There are, tragically, many insidious discriminations, aggressions, oppressions, and other social injustices — micro, meso, and, macro — based on a variety of socially-constructed divisions, fears, and hatreds. Just as tragically, we get caught up in these, to varying degrees and with devastating consequences. Perhaps Dr. Paul Farmer isolated the phenomenon: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” The antidote to this social disease is equalitarianism.
Instead of singularly focusing on the important individual problems of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, islamophobia, ableism, looksism, or other forms of what Robert Fuller calls rankism that do not necessarily have a catchy name, and instead of negatively being against one or more of these tragically otherized divisions, we could positively embrace an all-encompassing equalitarianism and each be an equalitarian (a little-known term that has been around since about 1799).
Racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and islamophobia are functional equivalents to each other. Racism manifests with regard to ancestry, ethnicity, national origin, or skin color; sexism with regard to sex and gender; homophobia with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity; antisemitism and islamophobia with regard to religion. The manifestations are different, yet the dynamic is always the same in all cases.
Isn’t sexism basically racism applied to females? Isn’t homophobia essentially racism applied to sexual minorities? Aren’t antisemitism and islamophobia just racism applied to the religious minorities of Jews and Muslims? Isn’t ableism a form of racism applied to differently-abled people? Aren’t xenophobia and nationalism basically racism applied to foreigners, immigrants, refugees, and other outsiders? Isn’t speciesism a form of racism directed against non-human animals?
Poet and author Alice Walker has said that “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.” Of course there are differences with different oppressions, yet the way fascism manifests in regard to the “other” is what unites the “others” and what should unite those of us who seek to resist, subvert, transform, and reverse the various racisms that dehumanize, depersonalize, demean, objectify, and otherize marginalized demographic groups. “Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society”, according to Cesar Chavez. “Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”
Racism can also manifest as classism, too. Regardless of our class standing in this plutocratic society — run by and especially for the wealthy — we’ve been socialized to give more respect to the rich than the poor, even when we know nothing else about them. The media, police, and courts do this, too. As equalitarians, we should strive to reduce the economic inequality between the obscenely rich and the obscenely poor, while giving appropriate respect regardless of class. And at an absolute minimum, basic necessities and opportunities should be guaranteed to all.
In this centuries-old white supremacist society, we are all imbued with a certain amount of racism, regardless of our own race, ethnicity, or color, and as equalitarians, we need to work on reducing, and ultimately eliminating, these internalized as well as externalized prejudices, as well as institutionalized discriminations, while still embracing our differences. Angela Davis — author of Women, Race, & Class, long-time activist, and my professor of political philosophy many years ago — advises that we shift from the tactic of non-racism to anti-racism to radically uproot racism, if we want to achieve our strategy of reducing or eliminating racism, as opposed to simply not actively participating in it.
With at least several millennia of patriarchy and its enforcing ideology and practice of misogyny, sexism seems to run through everyone’s heart and mind. Women need to reclaim their power and women as well as men need to critically view and resist the “male normative gaze” that socially dictates how and what girls and women think, say, and do — and don’t think, say, and do — based on perceived male desires. Equalitarians can celebrate the differences between and amongst men and women, girls and boys, without hierarchy, discrimination, compulsion, or violence. We can all be much freer than we are.
Simply being non-racist, non-sexist, and non-homophobic — to the extent that’s possible in a society in which white supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity have been forcefully woven through the history, culture, and political economy of our society — is a low bar that will not eradicate these divisive and deadly oppressions. We need to be actively anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic.
Intersectionalism reminds us that neither race, sex, class nor any other singular factor is primary, but rather that all of them intersect and interact, resulting in a unique set of complex, interrelated dynamics. Equalitarians must recognize the intersections and synergy involved with various oppressions. By discovering and uncovering how they might reinforce and strengthen each other, we’re in a better position to deconstruct, transform, and reconstruct our belief systems for more positive and pro-social pursuits. Equalitarianism must operate in both theory and practice, with each continuously and dialectically improving the other for better understanding, personal growth, and societal improvement. Unity, solidarity, and alliances are ways for equalitarians to be proactive against all racisms.
We need to transform these vicious cycles of exclusion, bigotry, and oppression into virtuous circles of inclusion, love, and social justice. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel — a friend of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who marched with him in Selma — famously said that “in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Equalitarians need to oppose every step on the continua of hate and violence that enforces rankism by stigmatizing and punishing difference and reinforcing inequality. Instead, equalitarians can show the positive benefits of equalitarianism, whereby people can live more freely, authentically, and safely — individually and collectively — so we can be whoever and whatever we are or may wish to be. We can be freer as individuals and as groups when we are freer as a society, unshackled by the many categorical constraints of divisive inequality to be more fully human. Equalitarians realize that each oppression is everybody’s concern, that each intersects and reinforces the others, and that we can create an equalitarian society that works for equality, social justice, and liberation — one that is better for all of us!
Dan Brook, Ph.D. teaches political science and sociology in the San Francisco Bay Area. His ebooks are available at http://smashwords.com/profile/view/brook.