For a while, I dated (and lived with) a Korean woman from a wealthy background who insisted (in the way that gave her a sense of moral authority) that she was "a woman of color." And she was correct—not being the shade of pinkish beige that I sported, she was definitely a woman of color. But the label, Woman of Color denotes something far more tread upon, marginalized and oppressed than anything her rich Asian girl from Buffalo Grove could claim. The distinction was a confusing one for me.
Actually, that's not entirely true. It wasn't confusing. It was ridiculous. The idea that because of her skin color, she could readily identify with women who grew up in group homes or on the street or without the financial stability of having doctors as parents, seemed kind of outrageous. It was my introduction to the idea of identity politics.
Identity politics or "...political attitudes or positions that focus on the concerns of social groups identified mainly on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation..." is a troubling phenomenon. The history of liberalism is one of expanding inclusiveness; the idea of identity politics is about trumpeting esoteric groups based on an increasingly narrow set of criteria. It has also spawned an entire generation or two of victims: victims of racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, those who are discriminated against for their weight, for the manner in which they choose to dress and on and on, further and further adding criteria for political inclusion to the point of lunacy.
The natural conclusion of the identity politic trend is to have each and every individual representing him and herself as a fully independent political organization. After all, I am of the Angry White College-educated, Middle-aged, Heterosexual Males with Mothers less than Twenty Years Older than He named Don Hall political demographic, right?
The problem with almost any form of this is that groups of people based gender, race or sexual orientation are not monolithic nor homogenous. A 22-year-old woman of color can be middle class or not, have a history of racial strife or not, have a successful educational background or not. The fact that two 22-year-old women of color are exactly that means almost fickle when it comes to the two women and their various perspectives on the planet and what they both may maintain as solutions to the problems they face. The more you narrow it down, the less effective it becomes and the more absurd it is.
"During those final days of the collapsing Marxist experiment in the Soviet Union, Soviet novelist Chingiz Aitmatov retold the following story, which has been paraphrased here.
On one occasion, so it was narrated, Stalin called for a live chicken and proceeded to use it to make an unforgettable point before some of his henchmen. Forcefully clutching the chicken in one hand, with the other he began to systematically pluck out its feathers. As the chicken struggled in vain to escape, he continued with the painful denuding until the bird was completely stripped. “Now you watch,” Stalin said as he placed the chicken on the floor and walked away with some bread crumbs in his hand. Incredibly, the fear-crazed chicken hobbled toward him and clung to the legs of his trousers. Stalin threw a handful of grain to the bird, and it began to follow him around the room, he turned to his dumbfounded colleagues and said quietly, “This is the way to rule the people. Did you see how that chicken followed me for food, even though I had caused it such torture? People are like that chicken. If you inflict inordinate pain on them they will follow you for food the rest of their lives.”
— Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (Word Publ., Dallas: 1994), pp. 26-27
The Far Right is using this principle wholly. Nothing is more obvious than the broad ranging experiment that is Kansas. Under a dumbfoundingly Republican regime, the Far Right has systematically plucked the state—giving huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, defunding social safety nets, defunding education, bankrupting the entire government—all while throwing up Social Issues like Gay Marriage and Abortion in order to continue to get elected and the citizens keep following these assholes around for bread crumbs.
Simply put, the more fragmented we are as a society, the more power the Robber Barons have. The more tribes we set up based on what we look like and who we fuck, the less power the disenfranchised have. The umbrella that I claim is pretty simple: not the White Guy politic, not the Feminist politic, not the #BlackLivesMatter politic, not the LGTBQ politic but the liberal politic. Liberalism is about including everyone. All inclusive equality, freedom and justice.