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Leftist Critiques of Identity Politics (2018)
- There are numerous forms of marginalization that exist in our society: racism, classism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and so on. If you happen to be on the wrong side of any of these hierarchies, you will face many inequities and injustices. ... Some people are single-issue activists that are only concerned about a single form of marginalization, usually one that impacts them personally. Single-issue perspectives create a distorted view of the world, and lead activists to propose solutions that will help some people while hurting others and leaving countless more behind. ... In contrast, others of us take a more intersectional approach, recognizing that all forms of marginalization intersect with and exacerbate one another, and that we must challenge all of them simultaneously.
- People usually gravitate toward single-issue activism because they are unconcerned about forms of marginalization that do not personally impact them.
- The “principal contradiction” refers to the idea that there is some original or primary form of oppression that gives rise to all the others. ... Of course, there is really only one purpose for making such a claim: to persuade others to join you in your single-issue activist campaign, under the pretense that once your pet oppression is eliminated, all other forms of marginalization will subsequently fall by the wayside too. But the thing is, there is simply no evidence for a principal contradiction. ... There is no primary contradiction, just lots of different hierarchies that people may or may not endorse.
- Here is how I describe the concept of privilege to skeptics: Do you believe that marginalized/minority groups face discrimination and are disadvantaged as a result? If the answer is yes, then another equally valid way of describing the same situation is to say that dominant/majority groups are relatively advantaged in comparison. “Privilege” simply refers to those advantages. One of the reasons why activists frame such matters in terms of privilege is to illustrate how *all of us* are impacted by unjust hierarchies and systems, even if it is not always apparent to us.
- Once a person acknowledges that they possess some form of privilege, they are more likely to accept the reality that they are not in any way objective about the form of marginalization in question
- I mentioned at the outset that I dislike the term “identity politics.” This is because the phrase seems to suggest that our identities (rather than the marginalization we face) is the most salient feature of our activism. Indeed, this is probably why those who oppose IP-umbrella activism seem so fond of calling it “identity politics” in the first place. ... In contrast, within IP circles, the term is often reserved for a specific brand of single-issue activism that completely precludes perspectives from those who do not share the identity in question.
- By making a distinction between transgender people (who they single out for discrimination) and non-transgender people (whose identities and experiences they respect), it is they (not us) who are the ones being divisive. Once we acknowledge this causality, it becomes clear that IP is not an expression of navel-gazing or narcissism, but rather a form of organized resistance against those who are actively trying to delegitimize and disenfranchise us.
- I would love to live in a world where the word “transgender” serves the same simple purpose — a mere sharing of information about my life experiences — but unfortunately, it doesn’t. On top of being a descriptor, the word “transgender” is also politically loaded. But that is not my, nor other trans people’s, fault. As discussed in the last section, there’s a long history of people hating, ostracizing, and criminalizing us, and much of this history took place before words like “transgender,” “transphobia,” and analogous terms even existed. In fact, those terms were created in response to that marginalization, not the other way around. And even if I were to relinquish my trans identity, those people would still exist and continue to discriminate against me for supposedly being a sinner, or freak, or deviant, or for being delusional, or whatever other rationales they might concoct in order to justify their bigotry.