The Bird House: Culture War 101

Blog Post Written By: Colin Offenbacker

Hey everyone, Colin here from Salt of the Streets. When I recorded my last blog post I was in somewhat of a weird head space and I was struggling to understand a lot of what was happening in the country, in the world and even what I was trying to do with these blog posts. It’s been a couple of weeks since then and after some off-mic beers with Don, some conversation and a hell of a lot of thinking I’m feeling like I’m in a better head space this time around. That being said, I spoke last time about not knowing exactly what I was doing with these blog posts. I had gone from a more structured informational pieces to more of an off the cuff personal post, and now, after all this time spinning my wheels and trying to see which direction I wanted to go, I’ve decided to continue on doing what I’ve been doing lately, except now I’m doing it consciously, with a deliberate direction, showcasing my own thoughts and opinions on stories and situations that I feel strongly about. With that preamble out of the way, welcome to my audio blog, a place that, from here on out, I’m going to be referring to as, “The Bird House”, it’s a place where I, @BigBirdOffie (on both instagram and twitter I might add), can invite you in to listen, learn and share ideas about those things I’m most passionate about. And in this first, but not really first episode of The Bird House, we’re going to be talking about a subject I’ve been enamored and yet strangely fascinated with over the past couple years, today is Culture War 101. So come on in, make yourself comfortable and lets have a discussion.

Have you ever heard the phrase; politics is downstream from culture, or perhaps you’ve heard it the opposite way, that culture is downstream from politics. When you really stop to think about it, I feel like it really depends on your outlook toward the government and how it intermingles with our society at large. Does out politics govern our culture, or does our culture govern our politics? Maybe it goes both ways. Maybe it ebbs and floods like the tides. It is that struggle between who’s downstream of whom, and whether politics should lead culture or vise-versa that I see as the greater frame work that makes up what I call the culture war. Now it’s not that “I” call it the culture war, that’s a term that has been around for as long as I’ve been paying attention, but it’s that ebbing and flowing of societal power and control that I see as the culture war. The entire concept of the Culture War is something that’s about as subjective as any of the idea-debates playing out on the various battle grounds of said culture war. Some even see it as a modern day version of a civil war, I don’t think I’d ever go that far, but I can see “some” similarities and commonalities when I compare them to some of the social changes and events that lead up to our historical civil war, but at the end of the day, I just don’t see the events of the early 1860’s ever playing out in any recognizable fashion in our modern age, we’re just not the same people, were not the same society that we were even a couple generations ago, greater still than those in the ladder half of the 1800’s. No, our culture war is being fought over the concept and the validity of something called intersectionality.

And what is intersectionality?

The short answer is that intersectionality is a perspective, and more to the point, a perspective on so called social justice. It’s a way to view the world and society as a whole based off of a certain amount of characteristics a person has. Characteristics such as race, sexual orientation, gender identification, ethnicity, religion, age, occupation, income status, family status, geographic location, immigration status, language and that’s just naming a few.

The longer answer is a that the entire concept of intersectionality was created by, if not created then first pushed as in ideology by a women named Kimberle Crenshaw back in 1989. She is touted as the first person to use the word intersectionality, which she used in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum entitled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” In 2016, Crenshaw released a TED talk in which, over the course of just under 19 minutes, she breaks down where the idea came from.

While listening to her give this TED talk, one could be forgiven for being convinced that the idea of intersectionality is a great idea, as she describes the case she studied before coming up with the term she coined. In short, back in 1976 a discrimination lawsuit had been brought to a courtroom in which Emma DeGraffenreid and several other black women sued the General Motors company over the idea that the company segregated it’s workforce by race and gender. Men did one set of jobs, women did another set of jobs, but the catch was that the men were all black and the women were all white. This left the group of black women aggrieved, rightly so, but the case was tossed out by the judge for having no basis in discrimination. Now don’t get me wrong for what I’m about to say here, the type of segregation taking place in this suit was 100% terrible and would in no way be okay in our modern day workforce. But without knowing all the details of that particular case I would have to assume that do to the era and the ridiculous racial problems still heavily present at the time, the fact that the suit was tossed out seems to me like a judicial loop-hole at the time. They hired black people and they hired women, how could they be called discriminatory? Looking at it today, I can safely say that they were absolutely sexist and racist for not hiring these women. But when you take that same thinking and apply it to the modern western world, I just don’t see that same situation working out the way it did then, whether viewed through the lens of intersectionality or not, that was just plain wrong.

Either way, this is how Crenshaw came up with this idea of intersectionality. If the judge at the time could have seen there struggle as not just African-Americans, and not just Women, but as African-American women, then he would have not tossed out the case. He would have seen that the oppression that the women were being discriminated under was due to the fact that these women were caught between the intersection of gender and race discrimination. Frankly I just see it as good old fashioned racism and sexism, travesties that ran rampant during this time period. Now, intersectionality, if applied to a systemically oppressive authority could possibly have it’s benefits played out correctly, assuming that the systematic oppression is REAL, but in todays modern age, where the vast majority of discrimination is based on merit and not hatred or systematic oppression, intersectionality simply doesn’t work. In fact it’s totally counter productive, it’s regressive, not progressive.

The massive problem that intersectionality presents in todays world, and unfortunately it’s one of, if not the core principles of the ideology, is the fact that the whole ideology is based off of oppression and segregation. Though it isn’t stated in the TED talk by Crenshaw, the real world ramifications of this ideology has proven time and time again that this is indeed the case. There are many problems with intersectional thinking, but other than the fact that it forces people into various groups and then judges them based off of how much historic oppression that group has received over a period of time, is the fact that it’s simply un-American, and beyond that, it completely and utterly immoral. The thought that you can group people like ALL Straight White Male’s (these are people who are at the intersection of heterosexuality, white privilege and male dominance, also known as the patriarchy) examine there historical oppression, which in this case; white people are counted as oppressors and don’t rank on the scale of oppression, heterosexuals is the historical normalized status, again not oppressed, and male…did I mention the patriarchy already, I feel like that sums that up enough. After all these factors are weighed against every other group of socially marginalized groups that suffer from xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, classism, sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, the straight white male is left at the bottom of the oppression scale.

On the other hand, A trans-women person of color, after running the math stacks rather high on the scale and must be propped up to make up for the systemic and historical oppression people like she has suffered over the years… Yeah, no I’m not kidding, this is actually a thing. This type of thinking really exists out there, and in a far greater number than we’d like to think. Now it doesn’t always get that crazy. Lets take a much simpler example. The hetero-normative, cis-gendered African-American male, stands below an African-American women of the same make up, do to the fact that women have historically been oppressed by men.

Again, there are so many problems with intersectionality, it’s impossible to capture all of them here right now, but I will note one other major problem that faces intersectionality. It’s a problem pointed out by none other than the New York Times, back in October I believe, when they put out an article, not an op-ed but an actual detailed article describing the problem that the intersectionalists were facing with the Jewish population of the country. They pointed out that the Jewish population of New York City was experiencing a massive surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes, something that would help sky rocket the Jews higher up the oppression hierarchy, but they pointed out a problem. You see, even though the Jews are about one of the most historically oppressed people on history, they are rather successful these days and there’s the fact that they kind of, well…they look white. Now the article did a very fine job in calling out the fact that there might be a slight problem with the intersectional narrative being pushed if the Jews don’t have a place under this intersectional umbrella, but when you take a step back and stop comparing the suffering of the Jews to others, you might be able to see how flat out racist it is to just lump all Jews together and judge them on an oppression scale.

The simple fact is, intersectionality is totally and completely wrong. If you cannot view an individual by the content of there character, and not by the color of there skin, sexual orientation, immigration status, so on and so forth, then your wrong, your just plain wrong. Americans don’t believe that type of crap, at least we don’t believe it anymore. Yes, we all have ancestral skeletons in our closets, but news flash, I am not my father, I am not my grandfather, or his father and neither are you. You have freewill, you have the freedom of thought and expression and you live in the freest country during the freest time in human history and it is up to us to realize that and act on that. Do not let the hatred of days gone by effect our present or our future. We are the only ones that can create the future we want, all we have to do is…do it, this is how we’ll win the Culture War.