“Identity Politics” is the New Insult

From the website This Is Everyday Racism: 

Published From: The Establishment on Medium.com

By Ijeoma Oluo

The other day on Twitter, a man posted a picture of my coloring book he’d given his daughter for Christmas. He was excited to give her a coloring book full of badass intersectional feminists. He wanted to thank me for creating it.

“I don’t know,” chimed in a random stranger (because Twitter), “Sounds like identity politics to me.”

Hell yeah it does.

“Identity Politics” is now thrown about as an insult at many progressive activists. Critics say that Identity Politics make everything about gender, everything about sexuality, and everything about race. And to this I say: yes, yes, and hell yes.

Call it what you want. I don’t care. Complain that we’re making shit about race — you know what? We are. Complain that we’re keeping the left from focusing only on class — yup, and proudly so. Complain all you want because I am not and will never be ashamed of focusing on the politics of identity. I will not feel a moment’s guilt for slowing this whole train down to make sure that everyone can get on and we’re on the right track. I will proudly own up to making shit hard for you.

Thank god for Identity Politics.

You know why? Because you know what we had before Identity Politics? I’ll tell you.

We had White Dudes.

We had white dudes as the pinnacles of power. We had white dudes on all our TV screens, we had white dudes reporting all our news, we had white dudes writing all our books. Sometimes they were accompanied by attractive white ladies (as all the white dudes were straight). But mostly, we had white dudes.

And if you were not a white dude? You didn’t exist. Laws were not written for you, infrastructure was not built for you, history was not written about you. You did not exist in film, television, or novels. You were not a part of the American dream.

And do you know what has been changing all of that? Do you know what has been saving this country from the monotony and tyranny of white, cis, heterosexual dudes? Identity Politics.

Identity Politics are everything that its critics fear. Identity Politics are decentralizing whiteness, straightness, cis-ness, and maleness. Identity Politics brought you equal marriage, the voting rights act, and abortion access. Identity Politics has got people believing that black is beautiful, that disability is nothing to be ashamed of, that fat people deserve respect, that a woman can say no. Identity politics are forcing the world to consider what it has spent hundreds of years ignoring — everyone else.

Without Identity Politics, we wouldn’t all get along better, we’d just cease to exist. And know, that is primarily what those who decry Identity Politics want. They want the world of the past, where we existed in the shadows, where they never had to consider race or gender, because everything was only about their race and gender. They want a world where nobody raised a hand and said “what about me,” because the only people allowed in the room were those whose needs had already been meet. They want the simplicity and power that comes with being the default.

So yes, Identity Politics are the threat to both the right and the left that its enemies are making it out to be. Because our system is still mostly white dudes, on both sides of the aisle. Their fear isn’t wrong; Identity Politics do threaten their way of life and their idea of progress and unity. Identity Politics will tear down everything they have built because everything they have built is oppressive and exclusionary and wrong.

We are not going back to a time where we were overlooked, dismissed, invalidated, and discounted. We are not going back to not existing. Our Identity Politics are here to stay.

 

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