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Understanding the intersectionality of hate

The right doesn’t ‘pick and choose where they’re going to fight; they wage campaigns that pressure all those points at the same time.’

The Tennessee Equality Project's Dahron Johnson spoke during a news conference by the Human Rights Campaign drawing attention to anti-drag bills in the Tennessee Legislature, on Feb. 14 in Nashville.John Amis/Associated Press

This year, at least 150 bills that would restrict voting rights or codify election interference have been introduced or prefiled in 32 states. The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking more than 380 anti-LGBTQ bills in nearly three dozen state legislatures, ranging from bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth to prohibiting classroom discussions about LGBTQ people or issues.

In states where abortion is illegal or severely restricted, Republican attorneys general are threatening pharmacies with legal action if they sell abortion pills, the most common way to terminate a pregnancy. Last week, Walgreens became the first of the big pharmacy chains to say it would comply.


It’s no coincidence that all of these extremist legislative assaults are occurring at the same time. Driven by Christian nationalism which, like “alt-right,” is nothing more than another attempted rebranding of white supremacy, the right is waging a well-coordinated, well-financed, multifront battle against human and civil rights.

“While progressives talk intersectionally, the right fights intersectionally,” Imara Jones, founder and CEO of TransLash Media, a cross-platform media nonprofit and digital community, told me in an interview.

“They don’t believe in intersectionality, but they certainly understand the way abortion rights connects with trans rights, connects with queer rights, connects with voting rights,” she said. “They understand how all these things are linked in a way that’s better than the supposed progressives and liberals. They don’t pick and choose where they’re going to fight; they wage campaigns that pressure all those points at the same time.”

In America, hate has always been intersectional. The National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist group, has disrupted family-oriented drag story hours and protested outside “Parade,” a Broadway musical about the antisemitic 1915 mob lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man wrongly accused of the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Atlanta.


Violent extremist groups from the Ku Klux Klan to the Proud Boys have a laundry list of hate targeting Black people, Jews, and immigrants. From the myths of white replacement theory to bodily autonomy to free and fair elections, whatever challenges white supremacy is met with extremists’ violent hatred of constitutional rights and the promise of a fully realized American democracy.

“Progressives think there’s a sequencing of fights but it’s not a sequencing but actually a simultaneous fight,” said Jones, host of The Anti-Trans Hate Machine podcast, which will soon launch its second season. “[The right doesn’t] do this really weird thing where progressives say, ‘Everything is important, but we can’t get to your issues right now because this fight over here is more important.’ It’s like choosing who to fight first — Japan or Germany — in World War II. If you don’t do both at the same time, you’re going to lose.”

Never forget that the right fought, lost, weathered setbacks, scored small victories, and bided its time for nearly a half century before the Supreme Court’s conservatives struck down Roe v. Wade. From generation to generation, the right never wavered in its belief that there would be a legislative and judicial climate destructively hostile to reproductive rights and a woman’s right to make choices that are no one’s business but her own.

For the politically extreme right, it’s always been a long game. Its acolytes don’t create hierarchies of what needs to be abolished or restricted first. Everything is on the table. So it’s the banning of books about slavery and the Holocaust and keeping trans girls from competing on school teams that match their gender identity. It’s challenging someone’s ability to walk into a drug store and get abortion pills and their ability to walk into a polling station and cast their ballot without interference.


And whether these right-wing attacks are legislative or violent — last year, all politically motivated mass shootings were linked to white domestic extremism — the goals are the same: to diminish, terrorize, and endanger.

This is why Jewish people must fight for trans rights. The LGBTQ community must fight to dismantle systemic racism. Black people must fight antisemitism. Voting rights are not solely a Black issue any more than protecting reproductive rights is only women’s work. And the trans community cannot be left alone to both bury its dead and defend its right to exist.

“What’s happening to trans people,” Jones said, “is the road test for how they plan to maintain and ensure white supremacy and to instill nationwide white apartheid in this country community by community.”

Audre Lorde, the iconic Black lesbian feminist writer, said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” We can only protect our rights and lives when we recognize every assault from the right as being waged against us all.


Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her @reneeygraham.