As I read this work by Joshua Sealy-Harrington, I could not stop thinking of the phenomenal harm done to humanity by racist, misogynistic authorities: judges, lawyers, church/school/university leaders, academics and police.
I’m over this brand of intersectionality “critique” that fails to engage with #CRT while claiming to dunk on it. So, a responding to @jordanbpeterson’s latest @nationalpost piece. TL;DR: He rejects intersectionality by denying hierarchy’s existence.
Why the Western emphasis on individuals is the ultimate in intersectionality, We essentially assumed that each person was characterized by so many differences than every other person that it was better to concentrate solely on meritocratic selection
Let’s start with defining intersectionality. Coined by @sandylocks 30 years ago, intersectionality challenges a “single-axis framework” in feminist and anti-racist discourse by recognizing the “particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.” https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf …
In other words, intersectionality is, actually, quite a modest proposition. It simply observes that individuals in “multiply-burdened” groups experience the world differently from their “otherwise-privileged” peers—that, as a Black man, my experiences differ from a Black woman’s.
This is what many conservatives are rallying against—recognizing that *different* communities experience the world *differently*, and that this should be accounted for in our politics. It’s actually preposterous that such a basic proposition receives such adamant resistance.
So what does Peterson have to say about intersectionality? Nothing new—A repackaging of tired conservative talking points, none of which meaningfully engage with critical race theory, and many of which are based on a flawed premise: that identity-based hierarchy does not exist.
That Peterson rejects identity-based hierarchy is not even remotely concealed. When he sarcastically refers to progressive “beliefs” such as “the idea that we live in an oppressive patriarchy” he is explicitly challenging the existence of sexism in society, full stop.
For example, per Peterson, it is “obvious to everyone” at McGill, Harvard, and U of T that promotions are exclusively merit-based. But I guarantee that not “everyone” at these schools agrees with Peterson. And I doubt sexism, or racism, happen to skip university administrations.
Peterson even expands beyond universities, and claims bigotry “was actually solved long ago by the Western emphasis on the individual.” Just the opposite: Emphasizing *individuals* obscures *systemic* disadvantage; conversely, systemic monitoring reveals individuals’ treatment.
But let’s turn to his argument. First, Peterson criticizes diversity—which he repeatedly “scare quotes” (we get it, you hate diversity)—by joining the chorus of conservatives who oppose diversity based on merit. In his view, pro-diversity measures are, necessarily, anti-merit.
Yet, Peterson’s critique isn’t limited to quotas—he even resists data collection, which can’t be anti-merit; to the contrary, it’s a safeguard for merit. Data collection can reveal when a “meritorious” process consistently selects dominant groups, a red flag for prejudice.
Fundamentally, Peterson’s position exalts *process* without vetting *outcomes*. He effectively says, ‘trust the process, no matter how skewed the results.’ But when covert attitudes favour particular groups, scrutiny is warranted. And diversity monitoring enables such scrutiny.
Indeed, the only disadvantage Peterson is willing to acknowledge—with painfully unintended irony—is the plight of “white men” (an intersectional group) & women’s supposed “hiring advantage” in STEM (said to be proven by the identity-based monitoring Peterson otherwise detests).
If extant systems reflect merit, monitoring identity outcomes should pose no concern. Either different groups will perform in line with their relative population, or deviations will have an alternate explanation. Without monitoring, these deviations are immunized from scrutiny.
Second, Peterson criticizes diversity because it’s “slippery” (as if “merit”—his ideological commitment—is any less slippery). Regardless, hierarchy is slippery. Flexible concepts are required to meet identity-based hierarchy (eg sexism & racism) in its amorphous battleground.
Third, Peterson praises the one form of diversity many conservatives are willing to value: diversity of thought. He says that organizations should strive for ideological diversity to ally their conservative and liberal tendencies. This concession defeats the rest of his argument.
Let me explain. The only direct critique of intersectionality—as opposed to diversity—that Peterson makes is “arithmetic”, i.e., that there “appears to be no limits … to the number of group memberships that have to be taken into account for true diversity to establish itself.”
Peterson repeatedly does arithmetic in his op-ed to “prove” that, if we consider intersectional diversity, then we must consider 15,000,000 groups. The only thing that’s slippery here is not “diversity”, but the slope Peterson’s argument careens off of to oppose that diversity.
Recall that Peterson is perfectly comfortable with diversity of *thought*, just not diversity of *identity*. Yet thought is just as (if not more) capacious than identity. He says “healthy organizations” balance “liberal” and “conservative” ideology, as if only 2 ideologies exist.
Peterson’s argument, thus, eats itself. Thought diverges along myriad issues: social, economic, political, philosophical. 2 X 2 X 2 X 2, etc. To consider thought diversity implicates so many distinct subjects that it becomes unworkable. Shouldn’t we defer to merit, instead?
Or, should we exercise a modicum of judgment, & make modest efforts at considering how various diversities (thought, identity, etc.) safeguard true merit? Sure, considering *every* conceivable diversity can be unworkable, but that hardly disproves considering diversity *at all*.
Fundamentally, Peterson’s anti-intersectional position is motivated by selective defeatism. Diversity of thought (which protects his conservative politics) is simple enough to account for, but diversity of identity (which challenges his white male privilege) is too complex.
And, of course, what would an anti-diversity op-ed be without a hyperbolic reference to “war and genocide.” According to Peterson, considering identity outcomes in supposedly merit-based systems feeds the logic mass killings. But this superman-esque leap of logic is absurd.
Recognizing that certain groups suffer particular disadvantage will not result in genocide. To the contrary, such recognition acknowledges how state-sanctioned violence against those groups has morphed into “objective” criteria that continue to contribute to their subordination.
Peterson’s critique of intersectionality is, at its core, a denial of hierarchy. Rather, sexism subordinates women; racism subordinates Black people; and intersectionality includes those at the crossroads—Black women—in our politics. Dismissing intersectionality erases them.
6:47 PM – 25 Nov 2019 from Brooklyn, NY
A few tweets on Joshua Sealy-Harrington’s thread above:
@LawSocietyLSO pay attention. [Comment by Ernst: As I read the STOP SOP arguments by racism-enabling lawyers at the Law Society of Ontario, I kept thinking the lawyers were Jordan Peterson wannabes.]
And yet again I learn from @JoshuaSealy writings
An excellent thread on J*ordan P*terson’s word salad from last week.
Some thoughtful analysis of JBP’s latest dreck.
It feels almost mean spirited to allow someone of @JoshuaSealy‘s rhetorical chops to butcher the brittle white male fragility that is Jordan Peterson. Almost.
This is a must-read thread by the ever brilliant [-] @JoshuaSealy on the misreadings and misfortunes of #Intersectionality in the Canadian academy. (Inexplicable why the @nationalpost editors think that Dr J Peterson is knowledgeable about everything).
Please read this brilliant thread that systematically takes down Jordan Peterson’s “critique” of intersectionality.
@JoshuaSealy is chicken soup for the progressive barrister’s soul.
Nourish your soul: read @JoshuaSealy’s crushingly rigorous take down of Jordan Peterson’s attempt to defend injustice with strident non-sequiturs and fallacies.
@JoshuaSealy demonstrates how to effectively engage and respond to Jordan Peterson. Too many people attempt to silence ideas they disagree with rather than engage with them. This is textbook.
Read this thread, and follow Joshua. I’m not negotiating here, this is an order.
Joshua just dismantled everything Jordan Peterson. You need to read this. Peterson’s popularity is rooted in assuaging white (male) fragility by insisting the world exists only through their gaze. Nah.
This very apt as one of key reasons for #UCUstrike. Systemic discrimination evident in race and gender pay gap in universities (and beyond). Whole thread worth reading for clear breakdown of #intersectionality and destruction of Peterson’s argument
This thread is utter perfection.
This is an important thread on Intersectionality. @JoshuaSealy is practically a saint for having the patience to carefully engage. Not retweeting the original shite article by charlatan of an academic because it’s racist garbage and click bait anyhow.
Great thread on diversity, intersectionality and merit, with the added bonus of demolishing a Peterson op-ed.
Refer also to:
“In Pennsylvania, African Americans and Latinos are considerably more likely to experience health effects from air pollution than Whites. The Pennsylvania asthma hospitalization rate was over five times higher for African-American children and nearly three times higher for Latino children than for White children.”
… The controversy over the Bella Romero project dates back to 2013, when a company called Mineral Resources was granted a permit for a fracking operation near a south Greeley charter school called Frontier Academy. Mineral Resources was acquired by Extraction Oil and Gas in 2014, which abandoned its plans near Frontier Academy after significant pushback from parents.
An alternative to the Frontier Academy site was found, about ten minutes to the east. The new site was right behind Bella Romero Academy, where more than 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. …
Scores of supporters rallied together in Edmonton, Alberta, last week, in solidarity with the family of an 11-year-old-boy who was racially profiled for wearing a durag at school.
On 12 September, Emmell Summerville, a sixth-grade student at Christ the King school, was asked to remove the durag because it “contravened school policy that states no caps, bandanas or hats are allowed in the school”.
But it’s not the request that’s truly appalling, it’s everything that happens after it. As the boy later described to his mother, Una Momolu, he was accused of being a gang member by a school resource officer, who suggested that the item of clothing connoted some kind of “affiliation” with gangs.
After a meeting at the school to discuss the incident got testy, the principal triggered a lockdown and called police, reporting that Momolu had been aggressive and was “screaming” during the 10-minute confrontation, causing concern for her safety and that of the students. Despite the fact that both an audio recording and Una’s recounting of the discussion prove this version of events to be completely false (there was no screaming or yelling, and Una sounds clearly distressed), she has been banned from school premises for a year.
Allow me to reiterate what happened here: An 11-year-old boy is criminalized because of a piece of clothing. The next day, his rightfully angry mother is not only dismissed in her concerns, but also made out to be a criminal.
Sadly, none of this is new when it comes to racial politics in Canada. Young black men across the country have spoken for years about being surveilled and criminalized simply for existing. In 2015, writer and anti-racism advocate Desmond Cole wrote an award-winning essay about his experience with carding, the police practice of stopping civilians and collecting their personal information. At the time, Cole had been carded over 50 times. As of 2013 (before the practice saw a steep drop) black people were 17 times more likely to be carded in downtown Toronto than white people.
The gang reference in Emmell’s case was first made by the retired Edmonton police officer Rick Cole. Cole is a School Team Advisor for Youth (Stay) at Christ the King, and, according to the school’s Catholic board, he made the remark “in fear that the child could be mistaken for a gang member in the community”.
“The issue of race had no bearing on the actions taken and was NEVER part of the discussion,” the school board statement continued. And yet the irony that the comment came from someone who has worked in law enforcement is also not lost on me. Couching this kind of racism under the guise of disciplinary action creates a misconception that black kids are inherently unruly and criminal, even at school age.
The setting of this incident is also crucial to understanding the racial, cultural and social dynamics at play. Often, academic institutions are dwelling places for discrimination, harm and psychological violence, and Canada has a long history of systemic racism in its educational systems.
It has become increasingly clear that in many cases black children are held back, singled out and disproportionately punished because they are black. And in one of the most appalling manifestations of this issue, the report also revealed what many who have passed through the system long suspected – that black students are routinely diverted into academic courses well below their ability.
In this case the school chose to respond in ways that were both troubling and telling. Leaning into the tired “angry black woman” trope, the boy’s mother was dismissed simply for standing up for her child. Would a white woman’s upset trigger a lockdown, police intervention and a one-year ban from her child’s school? Doubt it.
As of this writing, the school has “apologized” for using the word “gang” in reference to Emmell, but continues to keep the ban on his mother in place.
And the distinctiveness of these cases creates what lawyer and racial justice advocate Anthony Morgan calls a “Canadian racial exceptionalism”, the idea that Canada is somehow removed from the racial “messiness” that our neighbors down south are notorious for.
In truth, Canada also has a whole lot to reckon with when it comes to the way it treats black people. And one thing that cannot be denied is the fact that racism, particularly anti-blackness, not only lives here, it thrives.
Emmell Summerville has yet to return to school.
Edmonton Catholic school board trustees voted to adjourn their monthly meeting after just 13 minutes in session on Tuesday due to a peaceful demonstration in support of a mother who says she was racially profiled by her son’s school in September.
Momolu said she came on Tuesday because nothing had been done in the more than two months since the incident. She is asking the board for an apology, for the ban to be removed, and for a broader review of school dress codes to ensure they are culturally sensitive.
“(The dress code) is outdated, it’s basically racist,” she said before the meeting, adding that the board has refused to meet with her with another community member present. “They’re just trying to keep us quiet.”
Momolu said the reaction of the board to a silent and peaceful demonstration shows that they don’t take issues of racism seriously in the school system.
“It just shows how racist they are … that’s just who they are and that they don’t care,” she said, noting the reaction made her feel angry and unheard.
“People don’t want to talk about it because it is so uncomfortable to talk about racism, but it is embedded in their system and within the curriculum.”
Mohamed also noted that there were several months to resolve the issue before the demonstration took place.
“It’s disturbing and frankly shameful that the Catholic school board has done nothing about this,” he said. …