Let’s think about a sentence for a moment or two.
Here it is:
I love seeing the confusion that flashes through the eyes of a straight white man as he tries to decide what aspect of my identity to attack first.
That manages to label a group of people by their sex, race and sexuality as bigots in a single sentence. If you did that with any other group, you would run the risk of losing your job or being expelled from the university you are attending.
But not Harvard.
Harvard, which is one of the most prestigious, famous and influential universities in the world. Harvard whose very name when mentioned in news stories about a public figure who has some connection to it connotes intellectual heft and authority. Harvard: alma mater of Supreme Court justices, U.S. presidents, senators and governors by the dozen. Harvard: attendance at which endows one with an aura of brilliance and ability. Harvard: nursery to the elite and pathway to power and influence. Harvard: cradle of much of the public policy that governs our lives. Harvard: which lectures the rest of the country about xenophobia and racism. Should we care that its famed student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, features a column the first sentence of which is, by any sane standard, a stunning example of racist stereotyping?
I think so because even though we are becoming inured to the endless numbers of self-centered “finding my racial/gender/religious identity and speaking truth to power and down with the white heteronormative patriarchy” opinion pieces in student newspapers across the woke republic of American academia in our day, in many ways the October 12, 2021 column entitled, The Puzzle of Intersectionality is even more worrisome than all the others.
“Why so?” you ask. Because, dear reader, it starts out with a sweeping denunciation of a group simply because of the color of the skin of those in it and the fact that they are heterosexuals and that seems to be perfectly fine with the Harvard students who edit the Crimson.
Remember: These are the future great and good. They are going to run foundations, think tanks and NGOs and are going to wield influence in every corner of academia, law, media, medicine, etc. They are the gatekeepers. They will decide who gets tenure, who gets grants, who gets fellowships, who gets employed and who gets appointed to key positions in government. And they don’t bat an eye at vilifying those outside of their favored “oppressed” classes. This does not bode well for the country—or the world, given how many foreign leaders have taught at, been honored by, matriculated at etc., Harvard.
And this is all in the name of “love” as the piece says at the end:
We need only to love.
The writer, interestingly, is saddened by the fact that if only a white heterosexual man were not all of those things, she would not be obligated to shower her disdain on him. She sighs:
If even one aspect of this man’s identity was different, these encounters would go very differently.
How nice to know that it is okay to be white, provided that you are a homosexual or transgender or something or that is okay to be male provided you are not white. Or something.
And remember, this strange ranking of the acceptability of human beings is appearing in the pages of the student newspaper of an Ivy League university, the member institutions of which pride themselves on their open-mindedness and respect for “diversity.”
The writer is not particularly good at intellectual coherence in that after saying that things would go better for her if only there were not such bothersome things as straight white men says:
part of diversity is the wide range of intersecting identities and not just stand-alone affiliations
Sorry—didn’t you just saying that a person’s stand-alone affiliations determine how you interact with him? This is the kind of logic that Harvard students use, one gathers.
In this column the subject of which is the oppression the writer laments she labors under every day of her oppressed life as a student at, well, Harvard University, she then shifts to the tried-and-true woman-power “But I persist…” mode and shows how resilient and brave she is:
For better or worse, I no longer feel bothered by the casual racism I encounter daily…
This writer, who unequivocally states in the very first sentence of her column her loathing for straight white men, definitely does know a thing or two about “casual racism,” as do the editors of the Crimson who published this piece.
She talks of the “the condescending way that male employees talk to me when I need help.” Needs help? This lioness of female empowerment? And could it be that men are simply being, well, courteous and friendly? Speaking as a woman who has been helped by men all my female life, I am pretty sure that that is entirely possible. But maybe I have just been brainwashed by the patriarchy.
The writer is so obsessed with identity issues that she is frustrated even by her own relatives and cultural background:
I felt guilty for growing up in America, where I hadn’t devoted as much time to developing my identity as a Bangladeshi because I was too caught up trying to balance my other identities as well.
She might try just being a person who cared about other people and less about herself and be grateful for being a student at what used to be a great university. But no, even the groups that cater to those who wish to emphasize identities are found wanting by this perennially disgruntled young woman:
Even at Harvard, we are not immune from the complications of intersectionality.
One commonality of this genre of writing is humorlessness and the insistence that even one’s fellow oppressed persons are not sufficiently focused on the writer’s personal needs. Even as such writers blather about the sense of solidarity they find with other oppressed people in their particular group, they attack that group for failing to make them feel sufficiently cosseted and validated. These writers are not happy campers and one gets the idea that they would not be a whole lot of fun to work with, given how they assume from the get-go that large swathes of humanity are out to get them and should someone assist them, that long-suffering person is condemned for being condescending (the dreaded “microaggression”).
The lack of self-awareness in the piece is epic. Having started out with a quite racist condemnation of an entire class of human beings, she says:
If we wish to welcome individuals outside of our niche spheres of social categorization…