showing of hatred against these new members of their societies (~20% seems to be the magic number -- in any society, at least 20% of people are regressive, usually authoritarian reactionaries…it’s often more, but RARELY less). Amongst the vast majority of people in northern Europe, there is a willingness to share the blessings that they are lucky enough to have with people less fortunate, even people of different races, religions and cultures. You don’t see that in America; greed and so-called “bootstrap” politics are present even in most people who voted for Clinton. The myth of the self-made man is alive and well in America.

    So I think that the truth is complicated, and that it’s impossible to be unbiased in setting your priorities -- your identity WILL determine what you value more. Conservatism and xenophobia are BOTH traits that at least SOME humans have held for hundreds of thousands of years, because they were both useful at times to the survival of the tribe. They will both be immensely difficult to vanquish as our species moves out of the dark ages and into the light. So if an anarcho-communist pushes the economic inequality angle without talking about racism that much, I won’t get on their case to start pushing anti-racism because it’s more important, nor will I accuse an anti-racist of “missing the point” if they aren’t also promoting the workers seizing the means of production. They are both, in my opinion, working towards a better future.

    As a final (very related) thought here, I think that to survive as a species, we need to do something about climate change now. THIS needs to be our priority -- in order to have debates about racism and economics in the future, it is first necessary to HAVE a future. Unless we solve this (and solve it FAST), we can have the most racially, economically equal society EVER in 50 years and still be screwed. Fortunately, economics and environmentalism can interact in interesting ways -- ideally, we adapt our economic system to create greater equality, AND environmental sustainability at the same time. We need to be spending ALL of our political capital on THIS policy, and it needs to happen GLOBALLY (i.e. all humans on Earth need to have the same investment in the future of our species, no matter where they live -- national sovereignty is antithetical to an issue that is global, like climate change). I don’t hold out much hope of this happening, but the only ones standing in the way are the rich capitalists. They have the power right now to condemn us all to extinction. We need to take that power away.

  7. says

    VolcanoMan @ #8

    I see what you’re saying, but you yourself also mention that confounding variable:

    The fact that these societies are racially more homogenous than America is a confounding variable in all of this (of course)

    Unfortunately the United States is unique in that regard. Amongst first-world countries at least it’s the most diverse country. It is also a country where Nazis have found refuge, where the KKK still maintain a presence… and keep in mind our founding. The United States was built on genocide and slavery. When you really think about it, we are a patriarchal, white supremacist country. Germany became that with the Nazis, of course, but like I said… the US is where they came for refuge after they lost the war.

    I really do think, especially here in the States, that even, like I said, tearing down capitalism, installing Socialism, and fixing everything that way will have absolutely zero effect on the bigots; in fact, it will embolden them to try and become gatekeepers.

    I sometimes feel quite like I lack an imagination because I can’t imagine a good way of dealing with the bigots that doesn’t involve either some sort of curbing of free speech (ala Germany and Nazi symbolism… which I’m not against, BTW… I think the worship of free speech in the US is trite and ridiculous in part because none of the free speech lovers know what the 1st Amendment actually says, nor do they know how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over the decades) or… well… a violent revolution. But we are going to have to, regardless of the status of our economy. They won’t go away with a fixed economy… they’ll just pivot.

  8. VolcanoMan says

    Yeah, a violent revolution seems kind of inevitable at this point, doesn’t it?

    One point of hope is that the bigots themselves aren’t a homogenous group. They try to give the impression that they are, and certainly, this reality is immaterial to the people they’re persecuting, but within that group there are the ideological leaders (who represent a small percentage of their membership) and the much bigger group of followers, drawn in by the rhetoric, but not truly understanding the nature of the beast they consider themselves a part of. Also, there’s a big difference between a klansman, an alt-right member, and a conservative -- certainly, all of those people have bigoted beliefs that cause direct harm to minorities, but there is ideological diversity here. And because of this (and the fact that so many of their talking points are based on LIES and half-truths), it is possible to reach many people with bigoted beliefs, and turn them into, at worst, classical liberals, and at best, socialists (or even anarcho-communists). Remember, the vast majority of adults in the US and Canada grew up believing in capitalism -- I was one of them. And now…I believe capitalism is BEYOND saving -- it’s a matter of incentives -- capitalism creates incentives that are not actually in line with human happiness and well-being. We need an economic system in which success and happiness (or more accurately, eudaimonia) are synonymous.

    Beliefs change. And because of this, I’m more optimistic than you. Sure, some of the bigots will remain bigots, no matter what happens to society. But I’ve seen too many examples of racists, (occasionally) even LEADERS in their right-wing militias, eventually give it all up and start fighting AGAINST their former companions to believe that removing class hierarchies from society will still leave us with millions of bigots plaguing us.

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