Identity Politics Continued: What’s Tearing Us Apart?

By on June 25, 2017

Though my last post was fairly academic, I am personally no stranger to identity politics. As a blind, Asian woman of color, I am often caught in the intersection of competing voices from the blind/disabled, feminist, and minority/person of color (POC) communities. POC advocates bombard my social media feeds with instances of microaggression in the workplace. Advocates in the disabled community flood my Facebook feed with stories of how Uber drivers are refusing to give rides to blind guide dog users. In fact, the venerable New York Times even published a piece which allegedly made fun of a blind applicant’s struggle to perform the duties of a line cook. Lastly, feminist advocates share links about the gender pay gap and how I will only ever make 80% of what my male counterpart earns unless legislation is put in place to change it.

After a while, I feel overextended and overcommitted. Subject to all these labels and causes, I begin to feel less and less like a person and more and more like an ambassador for all the social causes I embody. I have the responsibility of explaining to the curious stranger on the bus how I get dressed in the morning or cook despite my blindness. I have to explain to yet another curious stranger that, yes, I am Chinese, but no, I’m not good at math. Then, I have to tell the overly helpful stranger for the twentieth time that, no thanks, I can carry my own groceries across the street. So, it’s no surprise that I sometimes am exhausted by the prospect of yet another discussion on social issues in the political sphere.

Is there real discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community? Yes. Are blind people statistically more likely to be under or altogether unemployed? Absolutely. Are women subject to sexist comments at work? Definitely. But, legislation and more representation alone can’t make these problems go away.

The belief that we have to appeal to people as a demographic first and people second is hurting our liberal cause. As Bernie Sanders stated in his speech, while we are making progress in including women and minorities, we must also ensure they will stand up for everyone in the working class. While social awareness is very important, we must realize that we are all individuals first. In order to move forward, it is indeed time to move beyond identity politics.