Intersectionality and George Floyd

Intersectionality is the proposition that the oppression of one minority group in a particular society is linked to the oppression of other minority groups in other societies. This linkage implies that the struggle against oppression by one minority group deserves support from other minority groups in different societies. Anti-Zionists assert that the oppression of African-Americans in the United States is comparable to the oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Anti-Zionists express opposition to police brutality against African-Americans. They accuse the Israel Defense Forces of training American police departments to use violent tactics to subdue peaceful African-American protestors. In return for their rhetorical support, anti-Zionists ask African-American civil rights organizations to join them in imposing boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Nationwide protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 were exploited by a few anti-Zionists in Los Angeles to vandalize Jewish synagogues and loot stores owned by Jews.

George Floyd was arrested outside a grocery store in Minneapolis owned by a Palestinian-American. The store is located in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Despite recent incidents of police brutality toward African-Americans, a young employee, following store policy, called the police after George Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy merchandise.

Several people said the store owner was responsible for the murder of Mr. Floyd because the police were called when an African-American man committed a minor infraction. Other people said the owner redeemed himself. He expressed outrage at the police over the murder, promised to pay for George Floyd’s funeral, fired the young employee who had called the police, and announced plans to retrain his staff. He said that store policy will be changed to have employees call the police only to report violence.

This tragedy represents a breakdown of intersectionality when two individuals belonging to different minority groups have conflicting personal interests. In this situation, the Palestinian-American store owner’s policy designed to minimize his monetary losses outweighed his presumed sympathy for an African-American man as a potential fellow victim of oppression.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Cleveland State University, and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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