The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group is regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
The term intersectionality has been around since the late 1980s. It is used to refer to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups. The term was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in a 1989 essay that asserts that antidiscrimination law, feminist theory, and antiracist politics all fail to address the experiences of Black women because of how they each focus on only a single factor. Crenshaw writes that “because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.” Though originally applied only to the ways that sexism and racism combine and overlap, intersectionality has come to include other forms of discrimination as well, such as those based on class, sexuality, and ability.
Current Societal Approach to Intersectionality:
The theory is based on a long list of identity categories that are often compared regarding the amount of oppression associated with it. Over the years, “intersectionality” has been expanded to include “studies that integrate the disadvantages caused by sexual orientation, class, age, body size, gender identification, ability, and more,” Corey noted.
Catholic/Christian Approach to Intersectionality:
Intersectionality is a theory that is becoming a political movement that noted Christian thinkers consider contrary to the Gospel. Broadly defined, though its precise meaning is disputed, “intersectionality” refers to the interconnected nature of social categories like race, gender, class, and how these identity markers create overlapping and interdependent systems of disadvantage or discrimination.
For example, when applied to a distinctly American context, in light of history and the discrimination shown to women as well as the systematic racial prejudice shown to Black people, intersectionality holds that a Black woman is at a greater disadvantage than both a Black man and a White woman and is even more disadvantaged than a White man. An additional layer of disadvantage would appear if the Black woman was also a lesbian. This theory…
Here are things you should know about intersectionality
To the extent intersectionality appears in Scripture, it could be argued that it is seen in the Gospels in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who was known for her promiscuous sexual history in John 4. Both women and Samaritans had considerably lower social standing in the male-dominated Jewish culture of the day. Sexual sin, in particular, was significantly shamed, making Jesus’ interactions with her that much more radical.
Intersectional theorists aim to inspire people spiritually toward a redemptive purpose and urge disadvantaged people to engage in solidarity and political activism together.
Intersectionality from a College Perspective
Intersectionality can help us understand how an individual may experience multiple layers of discrimination or mistreatment. From a Christian perspective, this insight can perhaps serve as one metric for understanding how sin operates in a fallen world. This rightly evokes our compassion and resolve for justice. Nevertheless, I do not see why we need the total theory in order to maintain that particular insight, and I can think of a number of reasons that Christians might want to unload the theory. At least two of those reasons are:
Intersectionality fosters an unbiblical view of human identity
A deficiency in intersectionality theory that goes to the very foundation:
Intersectional theorists begin their work on the basis of a debatable (though never debated) set of characteristics that supposedly constitute personal identity: race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and sometimes others (weight, attractiveness, age). Women are collectively, and as individuals, oppressed. So are gays, lesbians, Hispanics, blacks, the disabled, the aged, the very young, the obese, the transgender—and the list goes on, becoming more complex with the addition and subtraction of multiple traits.
Intersectionality fails to distinguish between social categories that are morally neutral and those that are morally implicated. For example, race and gender are set right alongside sexual orientation. This is a big problem. Whereas the Bible celebrates racial diversity and the complementary differences between male and female, it does not celebrate sexual orientation diversity. The Bible says that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful, but intersectional activists would view such a judgment as oppression when applied to gay or bisexual people. Intersectionality insists that homosexuality is a good to be celebrated and promoted. Likewise, intersectionality defines gender in a way that mandates the celebration of transgender identities. This too is a radical departure from Christian teaching about how integral biological sex is to human identity as male and female. In these ways, intersectionality is at odds with fundamental truths of Christianity.
Intersectionality exacerbates social divisions rather than healing them
It has often been observed that intersectionality creates a kind of “oppression Olympics” among those who hold the theory. Ironically, within college campus subculture, one’s moral authority can be enhanced by intersecting identities of oppression. This kind of social dynamic incentivizes grievance based on identity. In that way, it entrenches social divisions rather than healing them.
To refuse to recognize intersectionality is not merely a theoretical dispute. It reveals animus towards those whose identities must be recognized and celebrated. Such refusal is the opposite of a “safe space” and must be vigorously opposed.
The gospel, on the other hand, provides an entirely different remedy. Where the gospel prevails, reconciliation between social groups also prevails. That is what Galatians 3:27-28 is all about:
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The gospel removes hostilities between social groups. It doesn’t foster them. Everyone is included and welcomed because they are children of God, and it shows how differences make us all unique. In saying that, we are all equal in the eyes of God, should love others no matter what, and discriminating against anyone based on those factors is not in line with the true meaning of Christianity.
Intersectionality is a concept that brings the marginalized together through their mutual suffering and understanding.