It’s a phrase that was coined during the 2016 election cycle and still gets thrown around now, because there are people who do not feel that “identity politics” is no longer relevant. The people who usually feel this are white, heterosexual, cisgender men. Because society has always automatically approved of cishet, white men as the norm. Women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community have had to fight for basic rights. And they still continue to fight. Each and every single day.
You might be wondering, why do identity politics matter? Women can vote, gays can marry, and Black people aren’t considered property anymore. Abortion is legal. Gays have pride parades with their rainbows and glitter. Obama was President so clearly, Black people have opportunities. So what’s the big deal, right? But that’s just it – there’s so much more to the story than what meets the eye.
Sure, on the surface, it may seem like we are a progressive society, but there is so much more we need to achieve. Abortion may be technically legal in all 50 states but women are fighting Republican-controlled state legislatures all over the country because access to abortion is still limited in many states. Gay marriage is the law of the land but my gay friend could get fired tomorrow without any protections under the law. Black people aren’t owned by white people but if they have the audacity to move into a white neighborhood, the property value depreciates. Black people are murdered in cold blood for existing. Women aren’t paid the same as men, most gay people choose not to hold hands in public because it’s still dangerous and Black people make up about 30-40% of the population but make up 70% of the population that is currently incarcerated.
Also, to be fair, those who denounce identity politics are holding onto their own identities. It’s just that their identities have always been represented in all aspects of life, whether it be media, movies, or politics. They don’t have to fight media narratives constantly to prove their humanity. They don’t have to look far to see themselves and their life experiences reflected in movies. And they don’t have to worry about living in terror because they will never be targeted for their race, religion, the color of their skin, gender identity, or sexual orientation. But when you’re used to being privileged, equality feels like oppression. And change, unfortunately, is incremental. Progress isn’t made overnight. Progress is made by taking 100 steps forward and 50 steps back. But we must continue to push the needle because, as we’ve witnessed with Trump’s election, democracy is fragile. It is not perfect and when it’s under attack, the distress that follows can be debilitating. But we can’t give up because our country is worth it; democracy demands that we defend it, protect it, and improve it.
This work is hard but it is worth it. Our freedoms, our values, and our lives are at stake.