Why Identity Politics Matter

LGBT History

LGBT History (Photo credit: Earthworm)


I often hear, usually from someone who is not struggling against the particular form of privilege being discussed, that “identity” politics are a distraction from the real economic struggles in this country. I am chastised that in focusing attention on LGBT issues, racial issues, or women’s issues, that I am taking time and energy away from the “real” problems of corporate malfeasance and the need for jobs. Never mind that I spend plenty of time writing about our economic issues in this country and that my paying gig, canvassing for Working Families, focuses very much on the need for jobs, identity politics still need to be addressed.

They need to be addressed because the other side of the equation is still addressing them. I am confused why I should stop fighting for the rights of myself and others, when those insistent on denying those rights are not letting up. If we give in, if we say we do not have the time and energy for both the economic fight, and the fight for those oppressed by hetero, cis, white male privilege then those who want to see that privilege shored up win. They get to dig in, and have another generation of controlling the dialogue and convincing the rest of society that “that’s just the way it is.” I cannot abide that.

I cannot ask my queer brothers and sisters to sit idle while religious zealots and hypocrites change their state constitutions to guarantee them second class status. I can not ask my black neighbors and friends to wait while their sons are still hauled away to prison on charges a white kid would get a slap on the wrist for, and while their schools are little better than prisons. I cannot ask women to watch while men enjoy better pay for the same work, and while misogynist ministers try to take away control of their bodies. These are not unimportant issues. They have real effects on real lives, and they really need to be dealt with.

I was going to tie in various LGBT, racial, and women’s issues with economic ones to make a point, but really that is unnecessary. Concern is not some Malthusian resource, only available in finite amounts to be doled out only when an “enlightened” few think it needs to be. We have more than enough caring, more than enough voices, to talk about privilege and economics. I find it interesting the people who say otherwise, never do if it is a privilege struggle that it affects them. You can read non-queers asking us to be patient about hetero or cis privilege, you see white people asking us to be patient about white privilege, and hear men telling women to be patient about male privilege. If the privilege affects them, however, you can be guaranteed they care about it. They, we, should care about all of it. Allowing privilege to continue unchecked is a detriment to us all. So long as it exists, none of us is truly free and none of us will truly be secure.




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