The Toxic Brew

On her 2022 website, Tema Okun says

White supremacy culture is inextricably linked to all the other oppressions – capitalism, sexism, class and gender oppression, ableism, ageism, Christian hegemony – these and more are all interconnected and intersected and stirred together in a toxic brew that is reflected in our devastation of the air and water and land and living beings we have and are destroying and disregarding in the name of profit and power.[1]

“These and more.…” It’s not hard to think of more of these interlocking systems of oppression. For example, how about Imperialism (e.g. US Military Interventionism), Terrorism, Nationalism….

The oppressions wielded by our culture of control also devastate our sexuality.
Especially in:
• Colonialism
• Consumerism
• Gender, and Gender Roles
• Patriarchy (Male Dominance)
• Societal Stockholm Syndrome
• Superficial Stoicism – “don’t cry; it’s ok”
• “Sex”

Activist journalist Robert Jensen talks about “systems of illegitimate authority”:

All these systems cause suffering beyond the telling. All of them must be resisted. The connections between them must be understood.[2]

Intersectionality

In 1989, law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to refer to the interaction of oppressions. Specifically she described the situation for Black women:

Because the intersectional experience is
greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.[3]

But this also applies to all the ingredients in Okun’s “toxic brew.”

This expanded consciousness of how oppressions operate means we can’t address them one at a time. As people realize what this demands of us, some conservatives have reacted by demonizing the concept, construing it as “a new caste system” that turns current social arrangements upside down. When the point is to get rid of those power dynamics altogether, to create a culture of equality.

(For a good exposition of the hullabaloo over Intersectionality see Jane Coaston, “The Intersectionality Wars,”[4])

The Powers behind Oppression

Activist-theologian Walter Wink says the New Testament term “Principalities and Powers” refers to human social dynamics — institutions, belief systems, traditions, etc. And

Every Power tends to have a visible pole, an outer form—be it a church, a nation, an economy—and an invisible pole, an inner spirit or driving force that animates, legitimates, and regulates its physical manifestation in the world. Neither pole is the cause of the other. Both come into existence together and cease to exist together.[5]

Moreover, we need to take into account the spiritual essence of the Powers in order to effectively deal with them. So for example in dealing with Patriarchy, we keep in mind the impact of the Father God religion that undergirds the social arrangements of Patriarchy. In dealing with Consumerism, we acknowledge the demonic effects of its greed and addiction and fear. Every system of oppression has an inner spirit that powers its manifestation.


[1] Tema Okun, “White Supremacy Culture Characteristics”, 2022.
[2] Jensen, Getting Off (Cambridge:South End Press, 2007), 31.
[3] Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex,” University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989, Issue 1, Article 8.
[4] Coaston, Vox, updated May 28, 2019.
[5] Wink, Naming (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1984), 5.