Identity politics must be redefined

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Identity politics is the act of forming an alliance with people of a shared identity to the exclusion of others. It has negative connotations of prejudice and persecution. One way would be to think of identity politics in the context of intersectionality.

President Donald Trump certainly capitalized on identity politics throughout his presidential campaign. He convinced people that immigrants were the root of U.S. problems. His policy also widened racial disparities in the United States.

Trump engaged in dog whistle politics during the early days of his presidency. He signed an executive order that limited visas to people of Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and banned air travel into the United States. 

It brush-stroked the Middle East and Islam as the root of all terrorism.

Hate crimes have risen since Trump took office. Law enforcement agencies reported hate crime increase between 2016 and 2017, according to the FBI. The top three motivations being race, religion and sexual orientation.

One would argue that he’s not to blame for all hate crimes, but whether it’s his unwillingness to condemn white supremacy and Neo-Nazis or implementing policy that bars transgender troops from serving in the military, he’s the most powerful man in the world and the office he holds amplifies the hostility he spews. Trump has weaponized identity. 

Intersectionality was a term coined by civil rights activist, Kimberlé Crenshaw. It’s the idea that people’s intersecting identities, whether it’d be race, gender or class, contribute to their oppression in society. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks in the context of intersectionality when she ties asthma rates in the South Bronx, brain damage because of lead poisoned water in Flint, and flooded farms in the Midwest to explain the urgency of addressing climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez considers, then links, the experiences of different identities to show that people have more in common with each other under a system that doesn’t value their experiences when policy aids and abets perpetrators of industrial waste dumping and excessive carbon emissions. 

Identity politics in the context of intersectionality is about coalition building through varying lenses of oppression.

It is a complex way of addressing issues, but if something’s difficult to fix, it’s because the issue has always been ignored.


-Jose Nieves

Political Science ‘21