Consider the world as viewed through the lens of intersectionality. At the very top of the pyramid of privilege stands a straight, able-bodied, white man — whether he was born rich, attended Harvard, and works on Wall Street, or is a laid off coal miner who struggles with opioid addiction in eastern Kentucky. Below him are straight, able-bodied white women, with straight “people of color” of either gender even less privileged, followed by gay, lesbian, transgendered, and disabled variations on each identity category — with a hypothetical disabled black lesbian perhaps least privileged of all. But of course, this is a matter of controversy, since a transgendered Latina who comes from a poorer neighborhood or a more broken family than her black lesbian rival might contest and take offense at this ranking, insisting that she’s actually the one who deserves to be recognized as the least privileged.
It should be obvious that this brand of politics is profoundly poisonous. Instead of seeking to level an unjust hierarchy, mitigate its worst abuses, and foster cross-group solidarity, intersectionality merely flips the hierarchy on its head, placing the least privileged in the most powerful position and requiring everyone else to clamor for relative advantage in the new upside-down ranking. Those who come out on top in the struggle win their own counter-status, earning the special privilege of getting to demand that those lower in the pecking order “check their privilege.”
This is a sure-fire spur to division, dissension, and resentment.