It seems that recent events, from Black Lives Matter protests to J.K. Rowling’s transphobic Twitter rants, have given the wrong sort of people (Trump supporters) an excuse to inject their ignorant negativity like a poisonous bile into the noble veins of identity politics.But what is identity politics? Identity politics is a beautiful way in which we can bring people of all backgrounds together, before labeling them, allocating each of them demographic privilege points according to their place on the oppression hierarchy pyramid, and finally segregating them. Think of it as scratching a societal OCD itch of needing to organize the books on our shelves into alphabetical order. It’s neat. It’s tidy. It makes sense. It makes it easier to find where each human being exists on the privilege spectrum. Generalizing entire demographics ensures that we have a strong foundation on which we can start to rebuild a society without prejudice or stereotypes. For example, only by apologizing for their skin color can white people begin to combat racism. Only by agreeing that trans women are women in every meaningful interpretation of that term can cisgender women understand what ‘womanhood’ truly is. Once we know how many privilege points a person has, we can then begin the process of deciding how best to deal with an individual, whether or not they should be allowed an opinion on certain issues. For example, a straight white cisgender male wishes to join in a conversation between a black woman and a white trans man, he would need to be fully aware of his privilege and take care not to say anything which could be seen to deny their lived experiences. Allow me to take you through two hypothetical dialogue exchanges which will hopefully illustrate the starkly different ways in which this scenario could play out:
Exchange 1 (incorrect, clumsy, disrespectful):
Black woman: ‘Black Lives Matter is a movement everyone needs to get behind.’Trans man: ‘I hear you sister, and I support you.’Straight white cisgender male: ‘Hmmm. I’m not sure, because isn’t BLM using black issues to mask a political movement dedicated to the destruction of capitalism?’Black woman: ‘You need to back the fuck up and shut your white ass mouth.’Trans man: ‘Let’s beat the living crap out of him!’Black woman: ‘HEY GUYS! GET OVER HERE, WE GOT OURSELVES A RACIST PIECE OF SHIT!’*the straight white cisgender male is beaten with planks of wood until there is no racism left in any of his broken bones*
Exchange 2 (correct, aware, respectful):
Black woman: ‘Black Lives Matter is a movement everyone needs to get behind.’Trans man: ‘I hear you sister, and I support you.’Straight white cisgender male: ‘I would like to apologize to you both for my whiteness and my status as a cisgender male. My opinions on BLM are irrelevant, and if I ever find myself thinking critically about the media’s anti-white rhetoric, I shall be sure to educate myself until the bloody welts on my back are visible through my shirt. I am sorry. I am so sorry for the historical oppression my people inflicted upon you and I will do what I can to make amends. Please, I implore you…tell me what I can do to put things right.’Trans man: ‘Let’s beat the living crap out of him!’Black woman: ‘HEY GUYS! GET OVER HERE, WE GOT OURSELVES A RACIST PIECE OF SHIT!’*the straight white cisgender male is beaten with planks of wood until there is no racism left in any of his broken bones*Straight white cisgender male: ‘Thhhh…ank…you…for…ta..king…the…time….to…edu..cate…me…’
As you can see, both scenarios lead to the same result, but in the second, at least the man accepts that he deserves his beating and ultimately learns from it. His knowledge of his place within the conversation is apparent and shows an understanding of the hierarchy of privilege. Please note, trans man also recognizes that he is white, and so has no business in questioning the black woman’s opinion, but as he is also lower on the ladder of privilege than the straight white cis gender male, he avoids a physical education because he is already fully aware of how oppressive his race is. So, to conclude, identity politics is an efficient sorting system to have in place ready for when the re-education camps are eventually established in our autonomous utopia. (White women and white gay men: please be aware that due to the shifting nature of LGBTQ+++ inclusivity, your place on the privilege hierarchy could change at any point. Terms and conditions apply).