Survival at No One’s Expense: Forging an Intersectional Coalition (@theTable: Intersectionality & Political Action)
By Nami Kim.
Let me start by briefly sharing my historical location. While being aware of the limits of categorization, I can say that I can be contextually understood as a third-generation feminist liberation theologian, rooted in intersectional, transnational, decolonial and deimperial feminist commitment that takes identity seriously but does not base it on identity politics. As a U.S.-based, woman of color academic, I have maintained transnational connections with the organizations and people in the place where I came from without disassociating myself from the place where I am living and from my immediate communities of accountability. As a colleague of mine has reminded me, for women of color, writing is a political act. I would say that, for me, political action in this historical and political juncture includes transgressive teaching and the production of oppositional knowledge that is not in the service of the imperial project. If feminist scholar-teachers fail to critique U.S. military hegemony, feminist works can be easily appropriated and used in this way.
My transnational connections and awareness of the interlocking structures of oppression have prompted me to work on two recent book projects. One is a collaborative project with activist-scholar-teachers of Asian descent on U.S. military imperialism in Asia, while the other is a feminist analysis of the gendered politics of the Korean Protestant Right. A critical intersectional analysis of both U.S. military imperialism in Asia and the Korean Protestant Right is ultimately an argument for and vision of coalition building that does not utilize anti-intersectionality as a tool of survival.
Taking our collaborative writing as a political act, in our book, Critical Theology Against U.S. Militarism in Asia, we talk about the relationship between Christianity and U.S. imperialist militarism in Asia on multi-levels. We argue that the work of decolonization in the former colonies should proceed together with the work of deimperialization in the imperial center, because imperialization has taken place in both these locations through state-sanctioned violence.
Another U.S. presidential election just took place. Not too long before the election, feminist scholar-activist Zillah Eisenstein said, “The 2016 American presidential race was the election from hell, between a misogynist racist bigot and an imperial feminist.” The result of the 2016 election was that in the Electoral College the “misogynist racist bigot” won, whereas in the popular vote “an imperial feminist” won. Yet, with the election of a misogynist racist bigot, whose slogan was “Make America Great Again,” the fear of what is to come is real among women and men of color, immigrants, Muslims, sexual minorities, and gender nonconforming people, not because racism, white supremacy, sexism, and Islamophobia have just been reignited with the election of the 45th, but because the intensity, frequency, and degree of multi-faceted violence will mostly likely worsen in every aspect of marginalized people’s lives in unforeseen ways.
One of the many things that is disappointing, concerning, yet not so surprising about this election is the fact that 78%-81% of white “born-again,” or evangelical Christians (however you name them), voted for the 45th. While there is no exact number for “born-again” evangelical Christians who are racial and ethnic minorities and who voted for the 45th, what I have been hearing anecdotally since last week’s election is that quite a good number of middle-class, college educated Korean and Chinese American evangelical Christians also voted for the 45th, and one of the main reasons for voting for him had to do with their opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. It is unsettling to hear this because Asian Americans have also been targets of racism alongside other racial, ethnic, and religious minorities before and after the 45th’s election.
Religious conservatives, including various religious right groups or those who adhere to what German theologian Dorothee Soelle once called “Christofascism,” have different manifestations in different contexts. In my book, The Gendered Politics of the Korean Protestant Right, I have examined the Korean Protestant Right as a unified social and political force that is a part of this transnational religious right phenomenon. The Protestant Right has maintained transnational connections with other Christian Right movements, including the U.S. Christian Right. By forming a movement in advancing its conservative theo-political and social agendas in Korea as well as among immigrant Korean communities in North America, the Protestant Right has supported right-wing political leaders in Korea, including the current corrupt, authoritarian president, who is female.
In my feminist intersectional analysis of the Protestant Right’s gendered politics, which uses Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s concept of kyriarchy as a heuristic tool, I examine three seemingly unrelated phenomena: Father School (an evangelical men’s manhood and fatherhood restoration movement), the anti-LGBT movement, and Islamophobia. An intersectional analysis of the Protestant Right allows us to not only explain how sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia are interconnected, but also show that these three phenomena are addressing a common issue, that is, contested hegemonic masculinity in relation to the “others” such as women and sexual, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. The Protestant Right has been and continues to be quite violent in their attempt to silence opposing voices and actions. For instance, when I presented a chapter draft on the Protestant Right’s anti-LGBT movement several years ago in Korea, the organization that invited me to speak received a threatening call that demanded that they cancel my talk. If they did not, the caller said he could not guarantee my safety.
Back in 2007, criticizing U.S. imperial feminism, Zillah Eisenstein asked, “How to think about feminisms in 2007 and beyond?” I think this question is still relevant today if feminism does not want to lose its relevance and significance as an “inclusive social-political-religious movement and theoretical framework oriented toward justice for all marginalized persons” in the face of the escalation of the very real threat of various forms of violence against marginalized and minoritized people here in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist intersectional analysis, along with intersectional coalition, seems more necessary than ever as we continue the work that we have been doing as educators, activists, and religious leaders, by speaking the truth to power and working for justice and equality for all. There is much work ahead of us.
 Nami Kim and Wonhee Anne Joh, Critical Theology Against U.S. Militarism in Asia: Decolonization and Deimperialization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
 Zillah Eisenstein, “Hillary Clinton’s Imperial Feminism.” The Cairo Review of Global Affairs (Fall, 2016). <https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/hillary-clintons-imperial-feminism/> (accessed 11/04/16).
 There is a report that overwhelming numbers of (66%) of white women voted for the 45th <http://www.nbcnews.com/card/nbc-news-exit-poll-trump-winning-among-some-groups-omen-n681011?cid=sm_fb>.
 <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/exit-polls-show-white-evangelicals-voted-overwhelmingly-for-donald-trump/>. See also <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/no-the-majority-of-american-evangelicals-did-not-vote-for-trump>.
 Dorothee Soelle, The Window of Vulnerability: A Political Spirituality (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).
 Nami Kim, The Gendered Politics of the Korean Protestant Right: Hegemonic Masculinity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
 Zillah Eisenstein, Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy (London & New York: Zed Books, 2007), 93.
 Nami Kim and Deborah Whitehead, “Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Feminist The*logies/Studies in Religion” in Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 25 no. 1 (Spring 2009), 4.
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