Why Identity Politics Are Necessary
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Politics and Activism

Why Identity Politics Are Necessary

Identity politics and class politics go hand and hand; abandoning one will only doom the other.

Why Identity Politics Are Necessary

If I have to read one more smug op-ed from an old white dude about how the Left needs to abandon identity politics, I may actually vomit. "Would it not be better just to call people people," they cry as they blame everyone but themselves for the rise of fascism in the US and Europe.

Here's the problem. We all have identities. Those identities affect how we are treated in the world. Some of our identities may grant us privilege and others might marginalize us. It isn't dividing people to point this out, it's simply acknowledging the differences that already exist.

But these pasty old white men don't want to hear any of that. For them, class is the only thing that matters. And yes, class is extremely important, but it's hardly the only oppression in this country. Helping dismantle things like systemic racism, transphobia, ableism, etc. requires specifically focusing on the communities that are hurt by them.

However, more fundamentally, everyone experiences class-based oppression differently because of their identity. For example, trans people are about three times more likely to live in poverty compared to the general population. Also, as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, black poverty is fundamentally different from white poverty because of centuries of systemic racism.

So actually crafting good policies around class involves specifically acknowledging the marginalized communities most affected by class-based oppression. This of course requires identity politics.

If policies around class do not use identity politics, they only tend to focus on cis, straight white men. This of course doesn't help any of the people most affected by class-based oppression.

It isn't surprising to me that nearly all the people complaining about identity politics are cis white men. All of them are quite privileged and thus they don't realize what it's like to have an identity that's under siege every day.

A lot of the arguments they make revolve around how the white working class doesn't care about "silly" social issues so they voted for Trump. This is not only an extremely flawed reading of the election, but it's extremely insulting to think of issues facing white men as "economic" while dismissing everyone else's problems. Ironically, this is also a form of identity politics, but one that centers on white men.

Even if we were to accept that Trump won because of the Left's focus on identity politics, it isn't a reason to abandon it. The fact is that identity politics is still necessary to create meaningful change in this country.

Does identity politics need a much more explicit anti-capitalist slant? Of course. But identity politics and class politics go hand and hand so abandoning one will only doom the other.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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