At first, the Women’s March seemed like the perfect antidote to the violent demonstrations that erupted around the country as Donald Trump took the oath of office to become president on Jan. 20, 2017. It was spontaneous and organic, peaceful and professional. Most importantly, it was sympathetic.
But this genial façade was only a mirage. This protest movement’s downfall was inevitable, because the vengeful and petty prejudices that animate the modern social justice movement were written into its DNA.
Honest observers should have noticed that there was a problem when the Women’s March embraced a cop-killer.
“Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur,” the organization wrote on its official Twitter account in June 2018. Assata Shakur was better known as Joanne Chesimard when she was tried and convicted for, among other crimes, the execution-style murder of a New Jersey state trooper. She is currently evading American justice in Communist Cuba.
When the Women’s March was called out for its offense against, if nothing else, common decency, the organization indignantly defended itself. While insisting that it did not “endorse” Shakur’s actions, the movement could nevertheless not condone “the ongoing history of government (and) right-wing attempts to criminalize and discredit political activists.”
This was only the beginning of the scandals that plagued the group.
Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour – who already demonstrated an unlovely habit of praising Saudi Arabia’s medieval treatment of women and fantasizing about the disfigurement of her political adversaries – insisted that the “Resistance” to Donald Trump should be considered a “form of jihad.”
Sarsour’s colleagues – Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez – mounted an ill-advised campaign to defend the Nation of Islam’s anti-Semitic chief, Louis Farrakhan. And all of them were recently alleged to have alienated Jewish organizers because of their suspicious amiability toward anti-Semitic tropes.
In its report on the anti-Semitism scandal engulfing the organization, The New York Times included a more-in-sorrow observation about how the group had become tangled up in its own internal deliberations about what constitutes “marginalization” and, therefore, a thumb on the scale in their favor.
The Women’s March group had already gone on the record noting that “white women” have “a lot of learning” to do, but now the organization was tortured over whether Jews, too, should be considered what the Times described as “privileged white Americans.”
This isn’t just a toxic identity obsession; it’s identity obsession with the resolve to do something about it.
The Women’s March organizers displayed fealty toward many of the tenets of modern social justice. This includes the belief that: First, we all either thrive or struggle as a result of the circumstances into which we were born. Second, justice demands that the enlightened engage in oppressive social leveling to right real or perceived historical wrongs.
This is a theory of social organization that rejects individuality in favor of demographic hierarchies and benign ghettoization, and which views the world as a complex matrix of overlapping persecutions.
They call this matrix “intersectionality” – a once-obscure academic theory positing that discrimination is doled out in degrees.
Few Americans are born into or adopt wholly “privileged” backgrounds, just as few are entirely “marginalized.” Intersectionality is a perfectly legitimate field of study and an important framework for understanding how prejudice manifests in discrimination.
As an organizational philosophy, however, intersectionality is self-destructive. It unites otherwise disparate but ideologically simpatico movements under a single unifying theory, but it also forbids prudent dissociation.
The Women’s March could no more disown Assata Shakur or Louis Farrakhan than the liberal movement could abandon Linda Sarsour. They are all waging the same struggle for social justice, and those struggles are linked by identity.
No matter how heavy the burden of carrying Farrakhan on their backs, the Women’s March organizers will shoulder it. Defending a cop-killer may be an onerous task, but to throw her overboard is to legitimize what they consider racially suspect institutions that persecute her and those like her.
This view leads to a belief that while a truly colorblind movement may be an ideal objective, ignoring the historic indignities visited disproportionately upon women and certain minorities amid that pursuit would be morally compromising.
Today the Women’s March is collapsing. Its organizers are at war with one another, funds are drying up, and its franchises would rather cancel events than create the impression that the movement is “overwhelmingly white.”
The implosion of the Women’s March demonstrates both the folly and the danger of modern social justice activism. Once an idea that helped us to think about fairness and create a just society, social justice has now become the antithesis of blind, objective justice.
To achieve equality in the eyes of social justice advocates, the institutions dedicated to that pursuit must treat individuals very unequally.
As philosopher and economist Friedrich Hayek said, appending the word “social” onto almost anything renders the word inoperative.
Indeed, social justice has become a contradiction in terms: it is neither social nor just.